G R A D U A T I O N

In a few short hours, I will be a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.  I will have my MASTER’S from my dream school.  I can’t believe the day I dreamt about for so many years… some very difficult years… is here.

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As I’m getting ready and listening to Yeezy’s Graduation album on repeat (duh!) I’m thinking how I can sum up all my emotions in one word.  I would say disbelief.  I keep thinking about where I was a few years ago.  In such a dark place, completely lost in life, at rock bottom.  I was surviving, just going through the motions.  I remember the nights I spent in my car and the miserable jobs I had.  Long hours morning to night hosting, promoting, coat checking, serving, even busing tables- anything to help my loved ones.  But I wouldn’t be where I am today without having life slap me in the face and humble me down realllll quick.

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I am no better than anyone.  I just learned how to work hard.  Really, really hard.  I had to.  But it still took me some time to channel my newly discovered work ethic towards the right path for me.  As soon as I started focusing on what made me happy, little by little everything started falling into place.  This included cutting back on a lot of toxic people, situations, and environments.  The last few years, what I would call the beginning of my road to success, were pretty low key.  I didn’t really announce when I moved, and then I went off the grid for a few years.  But I was hustling hard every minute of everyday to get here, to this moment.

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And now I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, so can YOU.  Do NOT limit yourself.  And appreciate where you are.  Do what it is you love.  I did it.  I am doing it.  I’m doing what makes me happy every single day.  Why shouldn’t you?  I’m not smarter, I just work hard.  It really is about the drive.  You have to want it SO BADLY you live and breathe the success you imagine for yourself.  Easier said than done, but easy come, easy go, right?  Trust me, it’s worth it.

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Now for the thank yous…

I would never be where I am today without my mommy.  My dear mother, I know you’re reading this right now, probably on the car ride to commencement.  I know I was not the easiest of your children and for awhile I was definitely giving you the hardest time.  Thank you for never giving up on me.

Thank you to Columbia Journalism School, my dream school, my dream program, for accepting me and giving me the chance to go after what inspires me.  I will never forget the first day of class I was instructed to go into the middle of the Bronx and come back with a number of interviews.  I’ve broken out of my shell and become a better reporter, writer, interviewer, journalist, and all around person.  I’ve covered some pretty bad ass stories I never would have thought I was capable of.  I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown in the last year!  But as I love to say… I’m just getting started. 😉

Lastly, I’m truly blessed to have met some truly remarkable people who I consider both colleagues and lifelong friends… Courtney, this last year would not have been the same without you!  We survived our master’s project together, reporting in Brooklyn every single day for months in the freezing weather.  On top of Jschool we launched our side hustles and I’m so excited to take them to the next level!  #CAZA

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Also a shoutout to my loyal friends over the years, the ones who stuck with me through this journey.  And of course my siblings, who are the reason I wake up everyday.  I’m so proud of my genius brother graduating this past weekend with all honors, and my sister, a survivor and advocate for social justice issues at just 15 years old!

And finally, thank you to everyone who ever doubted me, belittled me, and tried to stop me.  Love you the most for continuously giving me the motivation I needed!  Okay… got on my Louboutins and obnoxiously pink dress to channel my inner Elle Woods…  time to go graduate.  Wish me luck!

XoXo,

azadeh, black

Photos C/O Amelia Edwards

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