LIFE | Life as a Student

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wow! What a (school) year!!

I know I do this often, disappear and drop off the face of the earth, but I have a good reason this time....I promise.

The last time we talked about my life plans, I told you guys about my recent news to study biology in school. I was scared to tell everyone about my plans because they were such a vast departure from my (then) current life. As a creative type, people tend to put you in a box. I mean, it's not surprising, I even did it to myself. I used to believe that there were two types of people in this world: English-Arts people and Science-Math people. I believed in that sharp distinction between the creative subjects and the more scientific subjects. To me, they were mutually exclusive. And going by the shock that I gave my friends and family when I decide to study the sciences, they believed this misconception, as well.

I heard a whole lot of "What made you decide to change?", "You should stick with art", "This is just temporary", and quite a few straight shooting "But why?" questions. Most of the people in my life didn't get it. Honestly, it truly bummed me out because I had decided this was not only something I wanted to do, but something I was going to do. I know I didn't need anyone else's approval, but I wanted it. It was discouraging.

Did they not think I could do it?

Would I fail?

Did they know something about me that I didn't?

Even then, I pushed forward and began my classes. Since I already have a bachelors degree, I really only need the hard sciences and a few electives to meet the biology degree requirements. My first semester, I enrolled into General Chemistry I and Lab, Biological Diversity and Lab, and College Algebra (since none of my math credits counted). A total of 11 credit hours. Not quite full time, but close enough. I went in with preconceived notions on how my studies would go and how well I would do. And then I failed my first Chemistry test... and the second test wasn't much better. Biology was just going...okay.

Each time my test results came in, I cried and cried. And then I nearly gave up. I thought, "Damn, they were right." My friends...they were right. I couldn't do this. Why did I think I could?
And then I realized something. If you are not getting the results you want, change your approach.

So I did. With my bruised ego and damaged pride, I came up with another strategy. You see, I don't like to fail. And I don't meant this in the temporary sense. Failure is productive to success. But I mean this in the long term sense. I will not fail at this, because I will not quit.

I began to read every chapter and view the lecture slides before coming into class. Something that seems logical in hindsight, but I didn't realize at the time. By doing this, I was already pre-exposed to the topics and concepts. I used classes and lectures to clarify anything in the text that was not completely clear to me.

I also changed my exam prep as well. Instead of exhausting myself with nonstop study and completing every question in the text book, I focuses on a few questions that were truly representative of the material. And then during the actual exam, I began to mark up the test book. Crossing out answers I knew were wrong and and underlining when the question had worlds like "Least, Except, Not". Anything that clarified visually what the question was looking for.

I employed this strategy for all my remaining tests in every subject. Though Chemistry was definitely the toughest subject. I think we started with about 40 students. By the drop date, we lost half of those. Then by the final we lost another handful more. I mean, they call it the "weed-out" class and it definitely lived up to it's expectations.

Being a mom and a wife made attending school a bit...complex. My schedule would have me at school, then I would leave to go pick up my son from his school. Waiting in line at Parent Pick-Up allowed me about 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted studying. So I would try to master the most difficult concepts during this time. Then we would get home, I would help him with his homework, then start dinner, assist with bed time routines and then, and ONLY then, at about 8pm at night, did I get to start my homework.

I finished up the semester with A's and B's. Not that B's are bad, because they are not AT ALL, but my goals are always impossibly high. I wanted all A's. I was also recommended for an opportunity to work with another professor as a research assistant, which started me on my work of learning to rear mosquitoes and ultimately, dissect them.

(How do you dissect a mosquito, you ask? Very carefully.)

With my new strategies and new information, I started in on my second semester of college. This time taking 14 credit hours. I enrolled in General Chemistry II and Lab, Cellular Processes and Lab, Research Methods in Biology, and Microbiology and Chemistry of Beer (College is fun, amiright?).

I knew I wanted to get all A's this semester, so I worked my butt off. I was studying every chance I got. My schedule this semester had me in school Monday and Tuesday from about 9am-6pm and  Wednesdays from 9am-9pm. Being a mom, wife and student is definitely a very coordinated, juggling act. During this semester, I began my stint as a research assistant. I was also offered a very cool opportunity to write a piece about the Craft Brewing Industry for a hospitality textbook. It was accepted and should be published in the textbook in January 2018! (So cool right?!)

At the end of the semester, I found that my hard work had all paid off and I had received all A's and a 4.0 GPA.

I can tell you that this is the most proud of myself I have ever felt. To say I worked hard for this is an understatement. This was many tired nights spent up until 2 am working on homework and studying. This was mornings waking up at 4am to get a head start before classes. I remember reading in Shonda Rhimes "Year of Yes" book about how when you're doing well in one thing, you have to be doing bad in another because thats were your energy is going. I didn't want that to be me. I recognize that I can't put all my energy into everything, but I was not going to let my goals interfere with the way I cared for my family. I'm not going to say it was easy, because it definitely was not! But it was worth it.

If you had told my younger self that I would be studying science in college and enjoying the hell out of it, I would have thought you were crazy and probably have been offended that you did not know me AT ALL. But I also recognize that the person I was before was vainly seeking self fulfillment through personal gain. My motives now are different. The life I have experienced now is different. I am not the same person I was then. I want to make a genuine difference in this world. I don't care if anyone knows my name. I do not care for fame. I believe we have the right and the responsibility to do better in this world. Whatever your definition of better may be.

I have a bigger goal at the moment, and I am to quite ready to talk about it yet, but every step I make is going to bring me closer to that goal. Easy roads do not make strong people. And obstacles exist for everyone. You, dear reader, have to understand that obstacles in your path do not represent a stopping point, but instead exist to show you how badly you want something. Will this obstacle be your end point or will you find a way to overcome it and continue on your path? Everyone has obstacles. Everyone has their "things" that makes achieving their goals difficult. What you have to understand is that you have to want it more than all those obstacles. You have to want it more than all the hard days and the long nights. And then figure out a way to go get it. No is not the end. Failure does not have to be permanent. And always remember to thank the people who help you out along the way. Have a grateful heart and a strong determination and then go smash the hell out of your dreams.