A Letter to my Students on Graduation Day

Sangeetha Alwar
3 min readJun 8, 2020

Convocations are bitter-sweet. A strange sense of nostalgia and introspection accost you. While it feels amazing to move on to the “next phase” you carry an inexplicable fear of what’s to come.

This is a letter I have been writing in my head since the last batch of students graduated and I know it still might not do justice to what I have to say. But try, I shall.

My dearest students,

Mere congratulations do not do justice to all that you have endured during your course, it has been a journey of self-discovery and of hope; but most of all, it has been a lesson in resilience.

As you step out into this crazy world into an industry that now seems to be steeped in turmoil, fear cannot become your companion. I cannot tell you how the world will change because of the pandemic, nobody can; what I can tell you is that you will be the builders of the world that remains. You will choose what to keep and what to throw away and we will watch from the sidelines as you make history.

There are some things I wish my teachers told me as I graduated, this has nothing to do with work specifically, I know I’d have been better off having it in my arsenal to use as needed. (The following could have been a long-winded paragraph, but I decided to write in bullet points courtesy our dwindling attention spans):

  1. Cultivate a hobby outside of work: Do something that brings you joy and takes your mind off of all scruples at work. This is something that gives you peace, something you do by yourself. Give yourself time to pursue this hobby doggedly.
  2. Understand your place in the workplace: Now this gets a little difficult because a lot of us aren’t comfortable being the last rung of the ladder. How can you ever climb to the top without going through the bottom first. Take a month or two to understand the workplace and see where you fall in its system. Once you make peace with where you are, your daily frustrations at work being dumped on you or about your superiors with seemingly minuscule intellects become less annoying. This is not to encourage complacency — do all you can to be better, just realize that your time will come but when it does, you need to be ready.
  3. Absorb information: Take to information like a starved man takes to food. Absorb all you can. The twitter world has you believing that your opinion matters only if you react the second an issue is raised. If your opinion is backed by solid reading, it will always matter. Learn to disagree with people’s opinions in a manner that encourages dialogue rather than discouraging it. Do not fall into information/discourse silos — it benefits NOBODY.
  4. Treat time as a friend (rather than something you have to crush into submission): At the risk of sounding like your mother — scheduling is god. Taking a bit of time at the end of each day to lay out tasks and events for the day ahead not only clears your head but also helps you in saving copious amounts of time (which will otherwise be spent chasing tasks that have been pending for over a week). The more time you have on your hand the more time you have to spend checking in with yourself.
  5. Do not compare your failures with other peoples successes: It is very easy to look at a strangers life and assume they’ve had it easy. Your failures are yours alone, what’s redeeming is that your success too will be yours alone. Do not spend precious energy in comparing somebody else’s success with your failure. Brush that pesky thought aside, congratulate that person and get on with your work.

You are the purveyors of a whole new era of thinking and ideology. Assuming this role is most definitely a burden — that doesn’t mean you need to shoulder it alone. Do not entertain the misconception that asking for help makes you look weak. Vulnerability is endearing — it is what makes us human. Accept and seek help from people who offer it, learn to be grateful for it. Offer help when you can. We only grow by helping other people do so.

Never stop believing in your magic.

Love,

S

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Sangeetha Alwar

A Professor of English by day, a “Quasimodoesque” figure while hunched over the iPad, a reluctant academician and a passionate reader.