Has anyone else had to take a few moments lately just to think about everything that has happened in our lives this past year? This week, California officially began its reopening, and I began wondering how many things would go back to normal, knowing how many people and businesses have been waiting for this day.

But if you think about it, there isn’t quite an official normal anymore. Not one that we can all agree on; there’s only this sense of movement and time.

There are things I know that a year ago, I would have had to think about and now, it’s natural. For example, I use hand sanitizer multiple times whenever I go out somewhere, I give people extra personal space, I feel like something is missing if I’m not wearing a mask in public, and I automatically assume meetings and classes are online/virtual unless I’m told otherwise.

Yet, this past month semester, and quarter system schools alike had their 2021 graduate students graduate in person. Some schools even had last year’s class of 2020 back to celebrate in-person graduation ceremonies too. Students had the privilege to walk across a stage to receive their diplomas after a year of adjusting, working, challenging, asking, trying, and persevering to make it to the other side of unprecedented circumstances.

From elementary school students and college grads to teachers and all the supporters who worked to get them through it, they absolutely deserve to celebrate their accomplishments. It has been a year of so many ups and downs that no one person experienced the same way and that should be recognized. That should be celebrated.

And so should we.

By “we”, I mean you and me. I mean the front-line workers and those who lost their jobs, those who struggled and those who fell apart, those who lost loved ones and those who held others together, I mean those who experienced successes and failures… All of us.

We should all take a moment to step back and recognize how far we have come because we are still going. Whether we hold a physical diploma in our hands or not, many of us have gone through unprecedented and sometimes unseen changes this past year.

Let’s be honest, change is terrifying. The last year forced a lot of change on a lot of us that we had no choice in, simply because we needed to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe in whatever ways made sense to us. But while doing so, maybe you and those around you found ways to slow down every now and then in the meantime.

Did you start up a new workout routine— or a few— no matter how long it lasted for? How about baking, did you also try bread baking like the rest of the world did… at least it seemed that way considering the yeast shortages. Okay, here’s a big one: did you or someone close to you get a new pet? Even I’m guilty of this one and my family’s 12-week chocolate lab has quite the personality, to say the least.

As just a few of the ways people around the US and the world coped with the pandemic this past year, so much has happened over time. It is a wonderful thing to see families getting a chance to safely gather again, celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, and so much more. But all of this is not without struggle, loss, and adaptation on behalf of all of us. I think that’s important to recognize too.

The pandemic could be far from over in the world, but we have made major strides in the past year that none of us knew would last as long. Whether you’re excited for, anxious about, or just plain ready for whatever comes next, it’ll get when it gets here. In the meantime, throw your own graduation party, we’ve all probably got a whole new type of degree full of survival and adaptation skills when it comes to the past year.

As we head into the summer, keep doing your thing, celebrate yourselves, and go— safely— see your people when you can. Everyone has been through a lot, but I would like to think we’ve all somehow learned more about ourselves in the process. So, here’s to us.

Happy graduation to the Class of 2021, you’ve earned it and to the class of 2020, cheers to the walk I hope you got to experience! It’s heating up in the US this weekend, so I hope you all stay cool this weekend and get to attend some Juneteenth events tomorrow while appreciating all the father figures out there on Sunday.

See you next week, stay safe.

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