Dear Graduates. Uncertainty Is a Source of Strength.


Like many of you, I had never experienced—until now—any event that brought life to a complete standstill. We are walking around with heavy hearts and worn spirits. And more than ever, we seem obsessed with our failures and also frustrated by our perceived powerlessness. But human beings are at our best when we are uncertain.

If you think back on your own life, you’ve already proved that you’re built to withstand uncomfortable moments. I remember back when I was fresh out of college and single——if my husband is reading this, he should know it was a long, long, long time ago— and I didn’t like approaching men. I was consumed with fear of rejection. I also worried that I would come off as overzealous.

I was working in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the time. One night I went with some friends to Buffalo Wild Wings. Because I was broke and in my early 20s, I of course went on a Tuesday night, when wings were just 20 cents each. I was having a great time and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a tall, handsome man who didn’t appear to be there with anyone. I had three choices: I could sit and covertly stare at him the rest of the night. I could try to catch his eye and then hope that he approached me. Or I could stop fretting about the possible negative outcomes and approach him.

I chose the last option. My opening line to him was “Hey, I like your hat,” because he was wearing one. I didn’t really care about the hat, though. I never said I was smooth.

The end result was that we exchanged numbers and later went out on a couple of dates—before I determined that I would have been better off enjoying some chicken wings and not engaging in my generation’s version of Tinder. However, the point of the story isn’t that women shouldn’t approach men with hats on a Tuesday night at Buffalo Wild Wings. The point is that I didn’t let insecurity or uncertainty stop me. And over the years, I consciously refined my approach. I made myself bolder and smoother. Just ask my husband.

While I can’t erase the current reality, I can’t help but notice how much we’re all being forced to retrain ourselves in this moment. We are learning to eschew normalcy in a positive way. Who could have anticipated that one of the coolest discoveries during this pandemic would be watching mega-artists such as Babyface, Teddy Riley, Nelly, and Ludacris battle one another song-for-song on Instagram Live, and consequently learning that they can put together a hit song far better than they can operate their own Wi-Fi? We’re seeing businesses adapt on the fly. We’re seeing people reevaluate how they create. We’re learning to think differently, act differently, and even love differently from how we did just three months ago.

Jemele Hill

2020-05-24 07:00:00

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