My “Commencement Speech” to the Graduating Class of 2020

To the Class of 2020, its respective parents, teachers and online guests,

CONGRATULATIONS!! After 15+ years at your classrooms and hallways, you are now a full-fledged graduate and alumni of your university. I have to say, I am really proud of how far you have come. All the “hell weeks”, terror professors, failed quizzes and girl/guy rejections were truly worth it, weren’t they?

Unfortunately, unlike my batch (see my “commencement speech” to my graduating class here) and others that came before me, there won’t be any graduation ceremonies for the time being. I’ve got news for you though. For starters, your graduation will still happen. It’s just matter of when, not if. I refuse to believe that you will never ever have one in your lifetime. More importantly, however, this is a special batch in this unprecedented period in our lives. In fact, “Class of 2020” has quite a nice ring to it given how chaotically special this year has been.

There are so many lessons and takeaways this recent fresh grad would like to give this new batch of graduates. If anything, you will be the reason why my job search will get even tougher, as if it is not already hard enough right now. All jokes aside, I’m very sure you are anxious, excited and worried with how your life will pan out in this extremely uncertain period. So let Tito Jake ease you in to your own transition from the life of the student to that of a young professional.

  1. Welcome to Adulting: “New Normal Edition”

WELCOME TO THE CLUB!! If adulting in general is difficult in itself, what more in this “new normal” you and I are living in? Take it from my experience though. The early stages of this new but lifelong saga will entail fulfilling a lot of checks and balances. It involves getting your driver’s license, filling out forms at your respective city halls, withdrawing/depositing money from the bank, and in this present time, stocking up on groceries and toilet paper.

In short, ADULTING IS NOT PRETTY. Sure, your diploma will get you to where you aspire to go, but take my word for it when I say that it requires working your way from the ground up. Before you can reach for the stars, you have to make sure you maintain your sanity on the ground. Desperate times truly call for desperate measures. Even keeping yourselves cooped up at your house or condominium is a sign of “adulting”. Don’t believe me? “Staying home” is part of the current law, which means you are fulfilling your civic duties as mature citizens.

So kudos for passing the first few initiations to this uber-crazy world called adulting. It can be very exhausting for the most part, but the fact you are still standing strong in your homes or wherever you may be is a great indicator that you are gonna be just fine once we step into the “new normal”.

  1. Always Protect Your Mental Health and Be Teachable

Did I just say that adulting can get tiring? This does not only apply from a physical standpoint, but more so on mental and psychological perspectives. Ever since I stepped out of my school grounds, I have lost count on how many times my anxiety has gotten the best of me. During these past two months alone, I’ve had a number of emotional breakdowns and anxiety attacks. Failures from the past and uncertainties of the future have gotten the best me to this present day. I don’t blame you one bit if these same demons are creeping on you at 1 in the morning. Adulting is already difficult in itself, yet here comes Ms. Rona, adding insult to injury.

Navigating through young adult life while keeping our own mental health in check can take a massive toll at the mind, body and heart. Therefore, it is important to always make sure you keep these in check when the need arises. One cannot do all this by himself/herself. When in doubt, cry for help. This was one of my biggest mistakes after one year of being a fresh graduate. I sometimes resisted guidance when I needed it most. If anything, the biggest reason for my failures is because I do need help, but sometimes, I don’t invite it to navigate my life.

My biggest hope is that as you begin your lives as an adult, you continue seeking help from your parents or any wise figures in your life. One of the key elements to a successful life and a stable mental well-being is the art of being “teachable”.  We can only attain these if we allow ourselves to seek guidance from those who have already been there or simply from people who want to see us succeed. Sometimes, we may not like what we hear, but trust me, the more help you allow yourself and others to give, the more independent you will become over time.

