Quarantine Notes: To the Class of 2020

The photo above was taken twenty-five-years ago on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Karen was seventeen, young and carefree. She wanted to travel around the world. She wanted to go to college. She wanted to learn several languages, to work for the United Nations.

I was eighteen, extremely serious and painfully in love. I wanted to settle down, to be with her day and night, reading and writing in some seaside cottage, completely alone. I wanted children, even then, a brood of little ones with my dark skin tone and her light hair and eyes.

My intensity alarmed Karen, especially when I dared her to match my emotions. Of course, what I wanted defied the communion at the heart of any good relationship: the coming together of two people with two radically different points of view.

But what did I know of this–of anything?

I knew I had never felt anything with such force, and although everything felt painful, songs and poems, even trees and sand, I was often moved to tears of joy by the sheer beauty of the world.

Today, I feel compelled to dismiss this ridiculous person. I knew nothing—nothing of the pain to come, the failures and woes.

Lately, however, marooned at home with Karen and our children, I am feeling my eighteen-year-old self. I am reading for hours each day. I am writing, as I did then, without expectation. I am listening to Weezer. And sometimes, perhaps on a Saturday after my third glass of wine, my urges drive me outside, where I think about my life with tears in my eyes, all that I have and all that I want.

With all these tributes to the class of 2020, I am thinking about the boyfriends and girlfriends, all the young people missing each other so deeply right now. I’m sure they’re worried about the future. Will the relationship survive? I’m sure they’re feeling the pain of isolation. I’m sure each day feels like an eternity. I feel you, young people. Hang in there.