One might think that a Master’s graduation would be the best day of someone’s life (unless they’re married or have a baby or something like that). It’s certainly the loftiest accomplishment of mine thus far, especially from such a fine Ivy League institution in the Greatest City in the World (yes, I’m talking about Columbia University). And the day truly was magical. Not only did I wake up on time, get ready without a hitch, and have a stress-free commute, but the actual university commencement was incredible. I sat by friends and we cheered and screamed and stood on chairs. The School of Social Work even gave us those inflatable noise makers that you bang together, just so we could be as loud as possible. The speakers were actually motivating and cracked plenty of jokes (you know how some of those speeches can drag). Pictures were taken by overjoyed families, and you could just feel the positive energy in the air. It was truly the stuff that dreams are made of.
The School of Social Work ceremony would have been pretty great too. I was excited to get called up to receive my diploma, and it was at the famous Beacon Theater. It would have been great, except 2 days prior I started having stomach pains. On the first day, I felt bloated, dizzy, and miserable so I took some gas medicine and laid around all day feeling crappy. By day 2, I was determined not to be ill, so I forced myself to get moving and run some errands and whatnot; I wasn’t great, but OK. Day 3, Graduation Day, I guess I was too pumped to feel pain in the morning, but by the time the CUSSW ceremony rolled around I was tired, my feet were throbbing in my adorable shoes (worth it), I was getting a migrane for no reason, and my stomach was doing summersaults. Of couse I was seated next to someone I don’t know, so for her sake I tried hard not to complain about feeling like absolute shit (but some complaints snuck out from time to time). I shifted uncomfortably in my seat throughout the whole ceremony, finding no relief and praying for it to be over. When it was my turn to get my diploma, I plastered on the biggest smile I could muster and glided across that beautiful stage. My family and friends cheered when my name was called, and I think my pictures came out beautifully. I made it. When that was over, I waded through the mob of smiling families and grads, holding back the urge to shout “let me through or I’m going to throw up on you!” The room wouldn’t stop spinning.
When I finally found mom, dad, and grandma outside, they excitedly recapped our plans to go back to campus to take photos, and asked where I wanted to go for dinner. I couldn’t even think about food and told them I needed to sit down; in fact, the aroma of the spicy cart food that a nearby woman was eating nearly made me vomit. Dad ran into a nearby bodega to get me water and crackers. Rosemary crackers. I usually like rosemary, but the herby-ness of them did not sit well with me at the moment. We decided to go home and we’d have dinner after I rested a while. But going home wasn’t that simple; it was now 5:10pm on 75th street in Manhattan. By the way, I get very motion sick. But I was in no shape to drive, so I laid down in the back of my moms car.
We made it all the way to the West Side Highway before I puked into the bag from the crackers. It was violent and painful. I think some even came out of my nose. Mom kept very few napkins in her car. Then, the only thing that could have made that worse, did happen–we hit a bump and I spilled the bag of bile… onto my graduation gown. Fighting the urge to cry, I sat as close to the door as possible through the whole rest of the rush-hour drive home, trying to keep the pool of vomit away from the rest of my stuff.
After the eternity it took to get to my apartment, my mother tucked me into bed like a child and cleaned her back seat while grandma scrubbed down my regalia. I didn’t want them to leave because I felt so awful, but I was sleeping by 6:30pm. I didn’t wake up until 8am the next day. I’d like to take this opportunity to curse whomever gave me a stomach virus for the most exciting day of my entire life. This is a prime example of one of those things you could laugh about in the future, but at the time it was beyond awful.
And still, I endured it all; I graduated. I am a Master!