If you’re reading this and want a laugh to kick off 2017, please know this:
I once created a Word document titled “Why I Suck Right Now.”
I kid you not. It was December 31, 2013, and I was home for Christmas break after a rocky first semester of college. Here’s the thing about first semesters of college: usually, they aren’t great, but everyone is trying to pretend like they didn’t just fumble thousands of dollars on a stressful, clunky semester of school. Either you lie about how college rocks so you can appear to be thriving or God loves you more than the rest of us and you met really great friends right away. Or your parents kept you on a four-foot leash your whole life and you partied so hard that you can’t remember if your first semester sucked or not.
I had too much momentum going after my senior year of high school and backpacking through Europe before leaving for college. I went from hiking through the Swiss Alps and drinking my first cappuccino in Italy and seeing the Pope in real life to failing my way through biology class and completely relying on my smarty-pants chemistry lab partners. I went from Italian wine, Münchner Weisse beer in Munich, and Parisian street gyros to Natty Light kegs and dining hall food. I had lost that momentum.
To give you a window into what lost momentum looks like, here are a just a few items from the “Why I Suck Right Now” list:
- “I don’t have a job”
- “I am a complete failure at biomedical science”
- “Journalism might not get me any money”
Other items from my now-laughable downward spiral were less palatable, more absurd, and uncharacteristically negative. There is, however, a second page to this three-year-old document. The second page is titled “Why It’ll Get Better:”
- “I’m ditching biomed science and switching to journalism”
- “Which may be my dream”
- “Especially if I can work for NBC” (ok lofty, I know, but lofty is good when you think you suck.)
And the bigger picture persisted:
- “Nature changes but lives”
- “I’m healthy”
- “I can read and write”
I spent Friday morning at the healthcare office, waiting for an expert to treat my goopy cough, gunky throat, and sweaty, cold body. A delightful, older Indian doctor gently checked my symptoms and prescribed me medicine and–unbeknownst to him–inspiration. After asking about my schooling, I told him that my major was journalism. “Journalism!” He exclaimed, eyes lighting up. He then proceeded to tell me how smart journalists are, how they sometimes ask the best questions, and how integral (good, honest) journalists are to democracy.
He expressed a genuine awe at my major, something no one in the health field has ever voiced to me before. Certainly not my fellow peers back when I used to study biomedical sciences freshman year—in fact, their competitive nature and cutting remarks about all other majors in general played a huge factor in my despise for and switch from the biomedical realm.
Three years later, I have studied what I knew was my passion all along and graduated with a degree that gives marketable wings to my mission to write. I’m invigorated by the possibilities within reach as a writer–possibilities that naturally and eloquently align with and weave into my mission as a human, not just as a professional. It’s fun to shake hands with your gut instinct and invite her over for tea.
This doctor’s delight and praise and encouragement brought happy tears to my sallow eyes. Exactly three years ago I spit poison at myself–for supposedly “sucking,” for giving up the medical path. Little did I know, a much more enriching path awaited–a collection of unconnected dots that would create a much fuller circle. And wonderfully so, it would take a nasty case of sinusitis and an appreciative, praiseworthy doctor to clue me in.
PS. During my second semester of freshman year, some divine dots connected and I crossed paths with some of my soulmate friends–ten of whom I live with in a century-old house. They are some of the best people I have ever known and loved; if I knew back on December 31, 2013, that I would have met them, then this blog post and my dumb list would have never existed. (So if a lost, downtrodden freshman in college is reading this right now, keep the faith and once you get back to school, agree to go to McCormick Hall to meet your friend’s other crew of friends! It gets better!)
PPS. Shoutout to my good friend at Marquette, Jake, who shared this insight of connecting the dots with me: “You cannot connect your dots forwards, only backwards.” It has clearly stayed with me.