Saturday, March 16, 2019

Throwback Post: A Major Change

Author's Note: I've been away from writing for a minute. I seem to have created this pattern of being all about my blog (it's very therapeutic when I'm going through mental health stuff), then I disappear for a stretch of a time. Part of that habit is me allowing work to overwhelm my life, and I don't make time for the things that I enjoy. I've been trying to crawl out of a hole of sadness recently, and that process has included easing myself back into writing again. When I revamped this blog back in 2015, a lot of old content was lost. I thought I may start off by pulling some of my old posts out of the archive, because I still like them and think they tell stories that someone out there may find beneficial. So without further ado, here we go...

An excerpt from the life of Krystal with a K, dated September 2011:

It all started during the summer of my junior year of high school when I was visiting and applying to colleges.  I had known for years that I wanted nothing more than to be an architect, and I had been preparing myself for this career path by taking every AP course in math and physics. I spent months researching the best of the best schools for architecture, and I began visiting numerous universities with my mom. I was informed by my guidance counselor that I needed to apply to at least four schools, and I eventually narrowed my list down to Ball State University, Iowa State University, University of Cincinnati (DAAP), and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. After visiting the schools, U of M and UC were my top choices, but U of M was undeniably my first choice. I had always been a huge (RE: Obsessed) fan of Wolverine sports, and the actual thought of going to Michigan and attending football games at the Big House was an added bonus to the country's #2 public school program for architecture.

Around September and October when the acceptance letters started rolling in, I became a nervous wreck.  I frantically checked the mailbox everyday for that blue and yellow envelope, but it was heartbreakingly elusive.  My parents did their best to be encouraging, but they were just as anxious as I was.  By the end of October I had been accepted to Ball State and their Honors college (I hated BSU and didn’t really care), Iowa State University (this was just another application that I wasn’t really serious about), the University of Cincinnati and DAAP (I was quite pleased), but the letter from Michigan never came.  Finally (finally!) the letter from Michigan arrived in November, and my heart was already breaking before I’d opened it because it was small, and that is the universal sign of college rejection.  I left it unopened for most of the day, but I finally couldn’t take it anymore and ripped it open to find the second worst word ever within the first sentence: waitlisted.

I didn’t understand why I was waitlisted because my 4.12 GPA, SAT score of 2150, and an extensive list of extracurricular activities were more than impressive, but it turns out that my attempt at direct admission into the architecture school prevented me from getting accepted at all (I was informed that I'd be a shoo-in had I just applied for regular admission). One long phone call with the admissions office later, I was told not to give up hope (“Waitlisted does not mean rejected.”), but my dream had already been shattered in my eyes.

Rewind to what was going on during this whole situation, and I was actually enjoying a pretty great senior year.  I had a great first trimester of school, and I was extremely excited to start the second because I would be interning with a huge architecture firm in my town. Unfortunately, this was all going on in October of 2008 when the economy suddenly plummeted.  I received a call from the architecture firm stating that they sadly wouldn’t be able to take on an intern at that moment (despite being unpaid), and I was suddenly left with no where to go.  I had an emergency meeting with both my guidance counselor and intern director, and they informed me that the only contact they had that was still accepting interns was a dental office. I was required to find a job in order to get credit for my internship class, so I accepted and called the dentist that afternoon. It wasn't part of my very detailed life plan, but my conversation with the dentist (a very friendly woman that was also the mother of one of my classmates) went very well and I knew I wouldn't hate working for her.

When I walked into my first day of interning, I had expected to spend the afternoon filing charts and doing office work. I was wrong.  No sooner had I walked through the door when the doctor grabbed me and said, “Let’s get to work!”  Work that afternoon ended up being four extractions, a root canal, and a never-ending schedule of cavity filling appointments. I got to assist through all these procedures, helping with the suction and handing tools to the doctor. It was like being part of the Grey's Anatomy of teeth, and I was riding the high of adrenaline rush after my shift. When I got home later that evening and my mom asked how my day was, I didn’t hesitate to announce, “I’m going to be a dentist!”

After a few weeks of working at the dental office and talking things over with my parents, architecture was a thing of the past and dentistry was my future. I applied to Indiana University Bloomington and IUPUI - a compromise I had made with my parents, as they wanted me to explore more in-state options - and I was immediately accepted into both. However, despite being completely sure in my decision to study biology/pre-dentistry, I was reluctant to declare a college…I was still waiting for that letter from Michigan.

