Last week, I confidently walked up 2 steps to shake hands with two important University of Toronto figures. “Congratulations, high distinction is a great accomplishment” said the UTM Principal. He released my hand from his handshake and I shook the hand of the woman who sat beside him. I complimented her glasses. They were purple and they were shaped like a hexagon. I thanked them once again for congratulating me then turned around to face the crowd. I saw the next duo of students ascend the platform so I made my exit by waving to my parents one story above.
I was the fourth person to get my diploma out of all the Bachelor of Science students from UTM. I sat and held the immaculate piece of paper that I had earnestly worked hard for and waited for the ceremony to finish. Four years of a self-perpetuating cycle of excitement, self-doubt, relief, and success. More than 200 students filled Convocation Hall and I wondered: what’s next?
Family parties, dentist’s appointments, and friend hangouts have allowed me to rehearse and revise my career plan. I entered university with the dream of becoming a medical doctor but that dream quickly flew away as I realized that I did not want to be a doctor after all. I was not ready to commit and invest more than 6 years of further education to give up time with my future husband and kids.
The next dream came in when I began my second year of studies and thought about pursuing a career in neuroscience research. That, too, was whisked away when I found myself wanting to go home immediately after one hour in the lab. In third year, I then thought of a career in naturopathic medicine, but once again, I realized that I wanted to save my physical, emotional, and mental energy for those around me – my family, future family, and friends.
While these dreams faded, I put in my time and effort in my minor in Biomedical Communications (BMC). Whenever I worked on assignments for this minor, I could play any playlist (or podcast), open Adobe Illustrator, and meticulously create illustrations of skulls, beetles, or mandibles. I would gaze at the clock, and realize that school began in 5 hours. “I can work on this tomorrow” I would cheerfully say, then turn off the lights and jump into bed.
I only had two psychology courses in my fourth year. These last two courses would fulfill my program requirements so I filled the rest of my timetable with the BMC courses. Looking back at it now, it was the best undergraduate year I ever had. I excelled academically and emotionally. My GPA was the highest it had ever been and I was happy to go to class. I was happy to stare at my laptop and ever so carefully adjust colors, anchor points, and typefaces. I was excited to summarize complicated information into a one page illustration. I satiated my hunger for feedback by booking appointments with TAs and professors to get their opinion on my work. Their comments on contrast, use of colors and alignment was a conversation I loved to be part of.
When I completed the fall semester, I knew that studying BMC was my new dream. However, when I finished the spring semester, I knew that the field of science visualization was no longer a dream for me. Instead, it became a goal. And so, when I sat in my convocation ceremony, reflecting on the beauty of the past four years, I knew what was next: it’s time to create more illustrations and celebrate.