image from Pinterest
I graduated from college in June 2011, making me just over a year removed from undergraduate life. When I entered college in September 2007, I was optimistic and had everything figured out (so I thought): I knew I wanted to major in biology and go to medical school. By the time the fall quarter of my sophomore year rolled around, I was no longer sure. I remember standing in the middle of the quad on a bench underneath great big trees decked out with Christmas lights and feeling so lost and unhappy. I was realizing that while I loved all things biology and the challenge it presented, I didn't love the intense competition, the constant pressure, and the lonely environment of being a pre-med that such pressure and competition breed.
I spent all of my high school years always aiming to be the best. It was important to me to be excellent - in class, in extracurricular activities, at my part-time job as a pharmacy technician. I see now looking back that I based my entire life within that academic and professional context. I don't know if I was particularly happy, but I can't say that I was unhappy, not like how I felt on that quad that December. My priorities were changing, and I didn't know how to deal with it. I had never questioned putting in endless hours or whether taking 8 AP classes my senior year was really the best way to close a period in my life, and I never had a reason to. And it was that drive and that singular focus that got me into my first six choices of colleges. To have to reevaluate all of that for me that winter was devastating.
I wasn't the only one who couldn't deal with my world view changing. My parents, whom I've never been particularly close to, didn't understand it either. They questioned my priorities, my drive, and whether or not I was putting their hard-earned money to good use with all of my questions and doubts. This compounded the guilt I had already felt when my father took on a second job to send me to college in the first place.
After some incredibly draining times, I finally did make up my mind. I ended up with the biology degree but decided not to apply to medical school. I realized that I loved the subject, I loved helping others discover all the really cool things about it, and I loved the idea of starting a career based on that simple fact. I'm seriously thinking of becoming a teacher. I think my high school teachers who knew me then would be proud.
People always say that college is the time to discover yourself, and it's true. I learned to breathe, to say "enough" and "no more", to be open to spontaneity, to enjoy life. I met James, my boyfriend, in college. He was with me that night on the quad, and when my life felt like it was falling apart, he just held me together enough to keep going. That night, he gave me a white gold ring with tiny sapphires as my Christmas present. It will be four years exactly a month from now, and our relationship has been one of life's biggest gifts to me.
It's okay to change, to reassess and realign your life. It's okay to get lost. Sometimes losing your way is the only way to finding who you are now.