Campus Life

A paradoxical graduation

Commencement continues, despite loss

Life can change in an instant — the instant you get that acceptance letter, the instant you walk across that stage, the instant someone dear to you dies. I never imagined that my life would change so drastically before graduation — that I would be graduating without my partner, the guy who loved and supported me for the bulk of my MIT undergraduate career.

Three years ago, I wrote an article titled “Happily Ever After?” in which I described meeting someone so special that I didn’t want to write about relationships anymore. I feared jinxing my chances of a happy ending; so, I just relished in the sense of happiness our relationship brought me. I could never find the right words to describe my feelings, and so writing about us wouldn’t do our relationship any justice.

Ironically, writing (my major), along with biology, was one of the subjects he hated the most. However, I don’t think that I would’ve studied either of these subjects had it not been for his encouragement. He always told people that we fell in love while taking Introductory Biology together. I didn’t know how to study before I met him, and we would spend hours together in random rooms on campus going through all the course material when we were enrolled.

Even though he didn’t like biology, he would always tell me I was my father’s daughter – that biology was the destiny I needed to stop avoiding. He also served as my muse on countless occasions; I would steal lines from our emails to put in my thesis. When I was thesising, he always made sure to stock his fridge with raspberries and oysters for me. My partner was also the best storyteller, I used to call him before writing just to see what made him laugh so I could emphasize it in my writing.

Finding out about his passing the day after I turned in my thesis stunned me. I will never forget bursting into my thesis adviser’s office right after I found out to tell him I couldn’t go to class that night. Since then, the support I have had from the Writing department has been remarkable. But this hasn’t stopped me from cycling through all the stages of grief multiple times. I’ve been forced to learn that death changes everything, and that unfortunately, grieving is not a linear process.

It is such a bizarre feeling to have to go through so many celebrations at a time when I’m also grieving the loss of someone so instrumental to my graduation. I remember during my partner’s graduation, I almost lost his tickets. He handed me an open envelope on a windy day without telling me the contents, and I careless swung it around Kendall Square. While he tried to get them to reissue the tickets, I frantically searched the area.

“I don’t even know what the tickets are supposed to look like! You say it’s a piece of paper, but what size?” I angrily snapped at him, “Is it like the size of that paper there?” After I found the first graduation ticket, which had been turned over by the wind right in front of the T Stop, I carefully picked apart the area, finally finding them behind some bushes.

I had never felt as guilty as I did during the moments when the tickets first went missing. When I first met his parents for dinner the night before graduation, he told them to be very careful with the tickets, mentioning the wind had previously blown them away, but I had found them. He never mentioned how I was the one who almost lost them.

His graduation brought me such an immense sense of pride. It saddens me that my graduation just can’t have the same amount of celebration that he had. I know this should be one of the happiest moments of my life, but I still feel like I’m just going through the motions.

Without the support of an amazing few individuals, it would have been much more difficult for me to make it through MIT. I was very fortunate to have spent three years with my partner. However, there have been so many other people like my teachers and parents that have played a large role in my MIT career, and I will always be eternally grateful for the support that I received from the MIT community.

With all of these changes happening at once, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know what the future holds. However, I suspect that saying goodbye to MIT will only be temporary. My partner would always tell me he couldn’t believe that he was still walking in the Student Center seven years after he first entered, and I hope one day I will have the same feeling.