me in front of a wall with hand prints on it

You Failed a Class? You Must Be Stupid.

Like every little kid growing up, I had a million possibilities of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be an astronaut, teacher, artist, chef, you name it. I had the world at my fingertips, but I had yet to discover the roadblocks of the real world.

As I got older, I was told by everyone around me that I had to have a job that made good money. I either needed to become a doctor or a lawyer, neither of which I had an interest in doing for the rest of my life. But, sadly, reality started to set in and I went on to become a doctor. I was in the Health Academy in high school and while it was somewhat interesting, I had no real passion for it. I have always loved animals, so I thought, “Well, I’ll just become a vet” so that I could at least have some form of joy in my career. Then, I no longer wanted to do that because, just like before, I had no interest in the medical field — it wasn’t for me. But I didn’t want to disappoint my family and kept to myself about it. 

Growing up, my dad, sister and I would take road trips to Washington D.C. a few times a year. Just to preface, this place is my favorite place in the entire WORLD and I never got tired of going. I would go on a 12-hour road trip there right now if I could. I’ll save my gushing of D.C for another time because I could honestly go on and on, but I brought it up because every time my family and I would go we would do the same things over and over again. I’m talking about the same museums and the same zoo, every single time. But we never got tired of it, we loved it. When we would go back to the museums, it was like seeing everything again for the first time. When we went to the zoo, the animals looked so happy (the only zoo where I can honestly ever say I’ve seen this). I thought I could open my own sanctuary because then I could take care of animals who needed it, and this surely wouldn’t disappoint anyone. So, I started my journey to be able to do this. I volunteered at animal shelters, educated myself on animal rights, and truly felt a passion for it. This passion stayed all throughout the rest of high school, and then college came.

Just like that, I had to make a decision. What was I going to study for the rest of my life? What was my future going to be? Well, a degree in biology was not what I wanted, but it was the only option available at my school in order to work with animals. I took a look at my classes which would be my life for the next four years, and my heart sank. None of these sounded interesting to me. They more or less sounded like a hundred headaches waiting to happen. In order to get to the classes that actually sparked something in me, I had to go through countless other ones that made me dread making my schedule.

I took classes in the summer and then fall came. I took my first chemistry class. This was not just an intro to chemistry, but still a general chem class nonetheless. I split up the class into two semesters, the “easier” choice. The first day of class was fine, and the next. I had been following along and keeping up. Then, a tsunami of reality seemingly took over my life. I had to find a new place to live by myself in just a few days, find a job and still, keep up with five classes that piqued no interest in me. I started having trouble paying attention and keeping up with my grades, and life took a toll on my education. I worked late hours in the middle of the night. I was suffering and it impacted me badly.

The semester went on and guess what? I failed that class. I had a big “F” right on my transcript, something I thought would never happen to me. I received A’s in my bio and gen ed classes, but there was no escaping an “F,” yet, I wasn’t sad. Here’s the thing, I studied my ass off for that class, gave it everything I had and put every ounce of my free time into it. 

But as lame as it sounds, I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. I took chemistry in my fall semester, but I took summer classes before that. In the summer, I took an anthropology class and the excitement I felt in that class every morning matched that of the trips to the museums in D.C., the excitement I felt to learn. After class, I would tell my sister all the things we learned and I still remember every little detail today. She told me that these were the moments that I would sound the most passionate. I was so blinded by what I had been told my whole life to even imagine a career in this field, let alone a lifetime studying what had always gotten me most excited.

When I was little, I had (and still have) an obsession of collecting little mementos of everything and anything wherever I go, like my own little artifacts. I would stick them onto my wall, press them into books, keep them in boxes. I had been collecting anything and everything for as long as I can remember. When I was in a museum, I knew I had the special chance to see these artifacts that once meant so much to a person, to a community. These were the moments where I was happiest. Growing up, it felt like I had this burning passion for protecting people who could not do it for themselves. Not that they were incapable, but because it felt that no one would listen to them. I wanted to listen and I wanted to help fight with them. The strange thing was, I was not raised to be this way, it was kind of quite the opposite, but something in me always knew that this was something I needed to do, no matter what. These were the things I needed to move forward with, to grow my passion for, and it had taken me so long to realize.

Okay, so here’s the deal. Yes, I failed my chemistry class, but I know I gave it everything I had. At the moment, I was disappointed, but not distraught because I realized, what the hell had I been doing? This is not the major I am meant to be in. This is not what I’m meant to do. This is not the life meant for me. That day that I failed was the day that I changed my major. 

Now, as I’m writing this, I won’t lie and say that I’m not rethinking the fact that I am telling whoever comes across this article that I have failed a class. That the people who have called me stupid feel like they were right, giving them a reason to believe that. But then I think, I’m not dumb. I have never been dumb. I was just forced to follow through with a false passion that I had no real intention of ever fulfilling. 

And to whoever feels that I’m stupid for not passing a single class, listen up. Today, I am a first-generation college student who got accepted into an amazing university, has a job, lives comfortably on their own, all while having straight (high) A’s. I will now be graduating with my Bachelor's degree in three years instead of four, and be moving on to get my masters, then my Ph.D. in a field that I am beyond passionate about. 

We live in a society where our desires are constantly thrown out the window. Our parents tell us we need to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. Some people are meant for those jobs, some people are happy in those fields. I was not able to understand chemical equations as easily as my classmates and that is okay. But, I am able to understand evolution more than them and that is also okay. We are not all meant to be the same. There are so many different paths you can choose to take in your life and you, I cannot stress this enough, are not dumb just because certain subjects are harder for you than others. Don’t listen when people tell you that you are not going to make it. You are going to make it, and you are going to be so happy when you do.