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UC Davis Graduation

Okay. Now count. One, two, three...and you're done! You've graduated!

The past two years seemed to have flown by slowly, yet quickly. As the saying goes, "the days go slow, and the years fast." In these two years, I have grown a lot and mainly through a series of unexpected events. In a sense, I was forced to grow and handle things or just to crumble and give up. In any case, I chose to grow and to get through each day. I chose to handle and hustle. Now, the two years are done and over with, and I can finally move on to the next chapter.

It seems that there is always "something" that had to have happened each quarter during the program, from minor things like a nail in the tire or a broken windshield to more major things like the four car accident and the apartment fire. Of course, like all ice cream sundaes, you can't forget the cherry on top. And the cherry on top came just in time for graduation.

Earlier in the week, me and my group of friends from the program had a graduation photoshoot. I had ran in one of my pairs of heels (for a reason I will not mention here in public), and I had ran quite a bit. Needless to say, my feet and my shins were aching later that day and for the next few days. I had no other pairs of heels with me, since I left most of my shoes and clothing at home (in southern California). I ended up messaging my mom and asking her to bring an alternate pair of heels that I knew I would be more comfortable in for graduation.

Fast forward to the day of graduation. All had seemed to go pretty smoothly. I picked up the lei that my parents purchased for me from the flower shop the day before, and I got my hair and makeup done right on time, just as I had planned it. Since the school warned us that we had to return the gown within 30 minutes after the graduation ceremony and my family wouldn't be free for photos until the day of graduation (they flew in the night before), I planned to have everyone meet at the front of the Mondavi Center by 7am. I had to meet for the graduation line-up by 9am.

My husband and I arrived at 7am sharp and started taking pictures around the area with my phone. My in-laws arrived shortly after and starting taking pictures with their DLSR camera. My parents arrived about half an hour after that and brought the shoes I have been waiting for. I was wearing a pair of flats prior to this (and even packed the heels that hurt my feet just in case). With the heels on, we all wandered near and around the Mondavi Center for pictures while still awaiting my aunt and cousins. They ended up arriving within another 15-20 minutes due to an unexpected toilet issue at their hotel. We got all the pictures with the different groups of family that came, and we even had time to just relax. I planned the early meeting just in case issues arose, and I planned well. Or so I thought.

Flash forward to the graduation procession. All of us graduates were lined up and ready to enter the main room, proceed down a set of stairs (think when you're entering an auditorium), proceed up some stairs to the stage, and some more stairs because the seating was done in a way where everyone could be seen. It was quite a bit of walking, but I didn't think much of it as I made my way to my seat. The only thing I noticed at this point was that there was something weird with the left heel of my shoe, since it made a sound like something was stuck at the bottom of it when I was going up the final set of stairs to my seat. On each seat was a program for the graduation. When I sat down, I was ready to remove whatever it was that made the weird sound from my left heel, and it was then I realized that my heel (a wedge, thankfully) was about 1/3 off.

As I sat in my seat, I contemplated what I would do. Should I just go "YOLO" (You Only Live Once) and just cross the stage barefoot? Not exactly professional, but it was definitely one of my thoughts. What if the wedge breaks off as I'm crossing the stage? What if I trip and fall flat on my face? After the rush of thoughts, I decided -- I would cross that stage with my shoes on...and hopefully, pressing down with my left foot for now will help the glue re-adhere the sole and the wedge. What was a perfectly planned day has just became a mission of "please let me make it across the stage."

Fun Fact: All of the photos taken by the professional graduation photographers while I was sitting up on stage captured my face as I was thinking this situation through (Those pictures are not posted).

Speeches went by, awards presented, and it was finally time for us, the graduates. The announcer went by program, then by name in alphabetical order. Names were called from my program, the nurse practitioner program. My shoe took a turn for the worst as I made my way down from the stairs to line up behind the curtain. The shoe was probably 50% detached by this point. And then it was my turn to cross the stage.

Getting ready to cross. I wonder if that professor already noticed my shoe.

Fun Fact: Approximately 95% of the names were mispronounced/misread. And yes, we did fill out one of those pronunciation name cards. I don't know if it was done for fun or unintentionally.

Moving forward confidently, but with caution.

I threaded forward confidently -- chin up, eyes ahead -- but with caution. By the time I was about half way across the stage, I really felt the heel detaching, so I dragged my left foot forward as I walked. In the time span of minutes that felt like forever, I finally reached the other side of the stage and made it behind the curtain, where professional graduation photographers awaited for pictures. After the flashes and smiles, it was time to walk back up the steps on the stage to get to my seat.

Mission accomplished, but I still had the other half of the stage to go.

By this point, my heels were about 70% detached. I heard the clunking noise as the wedge heel hit each and every step I took on the way back to my seat. My heel was at its last stage of life. And thoughts made its way to my head again. What should I do? Should I walk barefoot? Oh, and did I forget to mention that my graduation cap was slowly (but surely) slipping off my head?

The tassels were turned, and it was time to walk again. This time, out of the auditorium. I took a deep breath because here we go again. I walked extra carefully, taking one foot in front of the other and doing my best as I went down the stairs. Going up the stairs was what really loosened the heel more. Nevertheless, the exit processional was a success. I made it out of the auditorium, heel still hanging on and cap barely hanging on (so I took it off). But, of course, there was another flight of stairs to go down -- a long flight of stairs.

As I began my seemingly long journey down the final flight of stairs, I overheard a concerned classmate asking another classmate Regina what happened. Regina replied, "I'm not surprised by anything anymore." As she said this, I was nearing the last 25% of the steps to the bottom. My eyes were fixated on my left foot with each step I took. I knew it was a matter of time before the heel gave way. I took a few more steps, and the left wedge of my shoe broke off. I picked up the wedge and was able to walk down the very last few steps more comfortably, albeit hobbling.

My mom was sent by my family group to get me and meet them outside. The first thing I did was show her the heel and tell her that my heel broke off. My mom helped me as I hobbled -- one foot with intact wedge, the other foot with just the sole. When we made it outside, I asked my dad to get my backup pair of shoes from the car. In the meanwhile, my mom and family just took pictures. It was all joy, laughter, and smiles. None of them even realized the journey I had gone through, until I showed them and said, "That's the heel that broke off!"

Pictured next to me is the heel of one of my shoes that finally came off after I finished the graduation exit processional yesterday.

My dad came back with the flats, and I switched the shoes out. Ah, relief at last! I went back into the Mondavi Center to return my graduation gown. My family and I drove off to have dim sum for lunch, then we headed back to the common area of my apartment for some board games, which lasted until late that night.

Today, I reflect on the graduation and the past two years and laugh because this broken heel is really a metaphor of how my life has been. Despite going through some strange trials and tribulations (or a stroke of not exactly the best luck, as some would say) in just these two years, I somehow was able to stick it out until the end -- just like the heel. When the heel finally gave way, I picked up the detached heel and turned to see my mom waiting for me to make my way down the stairs. A part of how I survived was because of my support system -- my husband, my family, and my friends. They couldn't study for me or teach me things themselves, but they were always there for everything else. And for all this, I can't say much except that I'm pretty lucky and forever thankful.

And now, last but not least, I can say this:

I am a master of something (M.S.)! 

Thoughts: In hindsight, I should have just broken the wedge part off during the graduation ceremony and taken the elevator down on that very last flight of stairs. Having a broken heel was a first for me, but I'll definitely know what to do the next time around, which (hopefully) there is no "next time."

Nicole G.

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