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Mimi Newman

Bachelor of Arts, Visual and Performing Arts

Has anyone ever told you that you could not achieve something? You aren’t made of the right stuff for this endeavor. There is no way you are capable of accomplishing that. It is just not possible for you.

Seven years ago, my dreams dissolved. I sat in front of a doctor who told me I would never have the physical strength to study again; the widespread chronic pain and fatigue would leave me bed-bound and a full-time wheelchair user. I was 21 and had already completed two years of study at a university in London. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that has left me with faulty collagen. It is not uncommon for me to relocate joint dislocations in class or pass out in the hallway — much to the shock of anyone who witnesses it. I don’t mean to depress everyone, but I think it’s important to take a second and remember what we have fought against to be here right now, sitting in this auditorium surrounded by all of the people who believed in us when we did not believe in ourselves. Let’s take a couple of seconds to think about the challenges we never thought we’d overcome, the classes we came so close to failing and the professors who — try as we might — we just couldn’t seem to win over.

Guess what though? We did it. Despite all those struggles here, we are wearing these black gowns — which are way less flattering than ballroom gowns — having overcome all of those obstacles to be college graduates. I am so proud of us. College is not a joke. It’s hard work and constant stress, especially at a school as prestigious and rigorous as this one. But here we are, about to embark on our next big adventure, and I am so excited to get to share this moment with you all. We all come from different walks of life, we have all moved through different paths, but we have all done so together to get to this day. We are warriors.

The University of Texas at Dallas has been everything that I never thought it would be. I didn’t come to college to be involved in a campus, but the diversity of UTD reeled me in, and every semester I found myself a little more in love. Who’d have thought that in Dallas, Texas, I would find a campus with a thriving international student body? A campus that opens its heart to people from all backgrounds, needs, abilities, cultures and subcultures? A campus that doesn’t expect its LGBTQ students to live assimilated and hidden but instead to be out and proud? Every one of us at UTD are celebrated by our professors, not for blending into one big green and orange mass, but for being exactly who we are. We are rewarded for our differences and encouraged to be individuals.

I remember walking through campus at night and seeing this beautiful chalk drawing outside of the theater. It was two black women with “black lives matter” written below it. This is a community that is not edited. There is a place for everyone here. We are safe and we have each other’s backs. The love and respect fostered among the Comet community is special, and I hope we will hold onto that as we move past our lives as students here.

“There is a place for everyone here. We are safe and we have each other’s backs. The love and respect fostered among the Comet community is special, and I hope we will hold onto that as we move past our lives as students here.”

With the support from each other, the professors and staff here, we leave this school stronger than when we entered it. For me personally, physically stronger. Guys, I can walk two whole miles without my wheelchair. And all of us, stronger in our resolve to be successful. We have been pushed to believe in ourselves, in our intelligence and our power in spite of and because of the obstacles we have faced. I no longer believe that my disability makes me an unworthy student. On this campus 4,000 miles away from home, I found a family who believed that I could venture on. I was not only encouraged, but rewarded with scholarships and professors who remembered my name. That is my success story, but every UTD graduate sitting in this auditorium today has one. We have all met and conquered our personal challenges, and the Comet community has been cheering us on the entire way. We leave today inflated with the love, confidence and acceptance that this school — our Comet family — has instilled in us.

I know that we are supposed to quote a famous philosopher or a historical hero, but my hero is Shonda Rhimes. I leave UTD having accepted a place at the University of Southern California to get my MFA in writing for film and television — where Shonda attended. She wrote in her book, The Year of Yes, that:

“Everyone’s got some greatness in them. You do. The girl over there does. That guy on the left has some. But in order to really mine it, you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it.”

Graduating is scary. We are leaving the safety of this nest and being nudged out by these adult birds into the real world to fly on our own. I am sure as we fly forward we will meet more people who tell us, “It is just not possible for you.” When you hear those words or ones like them remember the greatness that is inside of you, that is inside of every single one of us. Own it. And move forward holding that greatness in front of you. After all, what flies higher than a Comet?


Mimi Newman is a London native who studied for two years at the Central School of Speech and Drama before transferring to UT Dallas, where she was a First Year Leader, served on Student Government and advocated for the Office of Accessibilities. She graduated summa cum laude, earning a degree in visual and performing arts with a focus on creative writing. She will pursue an MFA in writing for film and television at the University of Southern California.

 

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