If I am a black cloud in something, that something is graduation. My gloomy graduation history dates back to 2006. What are the chances that every landmark graduation ceremony in my education process elicits tears from the sky? Count them, thrice – high school, undergraduate (Baccalaureate AND Commencement) and last week, medical school.
High School Days
Out of all my career graduations, this was the least I cared about; hence, I was the most okay with nearly missing it. At that time, I was a girl of few needs: 1) go to an Ivy League college, or somewhere close enough to a prestigious brand, 2) be valedictorian, or settle for salutatorian and 3) get off Long Island. I fulfilled about 1½ points on that list. I was most bummed that I did not graduate in the top 2 of my class to attain the lofty title of valedictorian or salutatorian (I was ranked #3, with no Olympic bronze medal recognition for that achievement). The gunner in me then forever held a grudge against the high school that cheated me of my accomplishments, especially since I clean-swept all the senior awards with the highest, nearly perfect grades in all my classes. Connetquot was unfortunately still on a “quality points system” that year, as opposed to the more mainstream “weighted average system.” I still remember Connetquot as the school that essentially dinged a student for trying to be well rounded by playing in the orchestra (a lowly level 4 course), while another student with less stellar grades who was able to take more advanced classes received more points and ranked higher. It was also the school that held me back from taking more Advanced Placement (AP) classes early enough to count more before college applications went out. Except for a few special teachers who nurtured my potential and vision for success, there was nothing memorable about the high school that tethered my wings to a wall.
Now you have a basic understanding of my residual bitterness and how I could careless about graduating high school? Maybe I did not get into my top choice of colleges (Cornell) and yet, I was happy and looking forward to life and school in the city (NYU). Let’s not forget, I was bouncing off Long Island after 18 years of suburban, if not rural, life.
The morning of graduation was cloudy, humid and rainy. I looked out the window and heard the pitter-patter of rain … and rolled back to sleep. I assumed the graduation ceremony was cancelled due to inclement weather. Nope, it was on. In haste, I rinsed my curls and threw on my white cap and gown and ran in 4-inch heels. I was not the only idiot who thought there was no graduation, seeing girls and guys getting dropped off and running into the school. And here were the beginnings of my tardy tendencies.
I rushed to find my spot on line, somewhere amongst the honor society gang. Because I was late, I also lost the spot I had on stage, one I personally requested and squeezed from the principal to make something worthwhile out of being #3.
The graduation could not have been more of a drag. The only family spectator was my father; my mother and sister did not come, given how rushed the morning was. My hair was frizzing from the humidity. I was nervously looking up at the sky, believing it would shower at any moment’s strike. What was I proud of? Getting through with perfect grades and off the island? My school failed me and perfect grades did not get me on stage where I belonged. In a deviant way, I was glad that it was dark and gloomy, for I believed the heavens above saw it befitting to make the day miserable for Connetquot and it’s Class of 2006 Graduates.
Wow, I still sound bitter 8 years later …
College epitomized my glory years. It was a fresh environment with a much more intellectual and social crowd. I was happier, the butterfly that emerged from a tight, suffocating cocoon and spread its wings to fly and discover the world. Come on, I was going to school in the middle of Manhattan!!! I had no campus, but that did not matter, because my fun-filled campus was uniquely all of NYC. These were the years I spent finding myself, exploring the city, reconnecting with my Asian heritage and making awesome friends to last a lifetime.
Four years bounced by, and now I was part of NYU College of Arts & Science, Class of 2010. My Baccalaureate Ceremony took place at the famous Radio City Music Hall. Center stage and Magna Cum Laude.
While the ceremony was indoors, outside it was again, dreary and gray. There were a few sprinkles, but not significant enough to ruin my wonderful graduation day.