Months passed and eventually it was April.  It was time to choose a college.  At this point, the letter from Michigan still hadn’t arrived and I was no longer holding out hope. I had already arranged a roommate at IU (my high school BFF and dance team co-captain), and it was time to send in my deposit.  In a twist of fate, wouldn’t you know that the day after sending in my deposit to IU would finally be the day I received my Michigan acceptance letter? It was like the universe was playing a practical joke on me. My parents sat me down and told me that Michigan didn’t have to be out of the cards, and they would willingly eat the IU deposit money to see me live out my dream. I was extremely touched, but I had so many plans for IU already and I was prepared to walk away from Michigan.  Not to mention, $15,000/year compared to $50,000/year tuition is quite the difference. Going to an in-state school would save me from an eternity of debt (ha!), and IU was more and more looking like the better choice.

Before I knew it, I was officially a freshman at Indiana University. My first semester was jam packed with biology (evolution), sociology, psychology, Spanish, and the history of rock ‘n’ roll (best class ever!).  I took an immediate liking to sociology and psychology, and I decided to minor in both. Biology, on the other hand…let’s just say that I cried every day, but I was able to pull an A- after a miracle and a lot of extra credit. Thankfully, my second semester of college went without a hitch, and I found that I had a certain proficiency for chemistry. I finished the year off with quite a bit of confidence and pride, and I looked forward to what the following year had to bring.

After a few short weeks at home with my parents and dogs, I was heading back to Bloomington to move into my first apartment and start summer school. I completed my statistics requirement with an A+ (it was a cake walk after my high school AP Calc II class), and I did extremely well in my second chemistry class. In fact, I loved chemistry so much that I began the transition to changing my major from biology to biochemistry. Oh, little did I know where that path would take me...

To say my first semester of sophomore year was rough would be the ultimate understatement.  I was taking a MCAT/DAT-prep biology course (this is pre-med standardized test lingo, for those that aren't familiar), organic chemistry, medical sociology, and a biology lab. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and I lived each day in a constant state of hysteria. I think I called my mom twice a day in full-on meltdown mode. I spent every waking moment studying, but I couldn’t seem to pass a single test despite my best efforts. I was accustomed to being a straight-A student, and I had reached a point where I was convinced I was going to flunk out of college. I felt completely out of control of my own life, and my constant stream of negative thinking was making me physically ill. Eventually the semester ended and I went on a short trip to Minnesota with my family, but throughout the entire trip I was on my phone waiting for final grades to post. I was still so focused on school and failure that I couldn’t even enjoy a vacation. I remember my mom and aunt admonishing me for ruining the trip with my report card obsession, but I couldn’t help it…I had to know how I did.  Overall, the results weren’t completely awful: I ended up raking in good grades in my lab and sociology class, but I barely pulled C-'s in biology and chemistry. I was disappointed in myself, but vowed to do better the next semester.

Despite my determination to succeed, however, I fell even further in the sophomore slump. I barely passed molecular biology and organic chem lab, I struggled in my sociology class but managed a decent grade after extra credit, and for the first time in my life I received an F.  An actual F. It was unfathomable. I could go into minute detail about my experience with organic chemistry II, but I’ll give you the abridged version: go to class, understand nothing, cry, go home and study, still understand nothing, cry, e-mail professor questions, receive answers but still understand nothing, cry, take exams and think I ended up doing well, receive 20% on exam, cry, repeat.

It was a never-ending cycle of failure and confusion, and it took a toll on me both mentally and physically. I hated school, and the very thought of having to go to class consumed me with dread. I tried to remedy these feelings by telling myself that I was homesick because a little homesickness was completely normal. I needed to feel normal. But every time I found myself driving back to school after a weekend at home, I found that it was nothing like that first trip to Bloomington where I was happy and excited to get back to college life. The minute I was out of my parents’ vision, I would start up with the tears. I didn’t even have the energy to be embarrassed by it, so I simply let myself cry. I remember one particular drive that took place when I was returning to school after spring break: I had dawdled the entire day beforehand, finding every excuse for not returning to Bloomington. My mom eventually had to push me out the front door and force me to leave.  I hadn’t even pulled out of the subdivision before the tears made their appearance. I was in complete ugly cry by the time I hit the highway. I cried the entire 3.5 hours I was driving, and the entire time I kept asking myself, “Why am I doing this?  Is this even worth it?”  

I finished my sophomore year feeling completely defeated, but I was too proud to give up. I decided to retake the organic chemistry class I had failed over the summer. I was determined to right my wrongs, and really, how hard could a class be the second time around? As it turns out, it was pretty fucking hard.