  1. Different Stories Call for Different Timelines

Social media has its boons and advantages. However, it also has a ton of banes and disadvantages. One of them is that social media enables comparison. For example, he recently moved out from his parents’ house the day after graduation, you wish you’d live that type of life too. Your good friend recently got engaged and lets everyone know about it on Facebook, here you are, sulking because you’re still single. Basically, social media has resulted in us competing with ourselves by simply looking at other people’s lives.

One of the major reasons why mental health is deteriorating for many is due to self-competition. While others are living their lives happily, here you are, comparing and contrasting what you don’t have and what haven’t done yet. I am no stranger to this trap, and it’s a struggle learning this every day. But I can assure you, we’re all created and programmed differently, which means we all have our own stories to tell, at our own pace and timelines.  We were all meant to carve different pathways (I’ll get to later). So even if it takes you 2 years to land a stable job, 5 years to get married, 10 years to build a house, a whole lifetime to know what your main purpose in life is, all these time frames have meanings.

The more we rush the process instead of letting it take its natural course, the more likely we may not achieve the goals we want. Just a gentle reminder in case some of you have forgotten: Success does not come overnight. Sure, it may seem easy for some, but once you take away the comparison factor, you will appreciate how far you’ve come and how far you will go. 

  1. Less is MORE

Speaking of accomplishments, as an ambitious graduate, I understand that you have a lot of goals to achieve in that lengthy bucketlist of yours. Whether it be landing a high-paying job, backpacking to different parts of the world, getting married soon, raising a fully-functional family, I’ll be the first to say that it’s not a sin and perfectly human to want to fulfill a number of dreams before we leave this planet. But, if there’s anything our present time is teaching us, there are just some things beyond our control.

One of the things that is not in our control anymore is the number of dreams that are either completely squashed or put on hold. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve had many emotional breakdowns because of this harsh reality. Maybe it’s time you shorten that bucketlist just a little bit. I’m not saying you should completely disregard them. As I mentioned earlier, some of these aspirations are “put on hold”, meaning they are bound to happen at some point in time. It’s really just a matter of when, not if.

However, to be quite frank, I think you should really think about the important things that you really want to do in your life. In times like this, less is more. We’re living in a world with so many limitations and so little time.  Therefore, it really pays to jot down what goals truly matter to you while eliminating “excess baggage”. But who knows, maybe these side goals may be accomplished. You just have to continue staying the course while being patient.

  1. “Blaze Your Own Path” – Dad

In my honest opinion, this has got to be the most important takeaway not just from this quarantine period, but in my life as a post-graduate. I hope I can pass this on to you as well. I mentioned “carving your own path” earlier, but my dad just took it one step further. Forget the first four pieces of advice I gave you (though hopefully you remember them), but not this one. This ties everything together. If the world “gives you cr*p”, as my dad would always say, we always a choice. Just a gentle reminder: Your approval rating in this world is not 100 percent, meaning there will be haters, critics and cynics out there.

You can either go with the flow by being a cr*ppy person too, or you can choose to be more accepting towards others especially in these uncertain times. You can continue sulking in the rejections that keep piling up (I was guilty of doing this earlier this week), or you can continue seeking ways to be productive during this worldwide quarantine.  You can look at the opportunities you missed out on in the past, or you can continue fighting for new second chances in life.

It’s hard to follow such deep advice, but it will really bring wonders to you and me. This cold and cruel world demands so much to the point they will oftentimes reject you for simply who you are. So, give them the damn finger if you have to and show them that they ain’t ready for this tough cookie and new graduate.

In a society that takes no prisoners and demands perfection, it’s time for you to defy it for once, by “blazing your own path”.

So after you’ve finished toasting from your unorthodox but unprecedented victory, go out there (after quarantine has been lifted of course) and show the world what this class has got. “Sometimes, it don’t go your way”, but I promise you, they’ll be looking forward to seeing what you have to bring to the table. For those who are bound to reject you, they are going to regret not taking a chance on you and missing out in your potential.  

Until then, wash your hands, wear a mask, stay safe, and hope to see you in the big dance once this is all said and done.

Yours Truly,

D.E.L. R.O.


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