My Farewell to Chicago
Wow. I really cannot believe it. I really cannot believe it, and I'm not trying to sound hyperbolic. I still can't believe that after all these years I've finally graduated from ICO and have become a Doctor of Optometry. Granted, it's only been a couple weeks, but even still it doesn't feel real. I've been in school for basically my whole life, and now it's finally over. It almost seems like I'm just home for another summer break and will be back to school in the fall, but for the first time in my life that won't be the case.
Trying to look back on this whole journey, from undergrad up to my still very recent ICO commencement, where do I even start? Just to think of how much I've experienced in that time frame: how many people I've met, how many places I've been, how many obstacles I've had to face, and how much I've grown and changed. It feels like I've lived several lifetimes, and at long last I have the time and space to just sit with it undisturbed. There's no way I'd be able to summarize it all in a short blog post, but it just feels right to try to bring some kind of closure to this whole adventure.
Besides, if you've been following along up to this point, you already know some of the challenges I've had to face throughout my educational career, so no point in retreading old ground. I will say, though, that my path to and through ICO was not the most straightforward. On the absolute contrary, it was filled with many twists and turns, academically, emotionally, and personally. It just felt like one curve-ball after another. Not to mention we're still living through a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, so there's that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
But with all that said, where does that leave me now? I'll be honest, in the short time I've been home I haven't given it much thought. However, I do know that this journey was about so much more than just me graduating, which in and of itself is still a big accomplishment. Rather, it was about becoming the person I always dreamed of being. Not just a doctor, but someone who's relentless in pursuing their goals, someone who cares about other people and empathizes with their struggles, someone who's not afraid to take the path of most resistance, and someone who stays authentic to who they are even in the face of extreme pressure.
I will surely continue to be tested in these ways for the rest of my life, but having finally made it to this point, I no longer fear those challenges. No, I embrace them because they are what made me into who I am today. Despite how unrelentingly arduous the path seemed at times, it was worth it a thousand times over. I remember when I first came to Chicago and I went up to the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower during Orientation Week. It was a moment I will never forget for as long as I live. Looking out onto the night's sky from the tallest building I had ever been in, I was in absolute awe seeing how far the city went on for. Little did I know what was in store for me. My world was about to get so much bigger both literally and figuratively. It was so terrifying yet so exciting knowing the task I was about to undertake, and now that task has finally been completed.
Chicago and ICO will forever be a part of me. I couldn't have asked for a better city to live and study in, and I couldn't have asked for better people to have shared that city with. From biking down the lakefront, seeing concerts at many of Chicago's venues, eating so much great food, grinding through school, and being able to share that all with the people I love while growing alongside them, I am forever grateful. For anyone who's been with me for the ride, I hope you've enjoyed reading my blogs over the last 4.5 years because I definitely enjoyed writing them. And for all those who will continue to follow me going forward, I hope I'll continue to make you proud. Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart, and farewell.
Dr. Nathaniel Briggs, OD