Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mallory Cyr, MPH

Today, I graduated.  I graduated with my Master’s Degree in public health from Boston University.  Not “regular” graduated, but graduated from overpriced extra college, from one of the top Public Health schools in the country.

While I joke that it was not challenging, because academically, a lot of the content I already was familiar with because of my national MCH role, it actually was pretty tough at times.  Can you do a multi linear regression? Ok.

But for me it was about so much more than a few biostats equations.  I struggled a lot with WHY I was doing this, which many of you know.  Last weekend, a dear friend and colleague of mine, a “title V mom,” posted on Facebook about how much it meant to her to see other families share the milestones of their young people because it was an image of hope, and of what could be possible for her child, and for others.

And all of a sudden I remembered why I got myself into this situation in the first place.  It is not about me. (Really, I swear).

Today, at graduation, our speaker, Monica Bharel, the Public Health Commissioner, for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said, “Choose courage, Choose hope.  Choose selflessness.” And had us think about “What are you passionate about?”  (My answer was, “Nothing. I shouldn’t be here.”)  then helped us define that by asking “What makes you angry?”  ….and the list flowed in my brain.

I remembered.  I did this, to show the potential of young people no matter their limitations.  Let the façade fall aside, it SUCKED so hard sometimes.  I cried, I hated it. I questioned my choices on many, many occasions. I thought about quitting and just moving home.  I thought about “What would happen if I went home and just stopped replying to e-mails.”  But then… I would get a message from one of “my young people.”  One of the selected for Dumbledore’s Army, simply asking about how to succeed in a class in which the teacher was not accommodating, or wondering what to do after graduation because they had real hopes and dreams that others did not support.  And I remembered.
I am here, and I did this, WE did this, to show it’s POSSIBLE.  With love, strength, support, work, and determination.  It can be done. I also want to mention.  During the time I was in school, Owen and I had no formal assistance.  We had no PCA’s, no nursing help.  We worked multiple jobs, and truly did this independently (except for the endless love and support from our networks and friends and families)

I want the lessons that we learned to serve as a beacon, a tool, an “inspiration,” to show others what can be possible for them, or their children.  What makes me mad?  When those amazing people are told they can’t, or even just made to think they can’t. And you know what else I realized, sitting there today?   The only person who EVER told me I can’t…. was me.  Now… I don’t believe that either.  Cause I DID IT.

The final part of my graduation ceremony, our incredible associate dean, asked us to accept the charge of being world changing MPH’ers.  I closed my eyes, and thought about if I really, truly was ready to accept the challenge.  He asked us, “Do you promise to use your new passion, energy, and knowledge to create a healthier world?”   And we all looked at each other and muttered “I will.”  He looked at the faculty and said, “They don’t believe you. No… actually. We KNOW you will, but we need you to know you will.”

I stood quietly, and the tears came.  For the past three years I have asked myself this same question.  Why me?  Can I?  Should I?  Do I make a difference? Do I want to make a difference?

Moments before I marched into the arena, my best friend, and counterpart, just beginning the journey towards her MPH, wrote on my Facebook newsfeed, “You changed my life Mal.  #forgood.”  And I knew, I was ready to accept the charge.  We all shouted and cheered.  “I will!!!!!”

Was this my “dream?” No… not really.  But life is what happens when you are making other plans, and I believe in the universe, and that I was brought here for a reason.  I am working to make sure that my dreams align with what the universe has in store for me, and THAT is my passion.  That is my charge.  As I move forward with my incredibly hard earned MPH, I hope ALL young people have the strength and courage to think about what makes them want to get up in the morning, that they can laugh when things get tough, or know that they are loved, and valued and wanted no matter what they do.

Just because my path is not mentioned in a speech does not make it less important.  It is what has brought me here today.

So for all of you, who believed in me, and who believe in your own children no matter how terrified you may be for them to take the Next Step, this degree is for you.  It truly, truly is. 

Thank you.  I love you all.  Now let’s get this MPH Party started.

-Mallory H. Cyr, MPH

I leave you with this:

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
but I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm all right song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

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