Congratulations! You did it. You managed to finish high school and graduate during one of the most chaotic periods most of us have ever seen. And you also did something else: You built resilience.
Believe it or not, building resiliency may be just as valuable as that college degree you're about to tackle.
Why resilience matters
Resilience is the ability to adapt to change. According to an article in Educause Review, resilience is what allows you to withstand, recover, and bounce back from stress, chaos, and ever-changing circumstances.
As 2020 has shown us, the only certainty in life is change. People with a strong sense of resilience are better able to acknowledge changing circumstances and move forward, rather than remaining mired in past mistakes or unfair conditions. Resilient people are able to stay focused and productive when things get hard.
The Class of 2020 certainly saw itself challenged over the last few months. Maybe you handled some of your personal challenges well. Maybe there were others that felt harder. Maybe you lost your cool a few times. (Hey, we're all human, right?) Maybe there were times you thought you might not make it over the finish line.
But here's the thing: You DID make it over the finish line. The fact is, the Class of 2020 may have a significant advantage moving forward because of the extraordinary conditions you had to face.
So now, let's take a few moments to look at how you did it. Recognizing what pulled you through those challenges will empower you to call on those same tools when you're faced with challenges in college and your adult life. The mindsets that you cultivated over the last few months are key to resiliency.
(The following characteristics of resiliency are based on landmark research by Susan Kobasa, Ph. D.)
1. You managed yourself
Keeping control of yourself when so much is out of your control is an incredibly valuable skill. Your school, home, work, and extra-curricular environments and procedures were completely disrupted over the last few months. Even though it was stressful, you found a way to make it work.
Maybe you had to hack into the neighbor's WiFi. Maybe you had to work out in your bedroom. Maybe you had to participate in Zoom classes while caring for a younger sibling. Maybe someone in your family was sick, or you were consumed with worry over your family's financial situation.
Still, each and every day, you got out of bed and accomplished what you needed to do. Maybe some days were better than others. But the point is that you pushed through.
Key resiliency trait: You focused on the areas you could influence, rather than remaining stuck in worry over things that were out of your control. You learned how to empower yourself.
2. You remained committed
Were there times you wanted to just blow off the rest of the school year and stay in bed? Probably some days, or maybe even most days.
However, you kept your eye on the big picture. You gave yourself a reason to face each new day, even though some days it was probably hard to retain that focus. You got yourself through it. You knew that graduating was such an important goal that you couldn't simply set it aside.
Key resiliency trait: You gave yourself a reason to keep fighting even in the face of adversity, even when you got frustrated, and even when it felt like your efforts weren't getting you anywhere. You didn't quit.
3. You found a new way to look at stress
Stress can be paralyzing. Overwhelming. Exhausting.
When facing stress during the last few months, you were forced to find ways around it. You had to motivate yourself to deconstruct stressful situations into manageable tasks and conditions. A global pandemic is a lot to think about. There wasn't a lot you could do about it. But you could find ways to remain safe, healthy, and mentally fit right where you were.
You probably found new ways to distract and entertain yourself. Maybe you made videos, created art, learned to bake, or did jigsaw puzzles. Maybe you just talked to your family more. Maybe you hung out in your room and daydreamed, allowing your creatively to run wild. Whatever you did, you accumulated new coping mechanisms that you can can all on when life gets hard.
Key resiliency trait: You turned personal setbacks into opportunities for growth. Maybe some of that growth is already obvious to you. Likely, you'll see more evidence of it as time goes on.
Hang onto these lessons
Hopefully 2020 will be an outlier. Hopefully this is the most stress we will ever see. But stress and change are never going to disappear entirely, even when we're not facing a constant parade of global and national crises.
When your world becomes challenging, look back on this time and take strength from it. Remind yourself of the challenges you overcame. Reflect on how you adapted. Remember that you have the personal strength to weather any storm.
Hey, Class of 2020: We can't wait to see how you're going to change the world.