Monday, November 29, 2010

Summiting Mt. Biology

I can finally see the summit to Mount Biology, the peak I’ve been hiking up for almost four years now. The journey has been tough and in places, the trail hasn’t been well marked. Even with just one last section of uphill left, I sometimes look back at the trail behind me and question if this was even a peak I should have bagged. Biology? Why not Journalism or English or Philosophy or something I’m actually good at and have a passion for? I have never been much of a science person. In high school, science was a constant struggle. I studied way harder than my best friend and she always did better than I did with out even trying. I had a hard time grasping the concepts. When it came to being creative, on the other hand, I had no problem. I jumped at the opportunity to take any art or English class. Those subjects came way more naturally to me than science ever did. The problem was that the pressures of high school forced me to believe that going into something science related was the only worthy choice. I was surrounded by smart friends and the idea that to win anyone’s approval, I had to be smart.  I always felt like I was hidden in their shadows and I wanted more than anything to be seen and to prove to my family and classmates that I was smart. That’s why when making my choice on a major, I chose Cellular Molecular Biology. It had a big flashy title and when I told anyone that’s what I was going for, they were automatically impressed. My goal was to become a geneticist and to find a cure for cancer. In my mind, accomplishing this would make my family proud, I would no longer be invisible, and everyone would see how smart I was. At the time, it seemed like a perfect plan so I pushed aside the minor detail that I didn’t really like science.
            When freshman year started, I had my first reality check. All of my classes were science based and I was miserable. I almost didn’t pass my intro chemistry lab because I couldn’t figure a how to use a pipette (that should have been my first clue) and most of the time I had no clue what was going on. I kept telling myself that it would be ok once I was working as a geneticist because I would be doing something that I loved.  Finally, I realized how much I really hated being in a lab. A lab coat, goggles, fluorescent lights, no windows, and looking in a microscope all day was not appealing in the least, so I changed my major to Community Health to pursue Nutrition.
            This was also an attempt to create an image for myself. I had major body image issues and I thought by going into nutrition people would see me as the skinny, healthy athlete.  Pursuing nutrition made my self esteem drop even lower. I became obsessed with how I looked and how much I weighed. I was paranoid that everyone thought that I wasn’t skinny enough to be a nutritionist, so all I thought about was exercising and losing weight. I drove everyone around me crazy and eventually I even drove my best friend away.
            After a year of being a Community Health major, I decided to change back to biology because of all the biology and chemistry prerequisites I needed for nutrition. That semester was one of the lowest points in my life. It took me months to try and adapt back to the college lifestyle, after my life changing summer working at Rocky Mountain National Park. I struggled in all my classes and I was exercising over 3 hours of intense cardio a day. I eventually broke the neck of my femur because of overtraining and not eating enough protein. This made me realize that maybe nutrition wasn’t the best career path for me since I couldn’t even take care of my own health, so I decided to stick with getting a degree in general biology so I could finish on time.
            It’s embarrassing trying to respond when people ask me what I want to do with my biology degree once I graduate. My general response is that I’m going into the Peace Corps, so I have a couple of years to decide, but what I’m really thinking is, “Yes, I am getting a degree in biology. Do I plan on having a career in this field? Well… I honestly have no idea.” Maybe I will maybe I won’t, I’m not out ruling it out as a possibility, but I’m also not counting on it. Getting a degree in Biology is the quickest way to the summit. I want my diploma so I can move on to other adventures. I am tired of this scenery and there are plenty more summits to conquer. At this point, I have no idea where life is taking me, but that’s the excitement of it. I’ve learned that life isn’t what you expect and in the end I know I’ll end up where I’m suppose to be. I have some ideas of what I might do after the Peace Corps, but things always change. I am definitely not where I thought I would be four years ago. If I set plans for where I might be three years from now, I may miss an amazing opportunity because my vision will be narrowed to nothing but the current trail. Honestly, at this point I don’t feel like I need a plan. Life presents plenty of opportunities and opens many doors. It’s my job to see all opportunities and take them. If do that, I know that I will eventually stumble upon what I want to do with my life.
            So, yes, even though Mount Biology isn’t exactly where I wanted to go and it was a difficult trek, the journey to the summit was worth it. Mount Biology provided many side trails that I wouldn’t have gone on if I was on any other path. I would not have gotten a job as a park ranger and met the some of the most amazing, inspirational people that have shaped who I am and I would probably not be going into the Peace Corps. To say the least, Mount Biology has been one of the most difficult trails I’ve ever been on and there have been sections where I thought I wouldn’t make it to the summit, but overall I’m glad that I took this trail. Life tends to work itself out, mostly in unexpected ways and every experience I’ve had, both good and bad, has meaning and has given shape to my life. Because of these experiences, I have become a person that I actually like. I’m no longer unhappy and striving for an image to get other people’s approval. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened. Bring on the summit!    


  1. Aw baby!!! It's good to know I'm not alone in this. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing in 6 months! So we're in it together! I'm so glad we're hanging out more. You are such a lively person, and you truly do make everything a little bit more fun! I love you Aubs!!!

    P.S. I'm SO glad you're blogging now!

  2. Love it, Aubrey! You make me so proud. It's such a blast watching you make your way on the journey of life. I know you're gonna make the most of it! I'm right there with ya, baby. Loved this story...way to blog!!!!