To the graduating (elementary and middle school) Class of 2020:
You’ve come so far!
Think about it. When you started off your academic journey in kindergarten, you were just beginning to master your colors and shapes. Now you’re doing math so difficult, your parents can’t even help you with your homework. (Which isn’t really our fault! They totally changed the way they teach long division!)
And you’ve learned so many things along the way. Things you’ll know for the rest of your life, like how to multiply fractions and the time it takes for two trains to meet if they’re traveling in opposite directions at different speeds. Everything you’ve been taught up to this point was carefully planned by educators to help you chart a successful path forward. (Except for cursive. That was just a waste of time. Sorry!)
Of course, not everything you’ve learned has been in the classroom. You’ve learned that it’s impossible to tickle yourself, and that you should never eat yellow snow. You’ve learned that staying up all night during a sleepover isn’t really worth it. You’ve learned that spending your birthday money on V-Bucks wasn’t a good financial decision. And you know how earwax tastes (your own, not your friends’. Hopefully).
You learned all these things while the world was changing around you. When you started your first day of kindergarten, there were no such things as air fryers or smart speakers or fidget spinners or selfie sticks. And just try imagining life without those things now!
But the biggest changes have come only recently. A few months ago, almost nobody had ever heard of things like social distancing or Zoom video calls or flattening the curve. None of us imagined that movie theaters would be closed and we wouldn’t be able to go to Chili’s to eat bottomless chips and salsa whenever we felt like it.
And that really stinks! But you’ve handled all of these changes so well. Better than us grown-ups, TBH.
In fact, this is where you’ve surprised us the most. Even though you’ve been stuck indoors most days, and you haven’t been able to see your friends or your teachers or your grandparents, you’ve been OK. In fact, you’ve thrived. Maybe it’s because your parents have given up trying to limit your screen time, but still. You’re kind of nailing this quarantine stuff.
Which makes us proud. And inspires us. And tells us you’re going to be OK. That we’re all going to be OK.
You keep asking us when this is all going to be over. When things will go back to normal. So we take our best guess, but really, that’s all it is. A guess. The truth is, none of us really know. Which must be frustrating to you.
Here’s what we DO know. We know that this will end. We know that you’ll play your favorite sports and hang out in your friends’ basements and go to the movies and see your grandparents in person. And in that moment when we can all finally get within 6 feet of the people we love, everything will be sweeter. In fact, in those days, you’ll smile so much, it’ll hurt.
They’re going to come up with a name for the kids who grew up during this era. Generation COVID, maybe. Hopefully something cooler. Your grandkids will want to know what it was like growing up in a pandemic.
And you’ll think back, and you’ll remember. You’ll remember chatting with your relatives on a computer screen (all at once!). You’ll remember your parents telling you not to waste toilet paper, because they were all out at the grocery store. You’ll remember days when you didn’t get out of your pajamas, and whole weekends when your parents didn’t get out of theirs.
So you’ll tell them. And then you’ll hold them close. And then they’ll complain that you squeeze too much, just like all their relatives your age. But you won’t feel bad, because you’ll know.
You’ll know that the most important lesson was saved for the end of your childhood. It wasn’t a lesson anyone planned for you, or for any of us. But we’ve learned it well, and the months ahead will make it especially clear. Being with other people makes us happy. To be fair, you probably knew that already. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded.
We’re going to figure a lot of things out in the months ahead. Step by step. There’s a lot we’re going to learn together, from each other.
But we already know the most important things. We’re lucky to have one another. And the memories we’re making together, now, in this crazy, upside-down world, will last a lifetime.
Congratulations on making it this far. We’re proud of the things you’ve done already, and the people you’ll become. You’ll be doctors and entertainers, scientists and video game testers. You’ll figure out how to protect our planet and how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
And if any of you become teachers, can you get them to switch the way they teach long division back? The old way really was better.
Jeff Kinney is the author and illustrator of the best-selling “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, and owns An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe in Plainville. Send comments to email@example.com.