February can be marked as the month of love, devotion, appreciation, and gratitude… and even as I extend my educational lust for success in Higher Education, I have a story, well many stories, to be told. One of the most character building stories is one of a young woman named Aliyah…
Almost 14 years ago, I met a young, vibrant girl during the advisory period at our high school. Bringing in my tagline’s keywords, low self-esteem and fear, I sat in the corner as I watched my brother talk with his friends. It was truly the beginning of my silent conservatism towards people. I didn’t know what it felt like to be a child, by then, I had experienced domestic abuse, child abuse, fear, depression, and every other word in the psychological dictionary referencing “pain”. Knowingly hoping this first day of school would end without anyone picking on my stout frame, a smile walked towards me. Aforementioned, I had a silent dislike for humans and did not care to speak to anyone. I wanted to continue being angelically “emo” for the rest of my life. But anyway, this smile walked up to me and introduced herself. Not knowing for the next 14 years of my life, this person would be one of the only friends who would cross the thick line to be labeled as my sister… I gave her a simple hello. I guess my smile was gay enough because she asked me if I wanted to hang out with her and her friends. She seemed popular enough to be associated with my grunge kind… but I couldn’t say no. This was the first time I felt I had made a holistic friend… sister, I will say.
Fast forward 14 years later and I sit here happily writing about her memory… sad to have to tell you all she lost her battle to cancer last July. As a young professional, a young woman, a young hopeful wife… I thought I was invincible and I darned sure thought she would be too. I lost the most prized gift God has blessed me with on earth. You never grow up thinking you would lose your best friend, sister, motivator at the tender age of 25… but I did. When she was blessed most abundantly to sleep peacefully for the rest of my life (since I am still here walking the earth), she left a big chunk of her heart in my mind. I think about the progress she made, the strength she displayed, the joy she left on everyone’s heart and I pause… am I really going to be as amazing as she was in life? She gave me so much I never knew I had… simply put, she bought me out of my darkest hour.
Two weeks before she passed, I joined her during her chemo session at the hospital. We were talking about our future and we had scheduled a date to apply for jobs after she finished treatment, we talked about our past boyfriends (or lack of) and cried a little as we reminisced on our amazing sistership. I didn’t think just two weeks later, I would give my hearts cry and feel defeated… feel I had let her down. She led me to the light during my darkest hour and I was left feeling unchained. What am I to do now without her… can I even be as successful without her adorable giggle or her much needed opinions? She gave me the motivation to push through every trial and tribulation I have ever had to face… and she will still be able to do so.
I tell you about my dear friend, Aliyah, because she is the motivation I have for pursuing an advanced degree. She knew I wanted to do this more than anything in the world and now I am here… without the physical form but with the mental form of what she meant to my professional and educational career. I got the opportunity to attend her graduation last May from South Carolina State as a Speech Language Pathologist… you see? Even while battling cancer, my girl graduated from her program. She is a big inspiration in my life. When I am feeling as if I am not able to continue due to my “scaredy-cat” thoughts, I always think of her and I feel immediately refreshed. When I begin applying for my doctoral degrees later this year/early next year… I will call on her to guide me as she always have. To open up opportunities such as the job I am currently working in now, and to give me the confidence to push through anything without her text messages/call telling me to suck it up!
Aliyah is my Valentine this month but she is also my motivator. She has been for the last 14 years and will be for as long as I can stomach this treasured life I am blessed to have here on earth. I will never be able to fill the void in my heart but I can make her proud of me… cause God knows I am too proud of her.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Aliyah Howard. My biggest fan, my biggest motivator, my … everything.