I finally got to put on that cap and gown and cross the stage to have someone drape me in that lilac hood.
And I was so proud to stand next to my friends and my colleagues while I was granted that degree that I have wanted and worked towards for so long.
I had so much support, yesterday and always... my family who has loved and supported me through 22 long years of schooling, and finally got to watch me complete my doctorate...
One of my best friends Lauren and her husband Dan, who drove six hours to sit through a very long day of speeches, just to be there for me while I got my degree...
And of course Caroline. Who was my biggest motivation throughout the second half of this really difficult program. My mom handed her to me as I marched out of the convention center with the other graduates, and I carried her through the receiving line of faculty and VIPs, in her little lilac dress. She put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder and I whispered to her that mommy was a dentist now, that I did it for her. She said "Mommy dentist? Happy 'wation, mommy." (Which I assume meant "graduation", and my mother taught her to say.)
She is only two, but I think she is proud of me. I know, for sure, that I am proud of myself.
Allow me a moment of what I hope is more pride than conceit... I have been through so much over the past year and there were so many times when I wanted to lie down and quit or give up. But I did not. I kept going and I didn't just finish this program, I did well, and I stayed true to myself and the things that I always knew that I wanted. I hope I have set an example for my daughter when she is old enough to understand what I did for myself and for her.
And I hope that if you read this and you are a mother, or a single mother, like me, and you are in school or are thinking about going back... that you believe that it's not what so many of my classmates say, that they don't know how I could ever do it when I had someone else's life to put before my own. She was not an obstacle to this achievement, but my biggest motivator and the single most important reason that I never lost sight of my goal.
I once was afraid that because I got pregnant halfway through school, my career was over. But it wasn't that way. I can have both. Now I have my DMD, and I have my daughter. I am so happy, proud and content. There is nothing more that I need.
And to everyone who has ever asked me how I could do it with her, I guess I would say that the real question is, how could I ever have done it without her?