Diary of a Black Sheep #6 Hopefully an Uplifting Ramble

Hey everyone! I know that I don’t have too many of you following me, but I wanted to start off by saying thank you for those that are! I’m pretty self-conscious about my writing, and I appreciate anyone that gives me the courage to continue!

That being said, I wanted to give you guys an update on how things are going so far. My classes start soon, so I am really excited. This semester will be my first ever psychology class and I am back to studying physics. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but physics is my second degree and one of the proudest, most difficult undertaking I have ever embarked on.

I’ve always put my self-worth into my intelligence. I felt like that was the only area in which I had value and in which I could achieve some sense of belonging. I didn’t feel connected to my family, I didn’t feel all that attractive, and I loved to play music but I never felt I was enough.

I was homeschooled until the 4th grade, and when I was finally placed into “regular” school I earned my reputation as a “smart girl.” Particularly in writing. This makes me laugh now because everything I write is never good enough for me. As a matter of fact, I plug in every word into Grammarly in an effort to stay on task and not write complete gibberish.

At the time though, it was my only sense of confidence. As I got older, it was even worse. I was terrified of math tests because I knew it was my worst subject and I was going to feel so stupid. This was in high school when I could balance my mathematical failures with my literary and musical successes. College was a different ball-game, however. My life was in turmoil anyway, but it seemed like every degree worth having was one that required…Calculus. How could I ever pass that? AP calculus embarrassed me, geometry seemed impossible, everything about math was a stab at my ego. Years later I’d be talking to my therapist about my self-esteem (more related to how I let people treat me), and I actually would start crying about how stupid I thought I was because I based it on mathematical performance. It didn’t matter to me that I was a good pianist, that I picked up French really well, or that I could draw and right. Instead, I focused on my failures and instead of letting them teach me how to grow I let them beat me down. What’s worse, is that I did this to myself. Sure, every now and then I encounter some naysayer that wants to act like I’m not as smart as them; this could be a peer or a professor. What I have come to realize though, is that overwhelmingly, people are more supportive. Most people aren’t in awe of my mathematical capabilities (no one asks me to solve a proof or something) most people are impressed by the balls it takes to even approach such a thing. What I’ve kind of learned, is that I may have been worse than most about how a subject could make me feel, but it seems that most of us avoid challenges to protect our egos. The problem with that is that we miss an incredible opportunity to grow.

I selected a humanities major that I liked, but in the back of my mind, I picked it because it was unrelated to math and I knew I could attain it. A few years later, I did. I graduated with this degree. Closer to the end of my studies though, this nagging thought kept following me around, “Is this enough? Or did I just settle?” I realized the only way to find out was to go for something I told myself I could never, ever do. I decided to major in the sciences and not just any science, physics.

I had my orientation at school today and the department head felt the need to warn me that physics is most likely the most dropped major of them all. I knew this already, as I have already completed half of the degree. What I have noticed though, is that people that study physics (maybe just those around me) are similar to me in that they put their self-worth into this. That is a mistake. For some people, math and physics is no big deal, but for some of us, it can break your heart. You’re battling this massive intellectual hurdle, competing with your peers, and quite often dealing with a professor with self-esteem issues of their own. It doesn’t even end there, I was listening to a presentation today and they want you to work 10-15 hours per week or less while completing a science degree. I don’t mean to be insulting (if you have already completed your coursework or have different ideas than me, I apologize, really.), but I would not be able to pay rent or my bills working that amount of time. I work at least 30 if not 40 hours a week and have been for a while. And my grades have felt it on occasion. I have not always made great grades, I’ve failed, I’ve retaken courses, and I have fought to get out of some.

The point is, I’ve learned a lot about myself in college and about other people as well. This is a really stressful time, with lots of hurdles, financially, socially, and economically. I particularly want to reach someone that has dropped out or changed paths because they thought they were “too stupid.”

You are not “too stupid” neither am I. It doesn’t matter what degree, job, or relationship you went for that you didn’t get. The most important thing is that you moved forward with your dreams. My academic journey has been kind of ugly, I’ve been an emotional wreck, worked, and taken on too much through my entire college career. Walking in today and having someone look at my records made me so self-conscious. You know what they saw though? Only the courses I completed, not my grades, and they were impressed about how far I’ve come. Nevermind that I have repeated and withdrew from courses, they see what I have accomplished and not my failures. Failures that previously made me feel so low and so worthless, I’m embarrassed about them.

I thought for sure what I have failed it would follow me around, everyone would know math isn’t my best subject and that I am not the brightest…it hasn’t. I get to start anew with what I have accomplished and I can leave all this nastiness and failures behind. These new advisors only see what is on the paper in front of them. I, however, remember the crying over failed exams, the waking up at 4am to be at work by 5am, the crying over my parents’ divorce, getting disowned, sexual assault, and dating that one asshole (ok fine, more than one, I’m in college) that made me feel horrible. And I realize, someone’s paper analysis of me is such a small piece. I should have never let academics or other people determine my worth. What counts to me is that I decided on a goal, and I keep fighting for it. If my goals change, I am going to have the courage to change my path. It doesn’t matter if people are impressed or think I am a quitter, what matters is, I stuck to what was important to me no matter what.

I believe this isn’t just true for college. I think we put ourselves in this tiny pond that we think is the whole universe and we feel like we can’t escape it. That isn’t true though, we can move and we can change. Whatever ‘bubble’ you are in, don’t worry, there are others around. Keep your close friends, but don’t be afraid to try something new.

You can move to a new city, or a new college, or even a new country and try out something different. For me, and hopefully for you, if you do decide to make a change, my failures from this distance don’t seem so bad. Yeah, I withdrew and retook courses and yeah I struggled. However, I have kept trying and it’s paid off. I have been through more than even some of my friends will ever know. I’m not going to be more proud because now I am good at math or I got a physics degree. I’m proud because I didn’t let anyone, even myself, tell me I wasn’t good enough.

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