Dear Class of 2021,
Your special milestone has finally come and I still can't believe it! When I was your age, graduation was so "basic" with a week-long series of parties followed by four hours of sitting for twenty seconds of walking the stage. But you don't go with the basic flow. I guess some of you attend your graduation virtually, some spend time with your family and friends, some probably... skip it altogether, just because 🤷 Regardless of how you choose to experience this moment, I hope that you realize how far you've come, and for this reason alone, it is worth celebrating.
I opened my post for Class of 2020 again today in which I found a part that reads "I have a younger brother who's a year behind you [class of 2020], and even I said to him: "Lucky you that you're not graduating this year.” I get how hard it is. Especially to some of you who came all the way from your home country to study abroad and contribute greatly to the economy of another country – some of you even risk all you have to pursue the American dream – you’ve already worked so hard to get here, but suddenly you found yourself being woken up by a nightmare called 'pandemic'." Welp, who would have known we'd still be in it after more than a year!? When my brother left to study online from "home" in Vietnam before the first lockdown in New York, I was still looking forward to seeing him in the fall semester and imagining our family would be able to unite and celebrate his graduation together in the US this year. I know how bizarre this is...
But you know what, you are incredibly resilient and creative in dealing with the challenges that life's been throwing at you, and I know for a fact that you have so much to offer. My younger brother who is also graduating with you this year has opened my eyes in so many ways that I truly hope more and more people can benefit by learning from your generation’s perspectives.
"If you want to have a high-quality life, you need to experience a high-quality lifestyle." High quality doesn’t mean “expensive” but really just the quality of the experience. There was a time when I felt immensely low and stuck as if I was spinning on a hamster wheel. My brother was always there for me more than just a shoulder to cry on, but he also opened my eyes to see the world that I was blinded to. Ever since he told me so and “forced” me to come out of my shell, I was able to start a new chapter of my life with a keen eye for quality and have never allowed myself to be in a hamster wheel ever again.
"Always listen and hold your reaction. Ultimately your decision is still up to you, but reacting will only hurt and not help you." I used to be so stubborn to the point of being rebellious when I was younger that put me in trouble all the time and caused my parents so many headaches. My brother has always been the opposite — every time he got yelled at, instead of reacting like me, he’s managed to keep his “cool, calm, collected” manner that used to irritate me so much because I didn’t want to be the only rebel (lol) while I knew deep inside he was just as stubborn. When I told him it wasn’t fair, he laughed and told me “You have a choice of listening and reacting in an argument. How you think about something will still be up to you, but you don’t have to always announce it.” So as much as I didn’t want to acknowledge that he was right, he was, indeed. A lot of the unnecessary troubles that I’ve been able to save myself from later on in life are the result of how I’ve learned to respond effectively instead of reacting impulsively.
"Be a man." One of the things that I feel very lucky about is having a brother who breaks the stereotype of what it means to be considered 'masculinity'. Growing up, I’ve always known a brother who is so wise and strong yet vulnerable, consistently caring, family-oriented, sentimental, always thinks for others, and never says no to helping with housework or doing the dishes.
It may sound funny but some of my dearest "friends" are actually in Class of 2021 (you know who you are 😂) That is to say, I know that stepping into the world after college while the pandemic lasts is no small feat, and not knowing what you want may feel nerve-wracking... but guess what, I was absolutely clueless, too! It's nothing but normal if you haven't figured out your entire life yet. The only way to know what is meant to be for you is to try and test it out as you go, because knowing what doesn't work for you is no less important than knowing what is right for you. Your value and contributions are in no small measure to our future, and we’ll never leave you alone in this journey, my young friends — all you need to do now is just start and allow your mistakes to guide you towards your right path. Success is what you make of it. You got this and have always got this.