To Science Or Not To Science

The ever-closer prospect of college has caused me to reevaluate my life decisions and goals, which also includes my projected major and profession. I’ve been told it’s silly for anyone to expect an 18-year old to know what they want to do in their adult life. I’ve also been told I need to think about these things so I have some sort of direction and don’t ignore the future, which I have a tendency to do because I am incredibly nostalgic and hate the idea of growing up.

Going into the college search, I was certain I wanted to pursue biology with a concentration in molecular genetics. AP Biology was my favorite class in high school, and it’s interesting and cool. Science jokes, pick up lines, and puns make me excessively happy. However, I received my AP Chemistry score back today and received a 1. I remember the day of the exam I was really depressed and essentially gave up when I reached the open ended section, but…really? The lowest score possible?

Other things have also caused me to question my decision to enter the science field. My second favorite class in high school was AP English, in which I excelled notwithstanding it being considered one of, if not the most, difficult AP class in our school. I graduated with the highest overall grade average in English for my entire grade. My AP English Literature and Composition score was a 5. My ex once told me he knew I was good at science but never really knew that it interested or captivated me as much as, for example, English literature.

But was this last statement an accurate description of my feelings or a sign that, perhaps, he didn’t get me as much as I thought he did? Or is it neither, and simply a reflection that, though I love science, it’s not something I excessively fan girl over?

I have difficulty with self-esteem, and not feeling good enough often plagues me when it comes to the sciences. I’m terrified to begin my biology and chemistry courses in college for fear of being behind in my studies. However, what could I do with an English major that I would enjoy? I don’t want to be a teacher, and pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be a college professor. I don’t want some business job, unless it’s for something I’m actually interested in. Perhaps an editor or writer of some sort? But journalism has never intrigued me.

Furthermore, why should I let anyone else get in the way of what I want? If I want to be a biologist, even if I’m better at something else, who’s stopping me?

But what do I really want? That is the question.

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Summer Goals

I essentially have three goals for this summer.

1) Learn “Let It Go” and other songs in German. I was torn when making class decisions for college on whether to take a) Shakespeare’s Sisters, an English seminar that I really did not need but would enjoy, or  b) German 201. If I enrolled in the latter  it would prevent the loss of any of my German skills by waiting to enroll in the class at another time.

I was really close to going with the English seminar, which I had my eyes on from the first time I looked at Gettysburg’s courses, but I ended up making the more rational decision and choosing German 201, which I believe I will love. I plan on taking an English course to fulfill one of the liberal arts curriculum goals, and using Introduction to Creative Writing as my arts requirement. My schedule at the moment, other than German 201, includes Math 111 (Calc 1), Bio 113 (the fall companion to an application-only research based course in the spring, Bio 114 Phage Genomics), and Chem 107 (Chemical Structure and Bonding). The schedule is pretty busy. Math 111 meets Monday thru Thursday; other than lectures, I have labs for both Bio and Chem and a German conversation/discussion once a week. However, I am very excited about all my classes.

2) Come up with at least one question to ask my Biology professor. He sent all of us (from the Bio 113 class) an email concerning general Gettysburg advising on housing, buying books, etc. He also discussed our homework over the summer, which was good, because I completely forgot about summer homework and would not have even thought to ask my other professors (which I will do now).

Finally, he said we are free to ask him whatever questions we want, whether it’s about college, our courses, or general science questions. I want to look at all the information he has sent us and ask a really good question; I’ve had issues with asking questions/asking for help in the past so I want to break that habit as soon as possible. A fresh start for college, yanno?

3) I want to speed walk as fast as my paint crew supervisor. I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but I did get the same summer job as last year, painting for the school district. He has decided to wait to name managers to see who can handle it all best, so I am not sure if I will procure this position. I am not a very take-charge type of person, which is why I am dubious of my chances. Besides, I don’t think I really want to be a manager anyway (grr stupid lacking ambition when it involves something new or taking charge).

Anyway, you do not understand this man’s speed. He does not even pump his arms-he just goes. You literally run to keep up with him or else he will turn a corner and you will not know where he went. The only way you know he is coming before he gets to you is the keys he keeps on his belt all the time jingle and jangle obnoxiously loud. You can hear him from down a hallway, which gives you just enough time to turn off any inappropriate music you may have been playing. Last year my friend’s IPod was magical. We had it set on the musicals station, and when the supervisor was not around it would play Avenue Q and Spamalot, but just before he would walk by it would play Aladdin or the Little Mermaid.

I digress. It’s good to have goals, right?

