Earning the Color White

ICO Blogger poses with her mother at the White Coat Ceremony at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.” -Dalai Lama XIV

Every year around this time, emotions are running high. It is the start of a new quarter, the first couple weeks back for the second years, and the first few weeks of optometry school for the first years. I remember how much was packed into my first few weeks as a first year. With the Class of 2021’s White Coat Ceremony minutes away, I take this time to reflect on how far I have come.

Just the other day, I ran into Beth Karmis while setting up for the ceremony’s practice night. Beth Karmis is our Senior Director of Student Development, and one of the most hard-working women you will ever have the pleasure to meet. We chatted about how fast the years have gone, and she asked me, “Do you remember the day you got your white coat?”

Little did she know, I remember almost every little detail, because my white coat ceremony may not have been like most others.

I remember the weekend of the ceremony, getting to see my mother for the first time since she was diagnosed with cancer. My entire family was there. The night before the ceremony was an extremely emotional and heart-wrenching night for all of us. This was the last time I would see my mother before she went through invasive surgery.

The next morning, when getting ready for the ceremony, emotions were still running high. I didn’t get much sleep the previous night for obvious reasons, and was determined to forgo doing my hair and the rest of my appearance at the White Coat Ceremony, except for one small detail. I needed to paint my nails. That was the only thing I knew I wanted to do before getting ready to head to the ceremony. I wanted to choose the color of my nails to support the type of cancer my mother was diagnosed with.

While it was still a day full of happiness and joy, there was a dark cloud looming beneath my family and I. It was hard to maintain focus on anything, except for my beautiful mother. The entire ceremony I kept looking at her in the audience, angry that she had to deal with something I could not control or make better. As I got up to receive my white coat, my eyes went straight to her, knowing that at least I made her as proud as I could, up until this very moment.

After the ceremony, I got a lot of pictures and my mom got to meet some of my new friends from optometry school. She did not feel well shortly after the ceremony ended, so she had to leave early. The rest of the weekend, and my entire first year was dedicated to my mother and trying to succeed in school.

Looking back now, I still can’t believe she even made it to the ceremony. I remember feeling lucky that I got to feel her embrace even for just a few short days. Today, she is doing very well and is healthy to see all of the hard work and accomplishments I have put forth into optometry school.

If there is one piece of advice I have for the first years, it is to enjoy every moment, and to make time to see the ones you love. Your time at optometry school is very intense, and may take you away from personal events, but do not forget to remember and make an effort to see the ones who helped you get here. Make every moment count.

Congratulations to the Class of 2021! May you wear your white coat proud to be a part of the ICO family.

 

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