Commencement was a different situation, that fateful Wednesday in May at Yankee Stadium. It was cold and horribly wet and more like May showers. Ponchos and caps were passed out for barely enough coverage. I was freezing in my violet gown that did nothing for insulation. There I sat, for the next few hours, under a bright yellow umbrella ready to break or fly away, listening to Alec Baldwin and other VIP people give speeches about inspiration and success. Where was the sunshine I so anticipated for my huge and memorable college graduation? Apparently, it was playing hide-and-seek in the ultimate hiding spot and refusing to budge.
Here are my previous blog entries back in May 2010:
Those days were less okay for rain to ruin, but I had another 4 years to gain graduation redemption, with medical school.
Freshly Minted MD
The forecast for my medical school graduation on Thursday May 22, 2014 was just as glum as my luck with the last two cycles of graduation. The morning started off bleak, but relatively dry. Just as my fellow soon-to-be doctors assembled for the Class of 2014 photograph outside by the campus fountain, the droplets of rain started to pitter-patter. Perfect timing.
At least the ceremony took place in the Staller Center for the Performing Arts, with a stable enough roof for coverage.
Fat chance again. We had just finished the hooding process on stage, the ceremonial initiation into Doctordom. Then something epically unprecedented happened: the fire alarm went off in the middle of the Hippocratic Oath. It did not cease to stop, in case it was a false alarm, so we all had to evacuate. Into pouring rain. Perfect timing, again.
On top of my day of unfortunate occurrences, my dear sister missed my graduation. She rushed to take all her finals in order to catch a flight out from California in time for my once-in-a-lifetime graduation from medical school. Except en route, unprecedented and unseasonal weather in Denver derailed her flight (and many other travelers with important, but less so, itineraries) into New York and in time for my special day. Inclement weather in the form of wild tornadoes and shooting hailstorms was rarely seen in Denver, except on that one fateful Wednesday. I was bummed my sister could not make it to my graduation, the one person who has put up with my shenanigans all these years, like stressing out and taking a marathon of final exams back to back just come home in time for me. After the chaos that comes with flight cancellations and angry mobs of travelers, it took her a grand total of 24 hours and hopping through 5 cities before she touched down safely. Now I’m beginning to wonder, would I just be a bad luck charm for her graduation next year?
Despite being a black cloud given my dark history of graduations, finally a sliver of sunshine peeks through the gray clouds. My education has taken a grand total of 20 years (if you count kindergarten), but it has not stopped there. Learning is a lifelong endeavor, an ever-changing process. It has been an uphill trek, with each step building a foundation for the next higher step.
Elementary school was defined by the basics of the alphabet and arithmetic. For me, it was also learning English as a second language. If I put a brown paper bag over my head and spoke, I would sound like any young white girl off the streets. You would not guess I was in ESL for 3 years.
The large chunk of time defined by middle and high school was all about mastering the SATs and AP exams to get into the best university personally possible. Those were my hard-working, gunner days.
From college onwards, there was a gradual decline in my gunner ways. I still worked my butt off for good grades, but I valued my youth and social life more. There, I built a nice liberal arts foundation and fulfilled rigorous premedical requirements, and took too much time for retail therapy and bubble tea and culinary excursions.
And now, the last 4 years have been defined as my medical enlightenment saga, where the real beginnings develop for a young doctor-in-training. From burying my brain in books and medical lingo to falling asleep in lectures almost on a daily basis to roaming the wards and chasing after residents who think you’re a pestilent ghost, medical school have nurtured fine memories. I graduated at the tender age of 25; I have learned so much, and yet so little. Just as there’s always wiggle room for dessert, there’s also room for personal and academic development.
Thank you to my family and friends for their love and support. I have made some wonderful, intelligent, compassionate and talented friends who I am glad to call my dear physician colleagues. Together, we will be friends to last a lifetime, forever connected by our beginnings at Stony Brook Medicine as we journey forward on a magic carpet ride into the world of medicine.
WORLD, prepare for some awesomely bad ass doctors coming your way!
Congratulations to all 129 Graduates of Stony Brook School of Medicine, Class of 2014!!!