#GottheDot

After much painful and protracted deliberation, I have decided to attend Gettysburg College.

In the end, the University of Rochester was just too far away, in too wintery of a location, and too large. Additionally, I felt a lot better when I went to visit Gettysburg’s campus-it had that special feel about it, like I could imagine myself spending my college years there.  Rochester didn’t give me the feel. Though I will be giving up immense diversity (because let’s be honest, Gettysburg College is mostly a bunch of white kids) and specialization early in my college experience (Rochester had Molecular Genetics as a major and is a research institute), I am quite pleased with my choice.

After doing some research I discovered a variety of Biology and BMB students who are currently studying at great universities for grad school, including at Johns Hopkins University (which is where I would like to  go for grad school). Because Gettysburg is so small (the incoming class last year was about 700 students, I think), I’ll have that small community feel I love. I’ll also form tight relationships with faculty, which will lead to research opportunities. And even though the location is not a lively city like Rochester, it’s a beautiful landscape rich in history only two and a half hours from my hometown, versus the five and half hour drive to Rochester.

Ultimately, college is what you make of it, and I intend to do A LOT. I’m going to major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a definite minor in German and possible minors in English, Writing, or Neuroscience. Because there are so many subjects I want to delve into, I’ll probably end up taking five (versus four) classes in at least two, if not more semesters. I plan to study abroad, perform research with faculty, get some internships and experience in there, and do all kinds of college type things!

After making this decision, so much weight has been lifted off of me, and I feel a lot better. I do have moments of doubt, thinking perhaps I made the wrong decision…that’s just my nature at this time in my life. But talking to people from the college (and of course stalking their Facebook pages), I’m really excited to embark on this new chapter of my life.

Here’s to making the last few weeks of high school count and salmon colored pants! (Which reminds me…I gotta get some Gettysburg gear!)

Going Batty (In More Ways Than One)

This morning I woke up and there was a bat in the basement. No, not the baseball kind. This cute lil brown thing with fur, wings and the tiniest little fangs.

Thankfully, I was not the one who stumbled upon it in our basement because I would have freaked out. My dad was going downstairs for some toiletries and heard something squeaking. When he looked on the floor, he saw this thing, which he thought, in a slight panic, was a giant tarantula before taking a closer look. He yelled upstairs to my mother, commanding her to get a sheet, and he wrapped it up and brought the bat outside into broad daylight.

When I got outside, it was sitting in the same spot where my father had left it, a mulch-filled area by our deck where my mom attempts to grow flowers. We threw some apples its way, moistened a rag (in case it got thirsty?) and built a sheet fort for it to hide from the sun and predators.  I felt really bad for the lil thing. Now we aren’t quite sure where it is, but we’re guessing it took shelter in the dark area under our deck.

A literal bat is not the only thing crazy going on around here lately. My car (really my parent’s car that they are so wonderful as to let me borrow) wouldn’t shut off; the key would not turn in the hole. We took it to the dealer and I’ve got to wait a few weeks before new parts can come in. We received a free rental car, but because I’m only 18, I can’t legally drive it. This gives me a few options, which include:

  1. taking the bus (undesirable but not all that bad)
  2. allowing my grammy to drive us to and from school (she scares me a little when she drives, so I might have to take over the driving. Additionally, I don’t want to burden her)
  3. driving my dad’s truck so he can drive the rental car. This would seem like the best option, except this truck randomly shuts off in the middle of turns, which terrifies me. It’s a whole lot larger than my weeniemobile (that’s my name for the car I’ve been driving), so I would be uber nervous driving it. I’d probably end up leaving earlier from school and waiting for all the other cars to leave before I drive home because I’d be really anxious trying to get out of the tight senior parking lot.

I turned 18 this week, which is crazy in itself. I’ll be able to get my adult, no-strings-attached license on Monday, and then I won’t have to drive with the little red stickers on the car and I’ll be able to drive as many people as I want. I can sign up to vote. I’m an adult, but I don’t feel any different.

However, the thing driving me veritably insane is the looming decision of college. I’m choosing between two divergent schools, the University of Rochester and Gettysburg College. Rochester is in a sweet location, has awesome academics in sciences, particularly in Molecular Genetics, is a research university, and has fantastic diversity. Prior to my visit there last weekend, I was set on attending Rochester in the fall. However, Gettysburg’s close-knit atmosphere really spoke to me, whereas Rochester, much like the climate, seemed cold and stuffy, and just a little snooty.

