To The Class of 2020

“It wasn’t what we expected, but it doesn’t define us!”

Matthew J. Diaz

We have a lot in common. My graduation year had two two’s and two zeroes as you have (2002). This will only happen one more time this millennia in the year 2200.

However, the more important shared experience is that we are both leaving high school. You the student are graduating and I the teacher am leaving the classroom. It’s been a good run. I started teaching during your 6th grade year and everything was new. It was a new job, new atmosphere and new responsibilities. I know you felt the same.

Seven years later and now look at us. We have spent countless hours on homework, learning, helping each other out and surviving your teenage years. I wish I would have known when I started this journey that you would be my time capsule marking an important period in my life.

That’s what this is, simply a period of time in your life. If there is anything I can communicate to you it’s that this not a representation of the totality of you. I’m not defining myself by these years of teaching in the classroom just as you shouldn’t define yourself as a student in the classroom.

High school may have been fun, it may have been difficult, it may have been a challenge, or it may have been easy. Whatever it was for both me and you, it is not who we are, for better or worse. I’ve seen graduates who I thought were on a wrong path finally hear God’s call and listen. I’ve seen graduates who had a calling and completely ignore it and go there own way. The choice you need to make is who are you going to be.

Decide now who you are before someone else does. This is deeper than the blasé saying, “Find your truth.” It’s a message of find “The” truth and how it should ground you and shape you. There are a lot of ideas, philosophies and theories to pursue but they do not all lead in the same direction or to the same destination.

As you leave this moment in time, remember that high school isn’t everything. It may have been your world for a time, by taking a lot of your time, but it isn’t the world you are stepping into. The world is huge and there is a lifetime ahead of you. What are you going to let guide you?

I hope it’s the truth that you are uniquely designed and have skills, talents, dreams, and visions to offer the the world and those around you. Don’t withhold yourself from the world. God wants a world with you in it, doing what only you can do, because he made you for it. He has an exact purpose. You are not, and have never been, an accident. God has always wanted you to be in existence and He wants you to see that your path in this life is better with Him, than without.

This year marks another milestone for me and that is that I have spent the same amount of time in grade school to high school as I have outside of it. 18 years have passed and on this side of the journey, life has been unexpected.

I’ve gotten some degrees, with some C’s. I’ve traveled the world but I’ve always come back. I fell in love and started a family. I’ve been a grad student, a youth pastor, a teacher, and an author. The best days of my life have been after high school. The best days of your life are still to come.

Attribution here

Some of the hardest days have been during this time as well and this is what I can promise you. The best and worst days are still ahead. You have to accept them both. “Inside Out” had it right, your memories of joy and sadness are a part of you. You cannot reject the pain nor can you wallow in it. You cannot only pursue joy and not validate the pain.

May you, class of 2020, find the balance between these two inevitabilities. Life comes with great things and broken things. The truth I have found myself saying is this, “Just because I’m broke, doesn’t mean I’m broken.” Not everything that cracks, breaks. You are meant to shine brightly, to glow, but sometimes it takes something painful to force this transformation.

This 4th of July, with every glow stick cracked, sparkler twirled and firework lit up, remember it takes a break, a fire, something that has the possibility of hurting you, for a light to burst forth shining as a beacon of hope to the word around you.

Class of 2020, believe these words from the prophet Isaiah when he declared to Israel they needed to repent and pursue justice. When you do,

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Isaiah 58:8-9a, ESV

Go into the world fearless, boundless, unstoppable, and with tenacity. You graduated in the midst of a global pandemic, I think you can overcome anything. I am certain this can be done when you follow Jesus.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

In Truth & Love
Matthew J. Diaz

Check out my memoir, “The Last Day of Regret” here!

Looking forward to your addition to this dialogue.