I used to be so scared of making a mistake and failing. Which is probably why the Universe proceeded to present me with challenges that I would inevitably fail, repeatedly. Sometimes I refused to ask for help, others I ignored my gut instincts. Most of the time however, I took on more than I could handle. When everyone thinks of you as a walking encyclopedia it’s hard not to feel like “I can do this. So what if I’m taking 20 units per quarter, and working part-time, and dealing with life? No big deal.”
Umm, actually past self, it kinda was a big deal. We seriously did not think that one through very well. Could have saved ourselves a lot long nights if we had just slowed down and listened to our gut.
But that’s all part of growing up.You have to get messy and make mistakes. Otherwise you will never learn. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate making mistakes. But at least I’m not terrified of making them anymore.
When I was a first year at the University of California of Irvine (UCI) I was a proud biology major. I thought I would breeze through my studies just like I did in high school. Fat chance. The classroom set up at UCI was extremely different. While I had a year to digest the materials I learned in high school, I only had ten weeks to learn the same amount of material. That’s right, ten weeks. They go by even faster than you think. There’s one other thing I forgot to mention, it’s competitive. I remember the first day of class our professor stood in front of the lecture hall and flat out said “More than half of you will drop out of the program.” Although I never witnessed this myself, it was rumored that the competition was so fierce to get into upper division class that students would purposefully give each other the wrong answers in study groups to bring down the grading curve.
I was determined not to be a dropout, but I was definitely having second thoughts about my decision to study biology. I did well in all of my classes except Chemistry. Oh Chemistry, why couldn’t we be friends? I studied hard, did all the homework problems, plus the practice problems, went to tutoring, and TA office hours. But for some reason as soon as I saw an equation I froze. Somehow I survived my first year.
Then Calculus showed up.
As soon as I saw I was failing Calculus (and yes I do mean failing. I wasn’t getting an A- or B+. I learned to love those fast) I knew it was time to re-evaluate my goals. What did I want to do with my life?
Originally, I wanted to study Marine Biology. Working at sea discovering new species, it seemed like a wonderful way to spend my life. However, those closest to me began having medical problems. Doctors couldn’t figure out what to do or worse made mistakes. It irritated me that these people who spent their whole lives in school could be so terrible at practicing medicine. So I set my sights on medical school where I would be the best doctor the world had ever seen.
There, there past me. Doctors are human too.
The most important question I asked myself during my period of reflection was: Am I happy? No. Far from it. I heard about all sorts of clubs and activities on campus, but never had time to go to them. I was tired of being just a bookworm. I wanted to be a bookworm that went out and had an adventure every now and then.
What was most upsetting was that I hadn’t had a chance to read any books for fun. I love reading. I will read just about anything you stick in front of me. In fact, I thought, if I could earn a living reading I would be the happiest girl in the world. If only there was a job like that…I know right? It hit me like a ton of bricks. There are plenty of jobs like that in every subject I’m interested in. Video games, comic books, movies, young adult literature, science. They all need editors. At that moment I knew what I had to do.
I went straight to the Humanities Department and submitted a change of major form. My first day as an English major was like coming home after a long trip. I was so happy to be with Shakespeare, Poe, and Collins once more that I forgave Plato.
Since then my life has been infinitely better. There were a few genres and time periods that I studied because it was required, but overall I choose classes based on my interest in the reading list. Switching majors also gave me the opportunity to work with children in preschool, which is both enormously fun and a tremendous amount of work as anyone in the Education Department will attest.
During my short stay at Mills I’ve met authors, worked as a literary agent, a publisher, blogger, editor, I’m currently learning how to make a book thanks to our wonderful Book Art Program, and in just a few weeks I’ll receive my Masters in Literature. All thanks to a mistake.
Though mistakes and failures may alter your course, don’t view them as the end, but as the beginning of a more fruitful success.