I would like to start off by saying congratulations, and what a surprise it is for me to be writing this letter as the class of 2020's goodbye to UCLA. As much as I am surprised to be doing this right now, you may not think "surprised" is the right word to use. According to Oxford dictionary, a surprise is defined by "an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing," almost making a "surprise'' sound like a good thing to be received.
Despite its positive connotation, let's be honest: you would all rather be at a real graduation, put on by UCLA, full of expensive looking decorations and credible guest speakers, than be "surprised" by having me, a menial junior, as your substitute, second rate host. "Surprise" was once a word that held aspiration, hope, and excitement. 2020, however, has undeniably distorted our interpretation of this term.
Was anyone shocked by the global pandemic that broke out and tormented our plans for the year and thought "oo, what a surprise!" Or how about the closure of local businesses and lay offs on a global scale? No one? These are just a few examples of how 2020 managed to ruin the word "surprise."
You're probably thinking "wow Kira, what a fun, uplifting speech. Is this almost over?" Not so fast! I am going to provide you with some unsolicited advice about your futures with all of the credibility I have in my humble experiences as a co-dependent, unemployed adult.
As a group of young 20-some year olds and college graduates recently graced with your final nod of recognition of a flimsy piece of paper signed by Gene Block, you are the next group of young adults entering the workforce. I am confident many of you will go on to be successful doctors, famous CEOs, accomplished lawyers, honest politicians, or whatever your dreams may be.
Buuutttt, due to these recent "surprises," your paths to these sought after careers may now be different. The plans you've had in place for years are now overgrown with brush, or --a better analogy -- are now destroyed by a brush fire. Nonetheless, it is more likely than not that the path you had in place is no longer laid out how you imagined.
The odds now are stacked against you. Or are they?
You are the first group of graduates that has not only experienced, but lived the effects of these recent traumatic events and have suffered the losses that come with them.
You do not get a real graduation.
Your jobs and internships were cancelled.
You didn't get one final goodbye to your people for the last 4 years.
You are at risk for an unprecedented virus.
And, you are entering one of the worst economies in recent memory!
Nothing will ever be able to compensate for these feelings of frustration and loss. However, how you adapt to these sudden changes is what will make your class so prosperous.
The plan, for sure, has changed..and surprise!!! YOUR CLASS has been deemed the trailblazers --responsible for the rest of our generations to follow but more importantly, just me, don't forget I'm graduating next year.
Although 2020 has given you enough negative surprises, one good thing that 2020 forcefully contributed to your lives is the obstacles that have gifted you a brand new skill set. Forget remembering how to dissect a frog, pass a bill or prove the pythagorean theorem. This year's graduates will be equipped with an incredible sense of resourcefulness, resilience, and determination (and much patience) to achieve their goals. You all have been forced to adapt your plans and contrived new paths to climb the ladder of success and professional growth.
In conclusion, it is quite ironic how some of the people I have admired for being most stable and calm are graduating in one of the most chaotic climates to date. What started as a milestone of the year 2020 has turned out to be full of negative "surprises".
If nothing else, I leave you with one poorly kept secret: 2020 isn't over yet. As graduates, it is your time to take it back. You were promised this year the second you were born 22-24 years ago as your year of graduation, arguably one of the most significant days of your entire lives. You did it! You graduated! Not from USC, but from the #1 public university in the entire United States! Let that sink in.
You are graduating alongside some of the most competitive applicants in the world.
The recent surprises and challenges bestowed upon you also offered new opportunities to startle you into a new perspective. Take these unique experiences and use them to effect change, promote good, advance your career, inspire risky ventures, help a friend or a stranger, and most importantly, make the word "surprise" into a good thing again.