My first semester of college was amazing! I absolutely loved it. I had so much fun taking classes and learning new things. I met some wonderful people as well.
Now, out of all those sentences, only the last one is true. The rest is all a big fat lie.
First semester was not amazing. I totally did not love it. All my classes were online. I was remote: still don’t even know what the heck campus looks like.
I knew Neuroscience would be a hard major, but I hoped that my love for psychology and the brain would keep me motivated. But what I was not prepared for was chemistry. Chemistry—or “chem” for short—is my enemy, my one and only nemesis. I hate it. I hate it so much, I cried at least every other day about it. I cried to my friends, to my parents, to my counselors. I almost even gave up on pre-med. Slowly, that hate turned into a feeling of incompetence. I thought I was dumb—stupid for not being able to comprehend this when everyone else was able to. Everyone else was doing fine, so why in the world couldn’t I? Was it because I just didn’t like it? Was the professor bad? Was the class too fast-paced? I didn’t know. And I never found out the answer. Therefore, I concluded: I am incompetent and slow.
I did something I never ever in my life thought I would do. I withdrew from the chem class right before the third exam. It was a very tough decision. My reasoning was this; I will take Basic Chem, prepare for General Chem and then try again. In other words, I was strategically taking a step back, like in war: when the enemy gets too strong, people regroup and attack again. That was my justification. However, guilt and shame filled me up. I was ashamed of giving up: though I technically didn’t. My brain was not allowing me to think about the latter. I was constantly in the state of mind that I gave up, I ran away, I was a coward. Again I got drunk on the feeling of incompetency and felt worthless. This entire spring semester, there was not a single day where I did not feel ashamed of only being in Basic Chem and not in General Chem II with other pre-meds and friends. I never brought it up in conversations when they were complaining about their chem homework. I did not bring it up when the chem tests were hard. I felt since I am in Basic Chem, my troubles and my worries don’t even hold a candle against theirs. I felt so small. And scared.
As I was registering for Fall 2021 classes, I saw my enemy again. General Chemistry I. There it was, with all classes not yet filled, those same professor’s names and the recitation classes. I clicked on the class and added it to my schedule. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I was severely shaking. On the verge of a mental breakdown and panic attack, I shut my laptop with a loud bang and just stared at the ceiling, breathing like I was drowning in water. I didn’t know the class affected me that much. Suddenly the wave of shame and guilt washed me over and the waterworks started their show. Only one thought came to mind: will I be able to handle it this time? Or will I just run away?
I think God was feeling extra generous the next day, because I got my third exam score back for Basic Chem. I got an A. A freaking A. The amount of time I calculated my exam score is unhealthy but it was so dang unbelievable. I got an A? Did my professor make a mistake? I really got an A? I just couldn’t accept it. Hell, I thought this had to be a mistake. But no. The reality was my hard work paid off. I worked my butt off for that exam; all-nighters, practicing so many problems, memorizing all the equations, going over the material over and over and over again. I got what I deserved, what I studied for. And of course, I cried. I mean, duh—I GOT AN A. Like how could I not? It felt like my brain finally accepted the fact that maybe if I try hard enough I can be good in General Chem too. I want to believe that. I want to make that dream a reality.
So, I am trying my best to be a little less scared of General Chem. As I am typing this right now, I am breathing hard. The anxiety has already set in. But it’s okay because I know what I am capable of. If I put my mind to it, General Chem will be just another one of those science classes. Plus, I will be on campus, with all the wonderful people, taking classes in actual classrooms, going to labs; it will be a completely different environment. I am sure that things will be much better than my first semester. At least, that is what I am praying for every night.