After my diagnosis of depression in early 2011, I assumed that my current/former dreams/passion of a career in gene therapy were no longer valid. Why? The diagnosis revealed that I had been repressing quite a bit of emotion for the vast majority of my life; didn’t this mean that I must be repressing my true career goal and passion as well? Despite the amazing internship I had in the Bay Area, and the fact that I loved it, I abandoned all ideas of a career in the science field.
About six months later, I took a long series of career interest tests. What were the results? I had a strong interest and strength in science. Shocking. It also said I would be a good librarian. I could see that.
Fast forward to 2013 when I was receiving outpatient treatment in Houston. I decided to dip my toe in the waters of the Real World by taking an online class through Houston Community College. I decided to take Introduction to Psychology because I thought it would be interesting. It was. I learned a lot not only about Psychology, but also about myself.
I decided that this was the field I was supposed to enter. I’ve always wanted to help people, and, in this way, I could help people who have struggled, or are struggling, with depression and/or anxiety as well. Plus the coursework for a degree in Psychology seemed far less daunting than the coursework I had started to pursue at Cal for a degree in Molecular Cell Biology with an emphasis in Genetics. Try saying that five times fast. I was also GENUINELY interested in and passionate about the content, and I had a personal interest in it as well.
I took another Psychology class when I moved back to the Dallas Area and enjoyed it as well. These classes were not super stressful. They were more enjoyable, but I was definitely still learning a lot. It felt like this was what college was supposed to be like.
This past fall I transferred to UNT as a part-time student. I took a required upper-level statistics course, and although it wasn’t quite as interesting because the content wasn’t psychology based, I still enjoyed it. It was particularly easy to find it enjoyable because I had a lot of time to focus on the class since it was the only one I was taking that semester; I could really focus on it and get the most out of it. Also, the professor was really great.
Then this spring semester came; to say the beginning was challenging and overwhelming would be an understatement. I was enrolled in two classes. I had never taken two semesters back to back before. I went through phases where I thought I would drop both courses completely, then I thought I would drop the less interesting course – I cycled through these thoughts quite a bit and reached out to everyone I could think of for their help and opinions, especially because my parents were out of town at the time. I eventually decided to try to tackle both courses, and I’m glad I made that decision.
One day, I had some extra time in the psychology building, where both of my classes are held, so I figured I might as well go to one of the advisors on the third floor and declare my major. It was a quick and easy process. Knowing myself and my proclivity for indeciveness, I made sure that this declaration was not set in stone; the advisor assured me it wasn’t and that students changed their majors all the time.
WELL GOOD THING I ASKED!!!!
BECAUSE, I met with my academic advisor about a month ago to plan the classes I would take over the summer and fall semesters. I explained to her that at this time I wasn’t planning on pursuing a doctorate but that I wanted to have the option to do so. Boy did she go into a whirlwind. It meant I needed to take this class and that class, and” Was I comfortable taking two really difficult classes in the same semester?” Utterly flustered, I basically said “No.” And the answer was really No – to all of it. I didn’t want to take these ridiculously difficult, uninteresting classes. It was beginning to become clear to me that this was no longer going to be fun.
This leads me to THE CHANGE. Another reason I strayed from a degree in the hard sciences is because there were quite a few classes that didn’t sound like fun and were going to be quite challenging. Sound familiar? After the meeting with my academic advisor, I realized that I was going to hit this road block with almost any major, Why not confront this road block with the major that would lead me to my dream job – gene therapy? Something that I have quite a bit of experience in. Something where I had an amazing internship that I still dream about and long for. Something that could somewhat realistically get me back to the Bay Area which is so near and dear to my heart. Yes, I wanted to help people by getting a degree in psychology, but by getting a degree in a hard science and working in gene therapy, I would be helping people at a macro level (potentially by the thousands if I found a technique that cured a significant disease) rather than a micro, individual level (individual therapy).
So, I met with a career counselor to see if I was even really thinking clearly. He seemed fairly amused by the whole situation. “Why did you change to Psychology?” “How do you already have all this experience?” “Why do you want to study Biochemistry when Biology would (obviously) be a better fit for you?” “I’m sure you have already looked at the required coursework.” “No.” Quizzical look. “I don’t want to think about how much longer I’m going to be in school.” Anyways the result of this rather interesting meeting was this very nice and empathic man telling me to meet with an advisor to tell them I want to change my major from a B.A. in Psychology to a B.S. in Biology.
An hour later I scheduled the appointment for the following week, and I’m extremely excited about the future. As well as scared as hell. I’m going completely out of my comfort zone. No more “easy,” “fun” classes. This is going to be the real deal, hard core stuff. I will be taking general chemistry (my fourth attempt, that’s another story) this summer. My younger sister, a high school chemistry teacher, has said that she will help me. That will be the first major hurdle – getting through the first class related to the major. If I can do that successfully, in my terms of success, which I’m working with my psychologist to redefine, then I think I will be on a good path for the rest of my degree. ……Not so sure about Organic Chemistry, but we will get there when we get there.
P.S. I’m super proud of myself for coming up with the awesome title of this piece!
P.P.S. After meeting with my psychologist today the whole “change” thing may not even happen….