I’ll be honest, it is a little embarrassing that the past couple of blog posts have all started the same way. I apologize for not writing more, proceed to talk about new posts I’ll write, and then disappear for a few months. Life seems to hit hardest right after I have the free time to write a blog post. This time, I won’t make any promises about regular posts again. Instead, I’ll make a conscious effort! Writing has always helped to ground me, and I think I need it now more than ever. This semester was one of personal growth. I went through a lot of changes, but I know I am stronger because of them! In my Freshman Fall Semester Recap, I mentioned how I’m slowly becoming more “me” than I ever have been. This past term was no exception.
Academically speaking, quite a bit changed this semester. A few weeks in, I took a shot in the dark and reached out to the coolest plastic surgeon ever. His research was amazing to me. After meeting with him to discuss his work (read: sitting awestruck in front of him), Dr. Solari offered for me to come to a lab meeting to get to know the members of his lab. The meeting ran about two hours long, but I was so fascinated, I didn’t see the time ticking by. Don’t tell my mom, but I ended up skipping class just so I could learn a little bit more about his work. Thank goodness I did, because it was in this meeting that I was offered to join their research team! I jumped in with both feet, and haven’t looked back since. I work on a variety of projects. From sciatic nerve drug therapies, to beta testing bioreactors, I’ve loved the opportunity to learn about research. As a lowly first year, I never thought I’d get involved in such cool projects, let alone my supervisor letting me administer hydrogels to our rats. While we aren’t meeting at the same capacity anymore, I hope to use this summer to work on some of Dr. Solari’s clinical trials. Once things return to normal, we’ll be moving on from rats to sheep! I am so thankful for my patient mentors that kindly answer my many dumb questions. Working in this lab has been a perfect introduction to research, and has helped me learn more about my scientific interests.
At the same time I was having such wonderful experiences in research, I was struggling academically. If you know me at any level, you know my defining character trait is my drive. I will always do whatever it takes to succeed, and I thrive like that. However, for a solid two months, I just didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t force myself to sit down and study like I had done for the past nineteen years. It was scary to feel out of control. No, I wasn’t failing. But I was ok with getting B’s – fairly unheard of for me. It took a lot of time to work through. I had to take care of my mental health before I could worry about grades, yet my grades were the very thing hurting my mental health. I think this is a common paradox for students. Switching to online learning was truly a blessing. I was home alone all day, so I could work at my own pace. My progress in my programming class was what made all the difference for me. As the weather warmed up, I’d open my window, play some music, and code for hours. I’d debug and compile until it ran smoothly. Finding a love for coding motivated me in my other courses. I didn’t maintain my 4.0, but I am so proud of my grades considering how I struggled early on. Besides, a 3.92 isn’t too bad. 🙂
The last change in my academics was my decision to switch my major. While I love engineering, I found I love medicine more. I have to keep a high GPA for medical school, and while I could have done that as a Bioengineer, I wouldn’t have been able to get experiences outside of the classroom. I would’ve taken 18 credits every semester until I graduated. Doing so would dramatically limit my participation in extracurriculars like research and volunteer work – activities I am passionate about. With all that in mind, I officially changed my major to Chemistry with a minor in Bioengineering, and certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. I think this path will help me achieve my goals and allow me to explore more interesting opportunities. It was really difficult to walk away from engineering. In the community, there is definitely a stigma that those who decide to leave are weak or quitters. I had to tell myself that I wasn’t leaving because I was incapable. Heck, I had one of the highest GPAs! I chose to leave because it was right for my future. I couldn’t jeopardize that just because I cared what other people think. It taught me a lesson in pride.
I couldn’t be more excited for next semester, as I get to take classes I am genuinely interested in! Organic chemistry is just around the corner, and as a nerd, I’ll admit that I am thrilled. While I’m sure in a few months I’ll look back and regret saying this, I can’t wait to put in the hours studying. I am also looking forward to taking a class to prepare me for EMT certification. I hope to spend my sophomore summer working as an EMT and getting experience in trauma medicine. My sophomore fall is going to be the time for me to bounce back to the Maya I’ve known the past nineteen years. I am motivated and excited about school again. It feels great.
Beyond academics, I’ve gone through some personal changes as well. I’m learning so much about who I truly am. For a long time, part of my identity was wrapped up in other people, but having distanced myself from them I can see who I genuinely am. I don’t need to be others’ perceptions of me, or what they want me to be. Instead, I can just be myself, and let me tell you, I’m pretty neat.
The past year has been one of growth and change. As I look back on old posts, I realize how moments of my life were setting me up for where I am today. In moments of hardship, we might ask “why me?”, but with retrospect, I think everything makes sense. I always reference Accepting Rejection, but it just makes where I am now all the sweeter.
Stay safe and healthy,