“I don’t want to go back to the way things were,” April Judd says into the camera on her laptop.
Throughout Quebec, Canada, Judd’s classmates watched on their own devices as the young orator spoke during their graduation. This 19-year-old has come through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with a changed mindset, a new perspective on life, and she is using her voice to share that perspective with others.
“I want to have a heightened appreciation for all the things that make life full,” she continues.
Judd’s speech took first prize in GreaterGood.org’s Girls’ Voices at Home Class of 2020 Challenge. The theme of this year’s contest, open to high school and college seniors, was “How the coronavirus affected my final semester.” GreaterGood’s panel of judges watched submissions from 379 girls from 49 different countries.
Like her fellow students, Judd spent the last few months of her 2020 school year at home. She was disappointed she missed the opportunity to walk in front of her classmates at John Abbott College during their graduation ceremony. Moving back home with her parents during the pandemic was also a challenge.
While she adapted to this new normal, Judd developed a greater appreciation for living with intention, which she shares with healthy dose of humor.
“It has really given me the opportunity to discover sides of myself that I never knew existed,” she says.
Judd included clips of herself dealing with isolation in her own unique ways, from watercolor painting and playing the violin, to screaming in desperation int he middle of an open field.
“What I find is really notable for me is my shift in mindset,” she says. “Although this pandemic has raised some additional concerns in my life like the stability of a summer job and the fact that Nipissing University is closing in the summer semester, which is where I hope to go on to continue my studies as an educator.”
Judd says the last few months have helped her forge a direction forward by revealing what really matters in life.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that what we should be taking away from this experience isn’t that we have no control over our lives or that life sucks or anything like that, but rather that life is never how we expect it to be. And that’s OK. In fact, that may just be what makes life worth living.”
She concludes with a realistic vision of the future: it has yet to be told.
“Life is not a movie,” she says. “We are not living in this scripted universe where everyone knows what to say or what scene is coming up next. Life doesn’t rehearse its choreography. It’s a practice in improv. We the graduates of 2020 can use this to our advantage to mold the universe into the future that we want to see.”
And with just three words, drives emphasizes a point of inspiration for all graduates of the class of 2020.
“We got this,” she says.
Watch Judd’s speech in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.