I try, to the best of my abilities, not to regret choices I made. I also try not be angry with my former self, my younger self, myself who had stunted decision-making prowess as a teenager. I fear sounding like a cliché when I say that it is actually the things that I did not do, the choices I did not make, that produce in me now a sense of disappointment. However, despite my feelings now, I do not feel like I can take 100% of the blame.
Today I listened to my first episode of “Star Talk Radio” hosted by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. In the past few months, I’ve become a full blown “Trekkie,” watching episodes of Star Trek during every free moment I get. Last year I watched what I could of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s other project, “Cosmos,” based on the original series by Carl Sagan. The older I become, and more challenges I face physically and mentally, the stronger and more passionate my interest in medicine becomes.
In short, I am upset with my younger self for not taking an interest in the sciences, and regret that this interest has revealed itself to me “late” in life. I am approaching my 25th year, and yet this feels “late.” Society makes me feel like I have missed my opportunity, and now I must resist the pull of a conventional life. I will soon possess a Master’s degree in literature, I speak two languages (working on a third), and I can play two instruments with moderately advanced proficiency.
Of course none of these accomplishments happened overnight or with ease. Each one took dedication, and the ability to handle (and survive) enormous amounts of stress. But I don’t carry much pride around with me. Instead, in the light of the science, technology, medical, and aeronautic fields, I feel useless.
As a child, I succeeded. As I grew, and the math and sciences became more difficult, I began to falter. As my grades in math and science dropped, so did my confidence. Coupled with my low self-esteem, unfortunately, was a lack of educational support. I tried seeking help in math with my teachers, but I was never able to properly understand any formula. I felt alone, mocked, and misunderstood. These sentiments followed me from middle school, to high school (where I failed several algebra classes and but somehow scraped by with a C in chemistry), and even to college.
As a young adult, I wanted to wipe the slate clean. I told myself there was no reason that I should not understand math or science. I tried to forget my tumultuous past with these subjects, I tried to open my mind and I took a pre-calculus class in college. Almost instantly, I fell behind. My professor was friendly and approachable. I went to her for help. I went to the math tutoring center on campus every day that I could, where I got help with homework and test preparation. I never received a grade higher than a C. Fortunately my professor understood that this wasn’t for a lack of trying. I poured all the effort I could into understanding mathematics. I did not achieve the desired result, and I gave up again.
To conclude, I blame, in part, an absence of adequate educational assistance. Children often need to be pushed and reassured by adults. Without anyone to tell my “child-brain” that these failures could be overcome, I stopped believing I could succeed. But I come around again in the circle: I do not entirely regret my past. I focused my energy on subjects I excelled in with ease, and that I enjoyed whole-heartedly. Dedicating myself to language and literature has brought me great happiness and I imagine it will always do that.
But with the future of our plant hanging on a thread, I feel compelled to take action, and also to understand. Star Trek, regardless of it’s fictionality, is beautiful and hopeful for the human race. I feel inspired to understand computers and biology so that I too could explore the galaxy, or the earth beneath my feet. Neil DeGrasse Tyson (like Carl Sagan) makes science feel accessible to me, even if I’m currently still lacking some foundations.
To resist a conventional life: there are many people who think that because I am almost 25, and exist in the field of literature studies, that I cannot be a doctor or a scientist. My goal on Earth is to understand everything there is to understand, and so I must not feel discouraged. I will let my interests and passions take me where they need to, regardless of my age or what I’ve already achieved. In some ways, to go, where no one has gone before.