Today, my final project was awarded the best graduation project in my batch.
Little do people know that this was a promise I made to myself three years ago when I sat at the back of my foundation diploma ceremony and received a mere 'pass'. My peers received 'distinctions' and 'merit'. As I saw these people going up to receive their diplomas, I decided then that never again did I want to be at the back of the line. I wanted to be in front, at the top and get recognition for doing the unexpected.
It took me three years. Three years of being awake when the city slept, sacrificing even the most rudimentary needs at times and always striving to go beyond what my teachers expected. Three years later, I was there. I walked amidst a wave of applause and received a 'piece of paper'. The piece of paper that I so desperately wanted.
And I finally got it.
And then, nothing. There was nothing. More than myself, people who had been invested in my journey were happy. They were proud and teary-eyed, and maybe for them, it became a full circle to an otherwise chaotic journey. I am happy that I was able to give this to them. This tiny moment of pride, of recognition for their unwavering belief in my potential.
What I take away from this experience is that so often, we work towards the wrong outcomes. My pursuit should have never been for a form of recognition because when I finally did achieve it, I realised that it meant very little. What I am proud of today is the value that people saw in my work, the respect that I earned from my faculty & peers, and that I was able to give back something to all that they'd invested in me.
It was wrong to try and use this achievement as a method of intimidation. It was wrong to try and use it to prove a point. It was wrong to try and show that I was better than everyone else. It was wrong to try and use it to reclaim my self-worth. It was wrong to try and use the context of success to win people back.
Today was for the people who stayed, not for the people who left. And for a while, I failed miserably at making this distinction.
At 1:37 am, after about 8 hours of winning the award, I am finally proud, complete and happy. Thank you for your contributions; this one's for you.