An Ode to the Class of 2020

"We don’t need to view ourselves as victims of an unprecedented point in history. Like time, the only way to move is forward. Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t get to do, remember what you did. Remember how far you’ve come and all that you’ve accomplished. And then don’t look back. The light at the end of the tunnel can only be seen if you’re facing forward."
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“An Ode to the Class of 2020” was written by Society of Women Engineers Member Mariah Manzano. This article was originally published in Santa Clara Magazine, a publication of Santa Clara University.


Mariah Manzano, class of 2020, enjoying a space on the Santa Clara University campus
Mariah Manzano enjoying a space on the Santa Clara University campus. / Image courtesy Mariah Manzano

“The last of anything is always bittersweet. It’s when we are aware that we’re experiencing the end of something that we diligently savor it the most.”

Like many of you, over the past four years of college, I claimed a particular place on campus as my own. Of course, to claim it is unrealistic; others found themselves in the same spot. But when it was mine, it was mine to use as a place to reflect, to completely clear my mind. A site to deeply consider all of the people I felt honored to know and the resources I was privileged to have access to. Not surprisingly, it was a seat from which I could enjoy the beautiful SCU campus from my very own perspective.

It was also there that I received the email saying that campus would be closed down, effective immediately. And as sudden and surprising as a forced evacuation is, I reacted accordingly: I put my phone down to enjoy the view one last time.

The last of anything is always bittersweet. It’s when we are aware that we’re experiencing the end of something that we diligently savor it the most. The last seconds of a sunset. The last song of a concert. The last bite of your favorite meal. The last minute of your favorite team’s season. The last episode of that show you loved bingeing.

But it’s our awareness and mindset while we experience these final moments that make them so memorable, and so beautiful. And it’s their absence that fills us with regret.

“From one perspective, you could say we were robbed of our last moments. Robbed by a pandemic that will forever be marked in history books as a turning point for so many in the world.”

To my fellow 2020 graduates: I know that we never could have anticipated that we would be living out our last moments on campus in early March. The last time we would lounge on the quad. Or walk to class. Or see so many familiar faces in one place. And without realizing that those moments were our last, it’s so easy to look back now on so many missed opportunities.

Why didn’t I spend an extra minute catching up with that friend? Why didn’t I stroll through campus a little slower? Why didn’t I ever go through with those big plans?

From one perspective, you could say we were robbed of our last moments. Robbed by a pandemic that will forever be marked in history books as a turning point for so many in the world. Time seemed to stop then, and has since trapped us in this moment.

But we don’t need to view ourselves as victims of an unprecedented point in history. Like time, the only way to move is forward. Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t get to do, remember what you did. Remember how far you’ve come and all that you’ve accomplished. And then don’t look back. The light at the end of the tunnel can only be seen if you’re facing forward.

“To lose so much so quickly, to adapt, and then to prevail against all odds is a much more powerful tribute to our character and experiences than if all had gone as planned.”

Our Class of 2020 is resilient. To lose so much so quickly, to adapt, and then to prevail against all odds is a much more powerful tribute to our character and experiences than if all had gone as planned. For many of us, veering off course is the only time we may ever take the scenic route. Yes, change can be uncomfortable, especially when it’s unfamiliar. But a world with stagnant minds is one without progression. We can use the beauty of discomfort to redirect ourselves to opportunities we may have never imagined.

So be proud of who you are today, and look forward to who you will be in the next chapter of your life. Without a doubt, this moment is unparalleled, but so is the strength, perseverance, and indomitable spirit of our Class of 2020.


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