On the 8th of July 2014, I finally donned the graduation robe and mortarboard, and walked across the stage to collect my degree certificate.
It’s been a long time coming.
For those who know of my undergraduate journey, they will understand why this commencement ceremony took on a very special significance. It wasn’t an easy journey, one with which potholes and detours are aplenty. I’ve lost count the number of times I fell and scraped my knees. I’ve gotten used to the sting of pain and failure. Yet I rise every single time; I rise and rise again. I caught every curve ball life threw at me and threw it back- harder and better. I had to. You see, my undergraduate journey wasn’t my journey alone – it was a journey undertaken by my entire family.
Some of you may not know this, but NUS wasn’t my first choice of a university, nor was it the first university I matriculated into.
Back in July 2009 (wow it’s been 5 years!), I joined the Australian National University (ANU), reading International Relations as my degree. It was one of the university’s most prestigious programmes.
ANU is the top university in Australia, was in the top 10 ranking in the world (at that time), and is located in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. It has a lovely campus and I tremendously enjoyed my first experience of living overseas on my own.
Ah yet we can only plan how our life journeys are to be like, for verily He is the best of Planners. 🙂
After a few months in ANU, I had to drop out and come back to Singapore due to some personal issues that needed to be ironed out back home. To say that was one of the darker periods of my life would be an understatement. I went from being one of the top students for the ‘A’ Levels in my JC, to attending a worldclass university, to coming back to Singapore with no school and no work. I also ended up breaking up with my then-boyfriend. In life, when you fall, you fall hard.
Yet, if given a choice, would I have changed the course of things?
Because I have learnt so much from that traumatic experience – I have met so many beautiful souls along the way, I have been given so many opportunities to grow, and ultimately, I was moulded to be the person I am today. That stressful episode taught me resilience, love, forgiveness, compassion, and most of all, it taught me to keep the faith.
That experience taught me that at any point of time, I am exactly where I am meant to be.
A year later, I subsequently accepted a scholarship and entered NUS to read Psychology. Along the way, I changed it to a few other things before settling on English. NUS taught me to explore options and not to be afraid to try. NUS opened doors for me I never taught was possible, and it showed me how capable I am as a person. I juggled multiple jobs while in NUS, all of which made me realise the importance of having (a semblace of, at least) a work-life balance. Ironically, in a university that so emphasised on grades, I learnt that it wasn’t the grades that matters, it was the life opportunities I grabbed to make me a better human being. NUS taught me to laugh at myself, and to see humour in the world.
Of course, NUS also gave the chance to study in Manchester – an experience that absolutely changed my life.
So when the time came for me to finally do the final walk across the stage, I did it with a heart filled with so much wonder, gratitude and humility. I remembered the many times I nearly gave up on the fight, the many tears and pain I had to face upfront, the many laughter and joy shared with fellow loved ones and undergraduates – they were all worth it.
I also remembered why I chose to stuck on with the fight till the end.
Despite all the odds and the tremors, we kept together as a unit – a feat I believe we have a right to be proud of.
This was my father’s wish – to see his daughter finally completing her degree, no matter from which university.
This was my mother’s dream – to graduate. Life took away the opportunity from her, thus it fell upon me to fulfill it. Alhamdulillah, I did.
This was for my brothers – to show them that a good life is for those who are brave enough to take the plunge and go after their dreams.
For Alif, to know that life is not what happens to you, but how you react to the things that happen to you.
For Haziq, to know that whatever happens, you should remain gracious and loving to the people around you. (And that he will always be my babybrother.)
For them, to know that whatever happens, I will always, always have their back.
For myself, because I am enough. I am not defined by my tragedy or my past mistakes, and I know I am placed in this world for a purpose. I am going to kick ass, and will continue to give out the best to the world for the rest of my life, inshaAllah.
We’ve gone through quite a bit as a family. I hope I’ve made each of them proud. At the end of the day, they’re all that matter.
And of course, a very special shout-out to the best:
The woman who was with me through the very last stretch, who kept me going during a time when I was so close to throwing in the towel, and who made me see the humour in the painful things.
This is it. I’ve done it.
On to the next phase of my life. 🙂
To all of you who are questioning your abilities and your worth – see the light and remember that you are enough. May He bless you with the wisdom and courage to keep fighting for what you believe in. ❤
With lots of love,
Photos of my graduation by the lovely Shamsydar Ani.