May 7 2021 08:00 AM

As graduation nears, I find myself wishing for more time as I write this open letter to the class of 2021.

Dear Class of 2021,

I’ve been struggling with my impending college graduation, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. The last year has been hard on all of us. We were juniors, just getting into the groove of our educations, starting to decide what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. For me, the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 was a dream come true. I was living with my best friends, constantly finding new leadership opportunities, and learning more than I ever could have imagined. I felt like I had found a place where I belonged.

We were comfortable before the pandemic. Sure, everything wasn’t perfect, but most of us thought we knew what the next year had in store for us. We were going to finish our junior years strong. We were going to celebrate with our friends, watch some of them graduate, and think to ourselves, “Wow, next year that will be me.”

We were going to go to our spring formals and then head our separate ways for the summer. The sunny days we had spent all winter waiting for would bring bonfires and fireworks and sunsets. We would have new and exciting adventures.

Then in the fall, we would begin our final year of school; the year we had dreamed about since we were kids. Suddenly we were going to be the wise seniors. We would take light class schedules and walk through the hallways like we owned the place. Our year would be filled with those precious “last moments”: the last first day of class, the last extracurricular meeting, the last class project, the last formal . . . and the last day. We were comfortable with this idea; the accepted, traditional version of a senior year.

That’s the thing about your comfort zone — you can’t stay there forever.

Not to state the obvious, but things did not go the way we expected. Some of us have done school entirely from our computers at home. Others have gone in person but in far from normal conditions.

I’m sitting in my living room right now, trying to figure out what comes next for me. That’s hard to do when college life has just started to resemble normal again, now that my friends and I are getting ready to leave.

But life rarely goes as planned. Despite the conditions, we have prevailed! We are going to finish our educations. We are having those important last moments we hoped for, even if they aren’t happening the way we thought they would. We’ve learned more than content in our college careers — we’ve learned to be adaptable and resilient. We know how to put our best foot forward despite tumultuous circumstances. And frankly, if we can handle a global pandemic, the real world should be a piece of cake.

Through thick and thin, the class of 2021 has surmounted the odds.

Abbie Cox
Abbie Cox grew up in Cato, N.Y. on a first-generation dairy farm and currently attends Cornell University as a member of the class of 2021, majoring in animal science with a minor in education and a focus in dairy. On campus, she is involved with the Cornell University Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and is a Peer Adviser with CALS Student Services. Cox has interned with the MILC group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and was the 2020 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.