Editor's Note: This is the next installment in the "Generation Resilient" series. Saima Rahimi is a recent graduate of The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific at Western University of Health Sciences. She will begin her residency in internal medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, this summer. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN) - I spent the first weekend of March partaking in a friend's beautiful San Diego wedding, tearing up at her vows, as the breeze rustled my dusty mauve dress. It was my first time serving in the exhilarating role of bridesmaid and, if things had gone according to plan, it would have been just weeks before my own big day.
It's worth mentioning here that from an early age, I've always been a planner -- and with the help of my mother -- charted out my academic and professional career back in high school. I would attend a liberal arts college on the East Coast for undergrad, transition quickly to medical school, and then begin my residency training, all before the age of 30. Ideally, I'd also meet my future husband somewhere along the way.
And, indeed, my life has largely gone according to plan. I even met my partner on our first day of medical school, and four years later, we were counting down the days until our big day. We'd already had our "nikkah," our Muslim marriage ceremony in March 2019, but had picked April 2020 for a bigger western ceremony and reception.
Then the pandemic began. Though disappointed, we had accepted the cancellation of our school's Match Day, the day that fourth-year medical school students learn where they will be doing their residencies, and the need to postpone any honeymoon. After all, what really mattered to us was that we could have the wedding. Surely the countless hours we had spent planning during the past year, from dress fittings to collecting entrée responses to writing dozens of emails to our vendors, would culminate in our day going forward as planned.
But only a few days after my friend's idyllic wedding, my hopes faltered as I followed the news closely. Covid-19 cases in the United States were only projected to skyrocket, and nothing I -- or anyone else -- had planned in the near future seemed so certain anymore. My attending physician apologetically informed me that my surgery rotation would come to an early end, and I numbly messaged my friends that I was canceling my bachelorette party.
Everything seemed to be closing down, from Disneyland to the gym, and yet it still came as a tremendous blow when California Gov. Gavin Newsom finally denounced social gatherings with more than 10 people for the next six weeks throughout the state.
Our wedding was supposed to be in four weeks, in beautiful Costa Mesa, California, and our guest list was just shy of 300 people, including multiple elderly or at-risk family members -- like my 86-year-old grandmother. It was clear that we had to cancel, but even the thought of it felt unimaginable. I knew it was selfish, but I was consumed by bitterness at the unfortunate timing -- a pandemic of this scale had never occurred during the lifetime of anyone alive that I knew. We confirmed the decision with both sets of parents. Then I wept.
As someone who had always followed carefully laid plans, I was suddenly out of my depth. Postponing our strategically-chosen April wedding, which was supposed to precede our honeymoon, graduation and the start of residency, threw a huge wrench on my 2020.
As much as we wanted to simply wallow in our sorrow, my partner and I knew we had work to do. The next day, my mother reached out to the insurance company she had insisted on "just in case," while we notified our guests and vendors. Mercifully, every single vendor was understanding, and willing to transfer our contracts and deposits to a new date provided they were still available.
But how could we pick a new date without knowing when social distancing would no longer be necessary? Unable to bear the thought of waiting another year, we chose a date in December 2020. Supportive messages from friends and family members poured in, and we responded, appreciative of their warmth. I started to imagine how we might change our original spring wedding theme to a Winter Wonderland one.
A week later, my partner's uncle, whom he was close to and who had been hospitalized due to brain cancer, passed away. Filled with new grief and loss, we immediately drove to join his family. The reunion, even with its heartbreaking circumstances and tricky limitations on how many people could be in the same room, allowed me some perspective and strength.
We reflected on how it would not have felt right to proceed with our wedding so soon after a close family member's death, and for the first time, I considered the postponement to be a tiny relief in the midst of such a difficult time. As a cousin said to us, "God has a plan."
Eventually, we changed our date again, this time to May 2021. This second postponement put me more at ease. We contemplated that a later date would increase the likelihood of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed, and that winter unfortunately might see another wave of cases. Our medical school friends pointed out how exciting it would be for everyone to be reunited at our wedding a year after having parted ways for residency, and I was grateful for their optimism.
But with reports of a vaccine still being several months, if not a year, away and questions regarding widespread accessibility to such a vaccine, I honestly don't know if we'll be able to keep our May 2021 date either.
This uncertainty, however, bothers me less with each passing day. Even though I don't know when, I have faith that my partner and I will have the celebrations we've envisioned one day.
Months ago, I ordered champagne flutes for each of my bridesmaids, with their names and the original date personalized on them. Fortunately, the dates were made out of stickers and I was able to peel them off, so the glasses will still be usable. In a similar manner, I've amended my outlook on the mutable nature of life plans; constant adaptation and repurposing are key in order to survive, and even thrive.
Lack of adequate government preparation or response to the pandemic notwithstanding, these past months have revealed that we have very little true control in the face of nature -- and I'm learning that this is ok. No major life event pans out exactly as planned and, at the end of the day, I'm incredibly lucky to still be with my partner, who has provided immense patience and strength throughout the difficult weeks of quarantine.
But for now, we don our stethoscopes in preparation for the start of our intern year, ready to face the entity which has caused such drastic change in the world.