By Mykalee McGowan
“Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” —Lucille Clifton
I have attempted to write this piece at least 50 times this month. 50 times connected pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and still nothing seemed right. The words collided in my mind and halted, stuck in my mouth, disappearing each time I began to dispel them.
Today though, today is different. The man who originally inspired this piece passed away yesterday. So, today I am compelled to scrap another rough draft and speak from my heart. Because writer’s block doesn’t stand against the reality of this opportunity to honor him…to celebrate him
Seeing my father — a big, tall, strong man — deteriorate due to cancer was crippling. It nearly broke me after an already trying and tough year. It was my last semester in college and I was tackling five classes, an internship, a part time job and a dying parent.
The pressure mounted. Graduating meant so much more to me, now more than ever. I wanted, no, I needed my dad — a high school dropout who lived in an impoverished neighborhood in Jamaica — to see his daughter graduate with a Bachelor's degree. I wanted, no, I needed to make him proud one last time.
Despite my hard work, my asks for assistance from difficult professors and an unempathetic administration, I did not walk across the stage on May 9th, 2015. Graduation Day.
While my peers were dressed in their caps and gowns, mine was neatly hung in my closet. It was not my time. Again. I failed again.
I called my father and told him this news. I thought he would be sad or disappointed, but he was quite the opposite. His voice was filled with pride and happiness for how far I’d made it. I may have not yet received a degree, but he celebrated my victory. He celebrated me. He was proud and it wasn’t bound to an event. It wasn’t situational.
He taught me that sometimes your reason to celebrate isn’t big or official by others’ standards. It may not show itself in the form of loud music or colorful balloons. Sometimes the reason is hidden in life lessons and reflecting on how far you’ve come. It may come in the form of silent growth, love and support.
When life is rough and it seems like there’s no good, I ask you to dig deep and find your triumph. No matter how small it is, celebrate as if it was a major milestone. Because it is.
And because you deserve to be celebrated.
I celebrate my father’s strength to defy the odds and make it to his 60th birthday.
I celebrate the love he gave me.
I celebrate the support shown to my loved ones and I during this time.
I celebrate my perseverance and strength throughout my college career, the way my father did.
I celebrate because he lived life to the fullest and he paved the way for me to live mine.
Mykalee McGowan is a writer and photographer residing in Washington DC. While finishing up her last year at Howard University, she also manages her lifestyle blog, Nubiism.com and works on various projects with fellow creatives. Her work has been featured on Greatist and Brightest Young Things.