Biochemistry. Doesn’t just the sound of it seem ominous? As if you could just picture all the passive aggressive moments with your awkwardly assigned and super competitive lab partner in organic chemistry?
Entering my first year hungry to embark on my path to becoming a doctor, I saw my major as just another stepping stone in my future. Call it what you will, but I always dreamed that in the pursuit of my end goal, I could brave the complications of my major and just “power through.” Yet test after test and complicated lab after complicated lab, I knew that something was off. My master plan had a flaw, a chink in the armor, a crack in the foundation: The pitfall was my own happiness.
Do you remember the awe-inspiring, invincible feeling stuck in your chest as you took the awkward picture for your driver’s license? After hitting a parked car in front of my high school (a teacher’s minivan), backing into a white truck at Subway (“eating fresh” wasn’t going to save me from almost being pummeled by the angry man halfway through his sub) and almost swerving into a 18 wheeler on the 70 East Highway (receiving not the friendliest hand gesture), I still could not shake my excitement to turn the key in the ignition and have the power to go anywhere, much to the chagrin of my family and friends.
More than a year after getting my license and causing almost no accidents (Sorry to that Jeep I tapped parking at the mall), I was taking 270 to my hometown, and I merged to the left lane to take my exit. Looking up at the sign right before the turn, I realized that I had merged too early and was in the wrong lane. Looking back to see if in those last few precious seconds, I could fix my error and turn back onto the highway, I knew that I was out of time and opportunity. The unforgiving cars passing by me on my right were like lost seconds on a ticking time bomb, trapping me in the wrong exit and the wrong destination. Cue the dramatic theme music.
A few deep breaths, one channel flip to classical music and one reroute from my GPS and the crisis was averted. Yet I still couldn’t shake that feeling of being trapped and the even odder sense of déjà vu. I finally figured out where I had felt it before.
Biochemistry was my wrong exit. All of the sleepless nights wondering how I would get through another day of classes or binge-eating Oreos at 3 a.m. to finish my chemistry homework all blatantly pointed to me ignoring my feelings, my desires and my happiness. It’s not as if I did poorly in my classes, but it was my spirit that was failing. My mantra changed from “just another week” to “just another day” to “just survive.” The difficult classes, lack of passion and disregard of my own happiness all formed cars trapping me into the wrong exit. I couldn’t merge away with these obstacles driving alongside me.
I did have one release: writing. My freshman writing seminar brought back all of the excitement I had experienced in my English classes in high school, but blindly had forgotten. The intense literary discussion, the pride that you feel when you get to display and improve your writing and the ability to throw your voice out into the cacophony of academia bring me the kind of toe-curling, smile-inducing, eye-twinkling happiness that you get only when you talk about something important, not like the happiness you get when you discover a forgotten Oreo in the corner of a thought-to-be empty package.
As time progressed, I decided to act on my indecision. After an awkward conversation with my science academic advisor, a hasty trip to Student Services and a nice talk with my writing professor, I was stuck standing in the rain on the same sidewalk I use every day, yet I was standing there as an English major.
I couldn’t wait to call my parents and tell them the news. Every person I talked to, I just had to mention that I had braved the transition from biochemistry to English: a seemingly impossible change. I don’t regret my first two semesters as a biochemistry major because the wrong exit actually took me to a whole new place that I had yet to discover. More importantly, the experience taught me to more deeply appreciate the path I was on and the safety of my travels.
Here’s the catch: I’m still a premedical student. But now, I’m taking my own road and my own exit to my destination. There will be wrong turns, missed exits and, dare I say it, accidents in this long journey to my goal, but by factoring in my own happiness, I know that I can pass them all. That is, as long as Nabisco keeps selling Oreos in those convenient and beautiful blue packages.