Here is a graduation speech that nobody asked for, one that my University would never care about and one that has been long overdue. Regardless here I go…First and foremost before I get started I want to say I hope this diary entry in some weird way motivates, inspires, and plants a seed of passion and achievement in anyone who is reading because trust me If I can do it honestly anyone can.
Those of you who know me might know me by my English name or by Kurdish name. You see I grew up in a Kurdish household that valued education above anything else. It was not something that my parents knew that it would be provided for us, it was not something my parents knew for a fact that we would experience. Before I was born my parents gave up their entire lives just for the idea of education. You can call them refugees or immigrants because you might not know the difference, but I will forever know them as hero’s, survivors, and ones who gave me everything.
My parents who grew up with no sense of education, no thought of even pursuing a career or going to University. University was never even a consideration for my parents who lived among the mountains, dreams were never something that was a thought for them. I asked my mother who was born and raised in the mountains of Kurdistan what her dream was when she was younger because I had one, I wanted to become a WNBA player and play basketball like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Though when I asked my mother she looked at me confused and responded with this “I never had dreams, never had a moment where I dreamed of who I wanted to be when I was older. I was just living to survive and taking care of my family.” My father who was born and raised in the mountains of Kurdistan speaks of his childhood as a way of escaping his conditions. Conditions of walking barefoot to school on an empty stomach with a mother who had passed away and a father who as never home. The reality of my father giving up, leaving home and joining the Kurdish Peshmerga forces when he was younger. Freedom he thought. Azadî.
My mother who never had dreams, my father who was finding ways to escape his poverty not once thought of education as their answer. However, with no hesitation here I am, I walked on the stage to receive two bachelors even if the lady didn’t pronounce my name correctly or even my last name to think about it. Here I am with the Kurdistan map pinned to my heart and my parents along with my sister and brother-in-law in the audience.
I made it against all the odds that could have been thrown at me even before I was born. A statistic that I heard when I was younger that I could never un-remember that I battled with for years and finally won. The statistic was that first-generation Canadians are less likely to go into post-secondary education. So I thought if first-generation Canadians are less likely what makes me think that I have what it takes to even try to apply to any University. An angry child who lashed out in school because she couldn’t express her emotions at home, a child who was told by countless teachers that post-secondary education is not for me because all they saw was my anger at a very young age, a child who gave up on school and trying to learn because she knew that the teachers did not actually see who she was, feeling uncomfortable, left out, and uncared for ultimately made me feel like I couldn’t do it. Hearing that I am just an angry child and I need to clam down even though I didn’t know how and even though I didn’t want to be this way I told myself that is all I could be. Just an angry child who hates life and school.
Never coming to terms with what I was going through I went through high school going to these classes that were determined by my actions in middle school and so I fought for myself. I fought to be placed at a higher standard, a higher education level, and a higher intelligential level, but I was faced with “Are you sure about this? I don’t think academic classes would be the best fit for you.” Yet I did it, I got through 3 years of high school at an academic level to be able to apply for Universities. I got accepted into every university I applied for and made it into my program with a scholarship.
However, there were some struggles, I don’t want to get anyone's hopes up and say that first year University was easy when it was probably the toughest year for me. I commuted to my University (all of undergrad actually) with no friends and just went to my classes and went straight home. Even with no friends and my “head in the books” I still managed to finish my first year with 68% average when you needed a 70% average to continue into the program. Learning about this the summer leading into the second year I had NO IDEA how I was going to tell my parents that their daughter who they gave up everything for just for her to be able to have this education had failed them. Though I don’t think their disappointment would have been greater than the disappointment I felt in myself when I got that email. But, something that my sister told me and that I want to tell you, take this as a sense of motivation to change the outcome and in my case get back into the program. You hit rock bottom no matter what situation you’re in, but taking that disappointment and turning into motivation probably saved my life. So to have witnessed my family in the audience as my name was called while I walked onto that stage shaking hands of people I’ve never seen before and accepting my certificates that rightfully belongs to me with every sweat, tear and hard work I knew that statistic could never define me. I made it out, out of the tunnel that was created for me before I was born, the tunnel that seemed to only be pierced in a never-ending darkness, grew into a journey that ended in the smile of my mother and the voice of my father telling me how happy he is that I am his daughter.
Going from getting off the Coach Canada bus at 7:00 am for my 8:00 am lecture on my first day of school tearing up because I had no idea where I was going and how I even got here. To graduating with my best friends and people that I know will always be in my life, if you’re reading this just know that I really didn’t have anybody at school that I could call my best friends. I went through the hallways at school, in lecture halls, and seminar rooms minding my business knowing that after class I would go straight home. You brought my happiness back and the joy of school back into my life because I lost it in the moments of worrying about if I’m even smart enough to be here. Thank you, I love you.
So, to end this (fake) graduation speech off I would like to say, no matter what your life experiences have been, your situation, lack of prior knowledge, or just a lack of acceptance just know that the feeling at the end is so worth it. Seeing the look on your parents face and knowing that they are feeling an overwhelming emotion of pride and love because what they fought for, lost their lives for, and almost died for happened. There was light at the end of the tunnel and hope that their daughter could have the brightest future possible on top of the sweaty, hardworking hands that brought her here to this moment. A moment that I will never forget because even though my mother did not know at my age what her life would become in a sense her dreams did come true, and so did mine.
So this graduation speech is in part to confidently say I MADE IT, but is also to shed a tiny light on what I’ve gone through to be here. I hope it somehow shines the light on your dreams and passions in hopes that you can do it too because I know you can.
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