Moreover, I’m terrified I will get really depressed and overwhelmed in Rochester and my family will be really, really far away. Conversely, I feel like by going to Gettysburg, I’ll always be asking myself the question of “What if”. I have the opportunity to attend this amazing school, perfectly fitted for my educational and career goals…so why am I not immediately grasping this chance? Thinking this over at all times during the day has depressed me more and caused my motivation levels to plummet. I’m hoping to make my decision this weekend, though I’m not rushing or anything. I just can see the reasons for going to each school, and can’t decide which is a better fit.

It’s sort of a head vs. heart decision. It’s also choosing between comfort and a less challenging path or deciding to grab opportunity, which leads me to my final question: Does it take more strength to push yourself beyond your limits, risking your own sanity, or to choose a path you like more notwithstanding it’s not the best option for your future?

Spring Nostalgia

As a student of AP English Literature and Composition, I have a fairly good grasp on what symbols generally mean. Water means cleansing. Light represents truth and enlightenment, while dark is the opposite. Spring usually symbolizes rebirth, or the beginning of a new life, attitude, etc. This is usually  a happy symbol, and associated with new growth, flowers, sunlight, and other natural elements.

Nonetheless, I have become cognizant of an annual spring nostalgia that plagues me and deepens my depression and anxiety. It’s almost similar to the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder-just a different season. I suppose nostalgia isn’t quite the right word, unless you say I’m nostalgic about events that are current.

As the months left before summer dwindle, I become aware of the looming end of school. This year, the end is much more permanent for me, considering I’ll be leaving for college in the fall. I am a very sentimental, thoughtful person, and the end of anything renders my heart heavy. The whole concept of time and never returning to past events baffles me. It also makes me sad, and these feelings are particularly amplified at this time during the year.

One could argue this whole “nostalgia” I experience is ridiculous and I need to get over my sentimental values and just live my life. Notwithstanding I know that’s what I should be doing, the inevitable end of a chapter in my life, no matter how small, sets off immense nostalgia that I cannot discard.

Perhaps I just have issues committing myself to anything.  I think a large part of it involves the fact I do not want to lose my feeling of choice. In high school, so they say, your world is wide open-you do not have to worry about what you’re doing for the rest of your life. You don’t know what college you will attend, what major you will pursue, what your career will be. You don’t have to worry about the real world, and contently consume yourself in the microcosm of your home town.

Now, as a senior, I’m making decisions that could affect my entire life. Maybe they won’t affect me too much, and they probably won’t change my life for the worse, but they will most definitely shape my future. That’s some pretty intense power right there. How do I know I’m making the right decision?

Moreover, I like the feeling of being wide open-the sky’s the limit, right? I could be whatever I want to be. But now I’m expected to become what I have always wanted to be, except I’ve never had a clear-cut image of my future self. It was too much fun imagining all of the different people I could transform into.

In the end, a choice has to be made. But the thing about making a choice is, once you’ve made your decision, you concede your ability to choose.

That’s hecka scary.

Take Me Or Leave Me

Well,  all my fellow seniors out there, this is it. Unless you have applied to an exceptionally cruel college which will relay your admissions decision after April 1st, this is the week we find out whether we’ve been accepted to all of our schools or not. It’s been an excruciatingly painful wait. Perhaps sharing an anecdote will pass the time.

About two weeks ago, I received an email from The College of New Jersey, one of the schools I applied to. They conveyed their Biology program, which I had applied for, had received so many applications and had become so competitive the acceptance rate would fall under 20%-a big deal, considering the college’s overall acceptance rate is about 40%. The email stated I could still be admitted into the Biology program, but because this was unlikely, they were giving me the chance to apply through a different major.

Excuse me?

Because this is just who I am, I immediately began to freak out. How could I not be accepted to TCNJ, which was one of my lower, back-up schools? How could I ever expect to be accepted to any of my other schools if I was no accepted there (this was before I had received my phenomenal acceptance and financial aid deal from Gettysburg College)?

Luckily I did not irrationally lash out, but rather looked at the facts. Were there any other biological majors offered at TCNJ I would be interested in? Nope. Were there any other majors I would be interested in pursuing? Again, that was  a big no. I have considered English or German as a major, but my first choice has always been biology. Additionally, if I were to be accepted through another major program and find out, maybe a semester through college, I really want to pursue biology, it would be very difficult-perhaps impossible-to switch into the Biology program. I’ve decided it will be much easier to switch out of a science major than to switch into one, and continue to stand by this precept.

So what is a moderately successful adolescent to do?

Absolutely nothing.

