Graduation Ceremony, Marking the End of a Phase

May 22, 2010

“I do find it ironic that I have been this eager to move on to the next phase in my life when I spent so much time last December and January agonizing about it… I did give up security and predictability… But subhanAllah, what I have been enjoying the most for the past few weeks is precisely that same uncertainty I dreaded for so long…having no strings attached or ready-made plan is surprisingly empowering and exhilarating.”

Dear Papaito,

I graduated. You were in my thoughts during the ceremony, as were my parents and family. But don’t worry. I was not too disappointed that you could not come. I realize some things are just not in our hands. Perhaps you’ll join me next time (white roses would be nice, thank you).

My feelings that Tuesday (convocation) and Wednesday (commencement)? I felt ‘como diablo en botella.’ ‘As a genie in a bottle,’ eager to get out. I could not wait to be done with both ceremonies so that I could finally declare this phase of my life officially closed. I reflected on these feelings on my way to the Convocation, and this is an excerpt of what I wrote on my journal during that subway ride:

“Strange that I need to drag myself to this thing. It’s supposed to be my big day, sort of like a wedding, except that instead of a husband I get to take a framed paper home. That aside, we dress up, there are flowers, family and friends come, our names change, etc. Yet, instead of being excited, I just wish this whole thing was over. Not that my experience at NYU was bad or anything. Far from it. The past couple of years have been two of the best in my life, alhamdulilah. But still, I feel exactly what I felt when I graduated from High School in 2002, and college in 2007; that while the experience was great, everything comes to an end at its due time. Any additional minute would be

excessive.”

Once I arrived to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts my feelings did change a bit. It was exciting to hundreds of students garbed in purple, photographed by proud parents, hugged by friends and partners, and then seeing my own friends waving at me with cheerful ‘we’re over here!’ There were also some unexpected little surprises that evening, like being seated by the side of a Turkish colleague whose parents had also not been able to come from Turkey for the occasion. We had fun picking on the speakers who said that the evening was all about the proud parents in the room, (when the first speaker said that, my friend turned to me and whispered in my ear, “I will kill her” with such seriousness that I had to contain a laugh). And by the end of the evening, some of my closest friends were waiting for me outside. They’d brought their cameras, flower bouquets, and it was just great having them there (the same sisters who accompanied to the hospital when I went to ER a few months back. They’re called family). The next day was commencement at Yankee Stadium, and my feelings were similar: I had to drag myself there, but once I reached the place, the ceremony was exciting (yes, even if it rained, as you can see in the pictures. Oh and the man in the screen is Alec Baldwin, the keynote speaker).

But as much as I had fun, I still just wanted to be done with the ceremonies, and move on! And I do find it ironic that I have been this eager to move on to the next phase in my life when I spent so much time last December and January agonizing about it. You may remember very well Papaito those letters where I articulated my panic about not applying for PhD programs this year, feeling I was giving up my last hope of security and predictability after graduation. And it was true. I did give up security and predictability. I could have been accepted into a PhD program by now, and I would know where I would be going next year. But subhanAllah, what I have been enjoying the most for the past few weeks is precisely that same uncertainty I dreaded for so long. I do not know for sure where I will be next year (could be NYC, Cairo, Quito, Rabat…or all these and more!), or what exactly I will be doing, but having no strings attached or ready-made plan is surprisingly empowering and exhilarating. For the first time in years, I have no set path ahead of me, but I have a vision, a few skills, and a zillion ideas. These and a ton of tawakkul. So we’ll see! I can’t wait to get started!

In fact, a few things have already happened, but let’s leave these new developments to my next letter, inshaAllah. Check your mailbox tomorrow.

Excited and content,

J.

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