It is an overwhelming feeling to have people congratulate you and receive messages all boiling to one path: how proud they are of you. I tried to think of my high school graduation and how people did the same. Back then, their words did not really matter and never hold such heavy weight like right now. And I know why. It’s because I am receiving these messages when I’m not yet supposed to. Even so, I actually embraced those words, as if I have the right to. It was bittersweet, reading one from the other. “Congratulations!” “You did it!” “I am proud of you!” That could have been me. Just not in this universe.
Yesterday was supposed to be my graduation day. It was intended to be a victorious Sunday with me and my family celebrating the fruits of our labor. My sablay lying gently on my shoulders while my diploma clinging into my warm hands. I actually planned how my graduation will go. I have dreamt and thought about it countless of times. After the ceremony, I plan to let my mother wear my sablay and have both of my parents receive a gift from me. I also want to celebrate the day from my own money. I want my parents to know that from this day onwards, they can be assured that I will change how we live and will chase after the impossibilities.
Sadly, the impossibility caught me first. Impossible, because I was caught off guard. I never imagined myself in this kind of situation. I got it all figured out from the start. It makes it more painful then, the unexpectedness of the situation.
Exactly 18 days before June 25, I was told that I won’t make it. To say that I am devastated is an understatement. I think no words could describe how I felt. It was so close, that’s what hurts the most. I could reach it. I was just a few steps away from the finish line. But suddenly, I was summed up in one word: almost.
I did lose myself in those 18 days. Crying is such an easy act, I wept. I got mad at myself for being so stupid. I feel so unworthy and unqualified. For a while, I let myself think that this is the end. My being delayed for a year will forever haunt me, it will not just be a part of me but me. My world is crumbling and I just watch it happen, terrified of moving or saving any piece because I was so stuck in the realization that maybe, I am not capable. My insecurities are lulling me to sleep, to just stay here and take no more steps forward. Eventually, I grew more and more afraid each day. I let my fears and doubts eat anything that could spark hope from me. It sounds dramatic. But it really is especially when the graduation itself is not just a symbol of a chapter coming to an end but of what lies ahead: my family’s future. This is not just about me and my ego. Being in a third world country, I know there is a lot of me out there. A child trying so hard to save his/her family from poverty. And my being delayed entails another year not just of my emotional suffering but the continuation and worsened condition of my family’s financial status. Because come on, afterall, we are just a piece of paper under those interviews and hiring process. We are noticed for the power of the paper that we hold.
I guess what I am trying to achieve in writing this is the truth about knowing that you are delayed and letting it fully sink in your reality. It took me a while to accept it. And I know that it will take more to take a leap to mend the brokenness I gained because of my situation.
Cheers to all the iskas and iskos who made it. But make way for those who are delayed. If there is anyone in the world who was tortured for the past few weeks, it would be us. Waking up and trying to stay okay is hard enough. Answering the same questions of ‘why,’ ‘what happened,’ and ‘how are you coping’ is like experiencing the pain all over again yet we cannot complain because we have to face it. Seeing our family and friends’ eyes turn to pity or sadness is also an extra pain in our part. So here’s to the enduring delayed students out there.
I’m still new at this and I don’t know if I can make a change but I want to try. I have always thought that people who have been given the chance to experience the worst painful tragedies in the world are lucky. I know it’s ridiculous but there are times that I envy those chosen ones. Why? Because God believes in them so much to give that test. I believe that God sees such a courageous and understanding heart in those people. Moreover, I know those experiences are what makes people change and be stronger. More often than not, it turns their whole world upside down that they get to see another version of this world. It sounds like a thrilling adventure. Of course, that’s all before this delayed part happened to me. But I acknowledge this belief now. After all, I know that God won’t give us problems if He knows we cannot surpass it. He knows everything and if there is someone who knows us best, it is Him. This has been the most painful experience I had yet I had to admit that the pain was actually liberating and revealing. Yes, I’m still broken and sad but there’s a part of me that’s wondering. I know not all questions are answered but having them is one of the reasons I am willing to get up and move on from this tragedy. And it’s knowing the reason why am I delayed. Is it a what or a who? What chances do I face that if I already graduated, I will surely miss it? Who awaits me in this university?
It may sound weird coming from a fellow delayed student like me. But I know what you are going through. I know that it still hurts from time to time especially when triggered. I want you to know and acknowledge how strong you are for enduring the situation you are in. However you handled this pain, I ask of you not to isolate yourself even if it feels easier that way. There are best friends, parents, and siblings who are hurting seeing you running away from them. Cry to them and confide your hearts out. You don’t have to fake your smiles. You don’t have to cry alone. Embrace this sadness but do not let it consume you. Instead, let it slowly bloom into a victory. This is just chapter one of your book. You are far from the end. You can have all the time to heal. Do not be too hard to yourself for it had been through a lot. Or blame what you have experienced to other people. Madness is never a key to feel good but forgiveness is, even how hard it is to do. All of these things are easier said than done. Even I is not good in keeping these in mind. But I have learned to treasure one which makes me look forward to tomorrow, this is God’s work, trying to unlock my potential. If He trusted me to make it through, who am I to doubt myself? It’s a cliché thing to say but we’ve got this far. We are not made to just stay here, we are made for more.
“For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13
Hey, we may be delayed graduates but remember, the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all.