“…it is with an especially heavy heart that I write to inform you that all of our Spring 2020 Commencement Ceremonies… must be conducted online.”
I reread that sentence at least twenty times before the tears blurred my vision. I had known that due to COVID 19, graduation would most likely be canceled. I thought I had prepared emotionally for the moment of officially getting the news. But, no. When I received this email on March 26 from our University President, I opened it with feelings reminiscent of decision day; nervous, expectant, steeling myself against bad news as best as I could. But that one line pierced straight through my resolve.
I walked out of my bedroom and sat on the couch next to my husband. I leaned into him and exhaled.
“I’m not going to get to walk,” I said, and the tears that I had held back the past couple of weeks released like water rushing past a broken dam.
Eleven years. Eleven years of working toward a goal, to have the ending snuffed out. Undergrad, post bacc, Masters, Doctorate… all to not get to celebrate the ending with only 45 days left. My parents, whose faces beamed with pride whenever I visited home, would not get to see me walk across the stage and be introduced as “Doctor.” My parents, who own this doctorate as much as I do, will not get their special day.
This is going to sound redundant, but I believe in feeling my feelings. I believe in fully letting the weight of any emotion that I’m feeling resonate and then pass in its due time. This devastating blow was no different. I was down for two days, and with the shelter-in-place, ya girl was really down. I spent a lot of time under a blanket and bingeing Netflix. But between episodes of ‘Tiger King’ and ‘On My Block,’ I began to gain clarity on my predicament.
On March 28 I emerged from my blanket cocoon with a new perspective. I was still disappointed about the graduation, but after praying and talking to my loved ones I decided to focus on things that I knew to be true.
I know that there is a plan for my life that I cannot see— bigger than I can fathom. I trust the plan God has for me; I have never once asked God why, and I didn’t plan on starting now either. I know my parents are already proud of me, and the happiness in their hearts will not diminish because I don’t get to walk to walk across a stage. My mom already calls me “Doc” whenever I call her. My dad already tells me how happy he is for me. I know that my husband will celebrate me even without a university graduation. He said, “we poppin’ bottles that day regardless, Leeyah.” I know my friends have already offered to throw me a virtual grad party, and that the gifts and love I will receive from them will be real.
I know that I worked hard, I mean really hard, to complete this doctorate. This road I traveled was long and tenuous. But I know that when I am able to practice medicine, my patients will be receiving excellent care.
And finally, if you’re reading this and your last year has been affected, I want you to know this too: This ending does not negate the journey.
Aaleeyah Pringle Alim is a 4th year at Midwestern University, graduating with a Doctorate of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). She has a passion for patient education and has a series called Tooth Tuesday on her Instagram page @Smile.Leey. She posts regularly about her dental school journey, life as a wife, and other random adventures.