Graduation Blues


Just over a year ago, I wrote my first column for Cursor and it was a raw account of my loss in relevance to the realities I dealt with as an international student.

Ever since, each holiday season brought a subtly painful reminder of my father and the loss my family experiences as the cold air carries hints of his love. During the years after his passing, I had been so wrapped up in my studies, leaving little time for reflection or acknowledgment of my grief and how I carry it with me. And it just so happens that 2020 was the year in which I was left with time to look back and try to process the emotional blur that I call the past two years.

Feelings of excitement, pride, and hints of relief usually fill students’ lungs as they get a decision from the Examination Committee which confirms that they are now finally graduating. Yet, this past October when I received my decision in a very festive email, I was revisited by my grief. It's a very awkward feeling to receive good news that is only reminiscent of a painful loss. It's the sweetness of accomplishing something big but it tastes so bitter because all you really want in those moments is to share it with your passed loved ones. And so, I spent that day in October receiving kind congratulations knowing that, truly, the only person I hoped to share this with is not around.

The reality of my personal experience with grief and the healing processes that followed became slowly apparent to me. I was beginning to realize that regardless of a very challenging year now coming to an end, I was a completely different person and for the better. Somewhere along the line, the simplicity of being in lockdown resulted in something good for me. As the weeks went by, New Year’s Eve was upon us and after some heartfelt conversations with my best friend about the wild reality of our lives, I decided to take pen to paper and picked up the first abandoned sketchbook I found.

Flipping through pages of sketches, I came across a log written on the 31st of December, 2019, exactly a year ago. It was very surreal reading back how I felt and to take younger Salma’s perspective for a short spin. I would argue that finding that log was exactly what I needed to see before the year came to an end; it became a reference point to the significant changes that I have now experienced, the year I spent subconsciously healing with so much time alone to reflect and accept. And so here I now stand, regardless of everything that went wrong, sincerely grateful for the things that went well.

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