Just keep swimming.
It seems like everyone hated 2016. Until around October, I kept wondering why. Sure, my year wasn't perfect, but it wasn't that bad! But now, all I can say is that I'm exhausted of everything, and I wish I could just fastforward 2-3 years when I'm sure my life will be much easier. Grad school is tough, guys!
Now that 2016's coming to a close, here are some reflections (edit: and hopes for 2017!). To literally anyone reading this, I apologize for the rants, but this is my diary - please read it as such.
When 2016 started, I was at a completely different place in my life. I was applying to graduate schools, and a whole pile of uncertaintly was heading my way. I had no idea what my life would hold for me within just a few short months, but I was hopeful. I hoped I would get into a graduate school (any, really), and that soon my worries of what the hell I do after graduation would subside.
I got accepted to seven. One after the other, acceptances kept coming, and I saw so many different doors open before my eyes. It felt like an amazing start of the year for me. I narrowed it down to two schools. I picked one, but I often find myself wondering how my life would be different if I chose the other (not because I don't love the one I'm studying at now, just because it is so weird to think that I would have possibly never even met some of the people I am so close to now).
My parents were/are still living in Milan, so I had to apply for an Italian visa. I went to the embassy, prepared for our usual exchange. "Hi, welcome back, going to visit your parents again?". We had that exchange, but we also had another one. "You can't apply for your visa from here," they told me. I asked why. "Your US student visa is expiring in May," they told me. I told them yes, but I have been accepted to X-graduate schools in the US and I'll be attending one of them for sure. It didn't matter. They told me I need to apply for my visa to go "home" (to my parents) from a country where I had citizenship (Pakistan) or residency (Saudi Arabia). They literally would not let me apply for my visa to go visit my parents. This was because they want you to apply from a country that you can and will be coming back to. With my (at the time current) US visa expiring in May, and me wanting to visit Italy over June-August, it simply went against their rules. They apologized, and felt sorry for me. I understood that it wasn't their fault, it was the rules of the embassy. The rules of society. It doesn't matter who you are but rather where you're from that defines where and where you can't travel as a human being born as an Earthling to a planet called Earth. No no, don't be silly. I'm not an earthling. I'm Pakistani. And because of that I need a visa to travel basically anywhere - whereas a potential murderer from, I don't know, let's say the US can travel basically anywhere visa free. Makes sense, right? #Society.
Never had I felt more homeless in my life. I was in one country, applying to visit my parents in another, and they told me I can't, and that I have to travel literally to the other side of the world just to apply for a visa. I went home and cried. Why me? Why couldn't I just have a normal life? What the hell was I going to do? Fly from the US to Saudi Arabia by myself? To Pakistan and have my uncle help me apply for a visa? Waste a month of my summer when I could be with my parents? There have been more times this year that I wished I wasn't a TCK than there ever have in my life before.... Let's get back to this point later.
While the excitement of graduate school acceptances happened, I prepared for graduation. I took my last final exams of my undergraduate career. During finals week, one of my best friend's older brother passed away. I was shocked, and heartbroken. Not because I was super close with the brother who passed, but because I was so sad for my best friend and his family.
Art passed away. I was heartbroken for myself, but mostly for Armin. My heart literally hurt for him.
Graduation came and went. I gave two speeches, one during Baccalaureate and one during a Legacy Reception. I was proud of myself, because I remembered thinking a year before that date, I was unsure if I would reach that point (honestly), and if I did, I sincerely believed I would have no plan for the future - that all the doors would be closed on me. But I did it. I reached that day, with solid plans for the future. I was so proud of myself, and I still am.
I said goodbye to my friends and the beautiful, wonderful, amazing people I met in Undergrad (actually, I told them that I don't do goodbyes. I do "see you laters", knowing fully in my heart from past goodbyes that I would sadly not ever see majority of them ever again...). Even if we become strangers 5 years from now, I wish them all well, because I know they are going to do some amazing things in this world. And my heart will always miss them.
By this point (graduation day), I had changed my summer flights at least three times, which cost at least $3,000 (all because of the fact that I am a Pakistani. Literally, though). My Dad decided that we'd just have to fly back to Saudi Arabia and apply for my Italian visa from there. The company he works for pretty much made me VIP status, and helped me get my Italian visa within two weeks. So, from the US, we flew to Saudi Arabia, and then finally back to Milan. Then, literally a few weeks later, we flew back to Saudi Arabia as planned, to renew our Saudi visa and Saudi residency. Basically, let's just say it was a lot of useless travel, a lot of money wasted, a lot of greenhouse gases released from flying literally because I am a Pakistani. I'm sorry for being bitter. I'll never understand or agree with the artificial boundries and lines we as humans created on the earth, and then decided who gets to go where, based on which superficial country they belong to. But oh well; I loved going back and having the chance to travel so much.
While in Saudi, I called every hotel within the area to ask if they had a female swimming pool, because I really, really wanted to take advantage of staying in 5* hotels and swim. None did - they were male and children only. Even the indoor ones! I was surprised, and then I was surprised by the fact that I was surprised in the first place.
Hector came into our lives.
I learned to let go; that it's okay to give up on people who gave up on you years ago.
I competed Umrah. I saw some of my best friends again. And, I got really, really sick. We went to Pakistan. I stayed really, really sick. I just couldn't shake my fever, for almost a month. It wouldn't go away. We left back to Italy. I got better.
I moved to Philadelphia to start my new life as a graduate student. I was scared, but in the best way possible.
My best friend, whose brother passed earlier in 2016, lost his father. My heart broke, again.
I met some wonderful people, and also one particularly not-so-nice one. She is arguably the most negative person I have ever met, and it makes me so frustrated. It's draining!
Trump got elected.
My Nani passed away.
I aced all but one of my classes during my first semester of graduate school.
And now here we are. End of the year. There were some highs, and there were many lows. It's just been a chaotic year. Grad school is and yet isn't what I thought it would be. I'm already awaiting finishing, leaving, moving to the other side of the world, no longer being a student, and actually starting my life.
I don't know what 2017 will hold, but I hope it won't be as much excitement as 2016 had. I just want peace. I need peace. I need a year with consistancy, because I can't handle anymore change right now. I entered 2016 with a lot of hope, and a lot of fear. I enter 2017 feeling numb and exhausted. Honestly, I think I just need a hug. Dear future self, if/when you are reading this, well into 2017 and everything is much better, please send that positive energy my way. I need it.
Goodbye 2016. You were beautiful. You were inspiring. You were exciting. You were tragic. You were exhausting. You were all of those mixed together, and I both can and yet cannot wait to see what 2017 holds.
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