I’m walking my own stage

by Mohammad Samra / Chicago Editor

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

No flashing cameras. No cap and gown. No ceremonies. I don’t need to hear my name called in May. 

I’ve been looking forward to my college graduation since before I graduated high school. The past four years of my life have been geared toward finally reaching this moment, but I’ve recently realized how insignificant the moment itself really is to me. 

My stage isn’t inside Roosevelt’s Auditorium Theatre, where many before me made that coveted walk. I’ve been building my stage from the minute I walked into the Wabash Building for the very first time in 2017. 

My stage is in the unfinished basement of my Palos Hills house where I’ve forgone sleep countless times to attack the seemingly never ending pile of homework that awaited me after work. 

My stage is on the stairs of the Metra trains, where I often fell asleep for 20 minutes in order to have some level of energy for my labor-intensive job at UPS after a tedious day downtown.

My stage is inside of the 53-foot feeder trailers I used to load myself and on the grass outside of the UPS facility in Bedford Park, Ill. where I nearly passed out after enduring another brutal day of school and work while fasting during Ramadan. 

When I received the email from Roosevelt regarding the stage walk scheduled for late March, I simply shrugged to myself and went about my day. I get emotional even thinking about what reaching the finish line is going to feel like, but March is way too soon to celebrate. No tears yet, not when there’s still work to do.     

The foundation of my stage is built from the life experiences I’ve used to launch me to unimaginable levels at this point of my collegiate career. For every time I was told I wasn’t good enough, I accomplished something significant. For every time my work ethic was questioned, I proved why it was unmatched. For every person who tried to keep me down, change my narratives or question my character, I found a way to silence them all through success in all aspects of my life. Professor John W. Fountain once told me: “There’s no arguing against excellence.” 

The floor of my stage consists of loss. I nearly lost my baby brother, Musa, in 2019, and watched Fabian Ortega, one of my best friends, pass away last July. I shed tears for both of them.

Each tile is made up of sleepless nights where I questioned whether I had what it took to make it in journalism, or doubted my ability to connect with an audience because of how isolated I kept myself. 

My stage is nearly finished, though I still have a small portion left to build — nobody wants to walk an incomplete stage. 

I often daydream about holding my diploma for the first time when it arrives in the mail. I envision myself raising it as high as I can into the air as if I were an athlete raising a championship trophy over my head for the first time. I eagerly await tracing the letters of my name over and over again, letting my finger glide along the certificate as I question whether the moment is real or not. The weight attached to that weightless piece of paper is sometimes surreal to think about, because not everyone gets one of these. 

When Roosevelt hosts their virtual graduation ceremony on May 7, I’ll be sound asleep in the comfort of my own bed. My stage will be complete on the day my diploma is in my possession, and only then will I make that long awaited walk. 

No flashing cameras. No cap and gown. No ceremonies. I don’t need to hear my name called in May.

Categories: Feature

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