Holy shit, Class of 2022 — we did it. While most of us knew we would eventually get here — graduating, I mean, I’m sure none of us were quite sure what that would look like. If you asked us three, four or five years ago, we would’ve rolled our eyes at the thought of our ceremonies looking anything but traditional. Then, given the past two years, getting to sit in Spanos Stadium among our friends and fellow graduates, while our loved ones look over us, feels like a luxury and a gift. 

Two years ago, no one knew if we would make it back to this point. However, one thing the pandemic taught me, and I’m sure taught all of you, was that we as the next generation entering the world and “official” adulthood are persistent and resilient. 

Over the past two years, we have endured a global pandemic, rampant racism, women still fighting for basic body autonomy and guns still taking innocent lives, amongst other challenges. Yet, here we stand, ready to take on the world and to fight to make it a better place. 

I assumed the year specifically was going to be easier than the previous because we were “back to normal.” I would be back in person; I would get to see my friends’ faces, albeit behind masks; I would get to go out and do the fun things that I remembered from my freshman year — the only full year I experienced in college. But the transition proved to be equally as difficult as any period of change is, because we weren’t returning to normal — we were redefining what normal meant. 

We couldn’t simply go back to the way things were because the rulebook for what was has forever changed. We had to adjust if we wanted any semblance of a full life outside of the confines of our homes and pods of people we were previously limited to. 

The rules around what was and what wasn’t COVID safe were constantly in flux; rules and procedures changed what felt like everyday; and when there was a spike in January and again now, it felt like everyone and their mother was testing positive and bunkering down to wait out their 10 days. But like we did in March of 2020 and like how we have been operating ever since, we adapted. 

I firmly believe that, for these reasons, this class of graduates is one of the most prepared groups of people that could be emerging from Cal Poly because we have been forced to learn pivotal life skills that aren’t major specific. Regardless of what degree you are graduating with this year, you have had to learn to be flexible, strong, communicative, empathetic and brazen when faced with the truly unknown because you had no other option. These are skills that are applicable to whatever you wish to pursue in life. 

Serving as the Editor-in-Chief for your campus media organization this past year has brought me an inexplainable joy. I have been able to see my team inform you on the local news happening in your community, tell your stories to the best of their abilities, entertain you through in-person events and concerts and, most importantly, keep you and your interests at the forefront of everything that we did. Everything that we did this year, we did for you. We wanted to make sure that you were never in the dark about what goes on around campus, despite the University’s efforts to do just that; we wanted to celebrate your victories with you; we wanted to show off what makes you special; and we wanted to return to normal with you.

To our audience: Thank you for bearing with us through the challenging times and letting us serve you across our various platforms — Mustang News, KCPR and MNTV. Thank you for continuing to follow and support us, because without you, we wouldn’t be anything. For that, I am eternally grateful. 

To our professors, faculty members and advisers: Thank you so much for adapting and persisting with us. I know these circumstances were just as, if not more, tricky for you. Speaking to faceless Zoom screens, then enforcing mask mandates, was never part of the job description, but you handled it with ease and grace. For you, we as students are just a blip in your lives and you see versions of us year after year; however, to us, you have had such an insurmountable impact on our lives and the people we are becoming.

To the Mustang Media Group staff: Thank you for my best year of college. Getting to work alongside each and every one of you was such an honor. I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of returning to in-person and being a part of your day-to-day life in Mustang Media Group. All the hard work and effort that everyone put in day in and day out never went unnoticed or unappreciated. You are truly some of the best people I have ever come to know and I am so excited to see what everyone does next.

To the Class of 2022: We did it! We are ready for our next chapter because we experienced the before, the during and the after of one of the most life changing experiences I hope any of us will experience. We will stand out from those who went before us and those who came after us because of the special place in time that we took up. I hope you are able to appreciate actually seeing a smile in person, getting to hug your loved ones again, laughing and goofing around in the hallways of your daily lives and never taking for granted the simple joys that make life meaningful. 

I’m not going to stand here at age 22 acting like I have wisdom to impart because I, just like many of you, am just getting started. So let’s all just take what we have learned and apply it to what’s next. Let’s live a life full of color, love, empathy, patience and all that jazz, because we never know when it could be taken away again.

Cheers,

Tessa Hughes

Mustang Media Group Editor-in-Chief 2021-2022