I have test anxiety to an extreme level. I can’t remember a test in the last eight years, no matter how minor (like an art history test on scantron or a completely ungraded diagnostic) that I haven’t literally been sick over. And not a little sick either: like lose five pounds, cry, feel (and occasionally visibly see) my heart racing, sick. Whenever I would tell people about how I felt, they would say “feeling sick before tests is normal”. So I thought it was normal. That I was over exaggerating (like everything in life. I am quite the Pisces after all). This is not normal. At all. And I realized this in the strangest way. I have to give a speech tomorrow. There was a study done, asking peoples greatest fears, and ranked in the number one spot, above dying and heights, was speaking in front of people. I, on the other hand, enjoy it. I was a TA last semester where I had to give a speech every week to a class of 30 uninterested, still eye-rolling because they haven’t quite matured, college freshmen. Speaking in front of people does not phase me. However, right before a speech, as I walk up to the podium and take that last breath before I begin on my talk that absolutely no one in the audience will listen to, I get butterflies. My hands sweat a bit. My stomach may even flip flop a few times. This is a normal level of anxiety. This is what most people feel before tests. This is not what I feel. I need to start thinking of exams as speeches: I’m here to prove what I know. If I don’t know, I’m here to convince people that I do know. If I fail, it’s no big deal, because as soon as I step off that podium, people are already moving onto their next thought, like what’s for dinner or when they get to go home. My stomach should flip flop a few times before a test, like a pancake. It should not tie itself into knots and threaten to strangle me like a funnel cake. I have made it this far. I am an accomplished student graduating in December. I am a well-liked and highly recommended researcher. I have taught people chemistry. I need to think as highly as myself as others do. And maybe, by realizing things like this, I’m on the right path. With that being said, wish me luck on my speech. It’s over a topic I became an expert in in two weeks, and, to be honest, I might be talking loudly and slowly tomorrow to cover the fact that I might still not be quite sure what a dendrimer is and why it’s important. (Protip: it’s hard to make up chemistry on the fly. It’s even harder to pronounce chemical names when they’re 56 letters long and mostly vowels. Even if they’re on the screen right in front of you (that’s looking at you, N-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-N-ethylcarbodiimide hydrochloride))).
Today is my mom’s birthday!
I love my mom very much. As I’ve grown from child to young adult to full blown adult (which I still don’t believe I am, and I’m sure she doesn’t either), she’s always been there. At first she was the fiercest protector and the most patient teacher, then the silent listener and the most supportive superfan, and now she’s become my ally in everything and my best friend. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better mom than I have. Everyone thinks their mom is the best, and everyone is right (but mine is better).
I know I live hours away (which I won’t after I graduate!) and that I don’t get to see you nearly as often as I would like (and when I do see you, I’m usually buried in books trying to finish another lab report or paper or just trying really really hard not to throw my backpack out the window), but know that I am forever thankful for you. College has been incredibly emotionally hard on me, and I know that there is no way that I could have made it this far without you and your never ending support and love.
I hope you have an amazing day. I wish I were there with you making you a cake that we would only eat half of and singing along to Bruno Mars. I’ll be there as soon as I can (five days!!!) with presents and hugs and smiles. I love you so much, mom, and I always will.
I’ve been trying to do this thing recently where I better myself. That means small things like washing my face, and working out occasionally, and buying a water infuser so I actually drink more than a cup of coffee in a day. It means sitting in a Starbucks with my best friend (HI EMILY), listening to Fall Out Boy’s new CD, drinking a full-fat, full-calorie Birthday Frappuccino without giving it a second thought. It also means making time for me, and doing things I enjoy, instead of waking up every morning, studying chemistry all day, and going to bed, becoming more and more disillusioned with life and wondering every single night between panic attacks over speeches and papers why I’m doing this to myself.
I’m going to be honest. I had completely given up on the rest of my life. For the last 21 years, all I had heard was “enjoy college! It’s the best time of your life!!!” So I would sit at my desk, surrounded by papers and two different computers and chemical drawings that began to look like hieroglyphics after a while and cry. I would tell myself that if these were supposed to be the best years of my life, life wasn’t worth living anymore. Because the last three years have been a living hell. I’ve been in a constant, uphill battle since my first day of college. I’ve been pushing a glass boulder up an oiled crystal hill for thee and a half years, while people threw harsh words, failing grades, and the occasional accidental explosion my way. Letting that glass boulder fall and shatter would be the end of dreams: the end of living in a city, the end of getting a good job, the end of earning the degree that I had worked so hard for. I slipped more than once, almost fell at the way to the bottom a few times, but so far I’ve managed to pick myself up and keep pushing every single time.
This semester, I got tired of it. I got tired of merely surviving. Tired of waking up every day, only looking forwards to going back to sleep that night. I wanted to be the same girl I was in high school: motivated, friendly, and happy. And I know I’m not going to find her overnight. But I’m trying. I’m searching everywhere. And in searching, I discovered something about that girl. While I was pushing the academic glass boulder up the hill, I let her fall. And she shattered. And then I learned another lesson:
Just because you let something break, doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. I find shards of her everywhere: when I decide to wear something other than leggings and a too-big t-shirt, I find a piece of her pride in how she used to look. When I talk to someone new, a piece of her glistens in the sun, the piece that used to be bubbly and charismatic. I keep finding splinters of who I used to be, and collecting them, in hopes that after some more soul-searching and fruity-water drinking, I will complete her. And I will be back.
My life is worth more than chemistry. It’s worth more than a scale of 1-4, more than an internship, more than bruised pools of sleeplessness under my eyes and the same soggy chicken sandwich from the shop near the building I work at. I need to start living for myself again, and here I am.
Today I got my very last sign up-time for classes. I graduate in December. When I logged on, and saw “Allison Morgan, U4”, meaning that I was a graduating senior next semester, I almost cried. The tears that welled up in my eyes were purely that of pride. The things I had battled, the monsters inside of me that had clawed me and scratched me and burned me, hadn’t won the war. I had. I can finally see the end, the bright sun and the trees and the sweet smell of freedom.
College might be the best years of some people’s life, but it wasn’t of mine. The best is yet to come, and I can see that now. I’m so proud of me for making it this far.
And that shattered girl that I let down? She’s proud of me too. I can tell because I can feel her inside of me for the first time in a long time.