In the beginning, I gave the summer class everything I had and I did do better…instead of scoring 20% on every quiz or test, I was averaging 45%.  That was twice as good as the first time around, but it was still not enough. The only reason I didn’t cry as much was because I started working a part-time job that took my mind off school 7 hours a day, and by “not as much” I mean twice a week instead of twice a day.

By the second to last week of summer school, I finally decided to take a step back and look at my situation from a different perspective. As much as it pained me to admit it, I was depressed. I had been told my many others that they believed I was depressed, but I refused to acknowledge it. My general doctor at one point even voiced his concerns that he suspected I had depression, but I adamantly denied it. I always pictured depressed people as lying in bed all day and ignoring their responsibilities, and I didn’t want to think of myself like that. However, when it got to point that I was lying in bed more often than not, and I woke up each morning with this sinking feeling of misery, I knew that something was wrong.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that my life was not taking the direction that I wanted it to. My realization was more like a weeklong venture of lying in bed every morning in a state of panic about having to go to class. I had gotten to a point where I had to give myself an actual pep talk in order to get up and leave my apartment. It started off something like this: “You are going to get out of bed. You are going to get dressed. You are going to brush your hair. You are going to go to class. You are going to listen and try your best to understand. You will do your best. Everything will fall into place.”  But by the end of the week, my pep talk sounded more like this: “You are going to get out of bed. You are going to get dressed. You are going to brush your hair. You are going to go to class. You are going to listen and try your best, but you know nothing is going to come of it. Why are you even doing this anymore? What is the goal? Do you even remember? Think about it.”  I lied in bed for a few more minutes thinking about it, but no answers were coming to me.  The obvious answer was that I was doing all this to prepare for dental school, so I asked myself this: “Why do you want to be a dentist?” No responseI didn’t have an answer for that one, and that’s when I recognized that I had a problem.

The morning I had my last pep talk was the morning I finally admitted to myself how unhappy I was. I decided to stop living in a painful state of denial and realize that maybe everyone was right…I did have depression. I then asked myself one last question: “What are you going to do about it?”
I had thought about changing my major a hundred dozen times, but I was never really serious about it until that morning. When I finally decided to admit how depressed and miserable I was, I also realized that another semester of biology and chemistry was not going to make my psyche any better. I had to make changes in my life if I wanted to see changes. 

I spent hours on the school website that night pursuing all the different major options, but nothing stuck out to me. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I kept cursing the world for making me choose my entire future when I was just nearing the cusp of 21 years old. Legally, I couldn’t even drink yet, but the world still wanted me to know what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Honestly, it isn’t fair to put the weight of that type of decision on children. I redo my hair maybe five or six times before I decide to just leave it how it was to begin with…how was I supposed to pick a major that would one day choose my career?  

I was getting a headache thinking about all the different major options IU had available, so I decided to take a break and mess around on design blogs for awhile. As an active reader/subscriber to one very popular home DIY blog at the time, I was provided access to the beta version of a website that would one day become Pinterest. I was in the midst of a home interior pinning spree when it suddenly hit me: “This is what I’m passionate about. Homes, buildings, d├ęcor, architecture…this is what I want to do.” So much like my hair, I ended up exactly where I began: design.

I’m now five weeks into being an interior design major, and I feel like a completely different person than who I was a year two months ago. I can honestly say that I am happy with what I am doing, and I genuinely look forward to what is going to come.  I am filled with such excitement when I think about all the new opportunities I have: studying abroad, working with Habitat for Humanity, and spending each day doing something I really love. I no longer see my homework as something to dread, because it doesn’t feel like work at all.  

I’m not going to say that it’s always easy because I do have difficulty with the sketching and other artistic aspects I’ve never practiced before, but I look forward to learning how to do all these things. Does it suck that I’m a third year college student restarting a four-year program? Yes, but I’m okay with being called a freshman again…it’s even fun sometimes. I feel like I’ve been given this clean slate, and I plan on making the most of it.  I’ve learned so much about myself and the college experience in the last two years, and I believe I’m in a much better place to accept that I’m never going to be perfect and I’m not going to get an A in every class.  Perfection isn’t a bad thing to strive for, but I’m no longer going to make myself insane by trying to achieve it.  It’s okay to admit you have weaknesses.  In fact, it’ll probably make you stronger in the end. So I’ll leave you here with my final thought for the night: change is good totally awesome.