Why should I have to change who I am in order to get into a college? Who are they to tell me that I have an “unlikely chance” of squeezing into their Biology Program? I mean, I guess they do have the right, being the admissions department of the college (duh), but the point is why have we (meaning my peers, other high school seniors) spent our entire lives padding our resume’s and studying for classes only to be told we are not good enough?

There is so much pressure on teenagers to make themselves as appealing as possible for colleges, not to mention scholarships or special interdisciplinary or educational programs. You not only require good to exceptional grades, but you need to be dedicated to two or three extracurricular activities at the very least. Oh, you should probably perform community service a few hours a week too, because that’s important. And because we all need money, maybe you should try getting a job, because that looks good on resumes too. If you want to even be competitive at high-level schools, you better have joined a few summer programs related to your intended major, or at least attended one of those phoney (oops, did I say that out loud?) leadership camps.

Needless to say, I am not different from thousands of teenagers every year who follow the prescribed formula to success-an equation that supposedly ends with the same result every single time, acceptance to a top notch college or university. It has taken me this long to realize the ridiculousness of this path.

Consider how many students have “exaggerated” their involvement in certain clubs on their college applications because there’s so much pressure to involved in anything and everything that says “wow, look, he/she/it is a really good student!”. How many students have become involved in an activity they aren’t really enthusiastic about because it looks good on your resume? I’m definitely guilty of the latter.

When it comes down to this point in your high school career-waiting for college acceptance letters-you realize how much of your future rests in the hands of the admissions office. Sure, you could have done A or B differently, applied for this summer program or joined this club. But it really depends on whether they like you or not.

Really? My supposed “entire future” is based on whether or not a few adults think I’m swell?

As aforementioned, it has taken me this long-only about four years, if you only want to count high school-to realize it’s “take me or leave me”. Take me for who I am, or just let me be. My future college choice may be in someone else’s hands, but my future success is entirely dependent on myself. There are so many things I am and will be capable of that I don’t even know about right now. I am not defined by which colleges I am accepted to attend; if they do not want me, well, that’s their loss. They will either take me or leave me.

And I’ve finally come to terms with that.

Summer Job Dilemma

The summer job-an important aspect of one’s adolescence which provides experience for future jobs, another activity to report on college applications, and of course, a way to earn a little extra cash for the school year (in my case, college). However, in preparing for my summer job this year I’ve been presented with a dilemma that confounds me.

Last year I worked for my school district’s paint crew, which was a really sweet gig-the teacher running it wasn’t ridiculously strict, I got a chance to hang out with my friends, and was paid a little over minimum wage. Additionally, if I were to work there again this year, I would get paid more for being a second-year painter, and even more if I were a paint crew leader (in charge of a small group, sort of like an assistant manager).

Withal, I may have screwed up that “sweet gig” last year. At the end of summer, I was struggling immensely with my depression (I hadn’t yet talked to my parents about it, so I was not seeing a therapist). The last three days of paint crew, I was depressed because I had to tell the manager I would not be able to go to paint crew anymore because soccer was starting (I thought I had not given him enough forewarning, and was anxious and stressing out about it), so I just stayed home. I literally texted the manager that I could not go, giving no explanation as to why, and never showed up again.

I feel this might have some effect on if I’m hired again this year. He actually called me a week later to ask if I was okay, to “check up on me” (did he suspect something was wrong?) and tell me my check for the previous week would be available at the Board of Education office. 

I feel like I might be able to acquire another job, but I really have no clue. I have no clue where I could work, and am painstakingly awkward and don’t know how to go about asking for a job application and interview. I understand how difficult it is to find a job, especially as a teenager in tough economic conditions.

Another opportunity for a summer job was presented through my aunt, who told me her aunt’s friend is looking for a babysitter during the summer. This would only be three days out of the week, so it might be difficult for me to find another job considering I would have to inform them I am unavailable three days out of the week. I do not know how to be a babysitter, and am nervous to accept the job.

I really don’t know if I should wait to see if I can get into the paint crew, but by then the babysitter job will probably be filled by another person. I have mused the idea of emailing the paint crew manager to a) explain why I was absent those last few days, because I was struggling with depression, b) ask about my chances in getting on paint crew and if paint crew will even run again (so far I haven’t heard anything, but I don’t remember when I applied last year), or both. Though now that I think about it, perhaps discussing my depression is too personal and would offset my chances for employment even more.

Perhaps a pros and cons list will help me make a decision?

Ugh. I hate dilemma’s so much. They are not very good for someone as indecisive as me, and it always seems no matter what I do I end up looking back on my decision with some form of regret. If anyone has any advice for me, it would be appreciated a lot!