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I’m tired. I’m worn down. I’m like that shirt that you loved so you wore it every week for four years because it was soft and durable, but then it started to get those little fuzzies that mean the end is near. I’ve been giving all of myself to college for the last three years. And before that, I gave all of myself to high school. And color guard. And band and tennis and literary magazine. I’m exhausted. I’m your favorite pencil that you always made stellar test grades with, that is now nothing more than a nub.

I have 14 days, 16 hours, and 17 minutes until summer vacation. I have 239 days, 18 hours, and 42 minutes until I graduate. I have 239 days, 18 hours, and 43 minutes until I can close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and know that I made it. It’s been an uphill battle and I know the war isn’t over.

What waits for me at the end of this war? I don’t know. I don’t particularly like my major. I don’t have anyone in my family who works in a job that’ll help me. I wonder if I’ll ever stop having dreams like I did last night, about being back at UCSB, and wishing I could start over. I wonder if five years from now I’ll wake up and wish that I hadn’t listened to everyone and done a major that made me happy, rather than one that *might* make me more money.

I’ve always felt like I was such an awkward mix of talents. I was smart, no doubt. I can do math incredibly well and I understand chemistry like it’s second nature. But I was also athletic. I could dance and play tennis. I was also artistic. I could write laps around pretty much everyone in my high school, play the bassoon pretty darn well, and my voice isn’t half bad.

So why is it that I “chose” to pursue the intelligent, STEM side of me? If you asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I have a pretty solid answer for you: I want to write. If you asked me what skill that I possess that I am proudest of, I would tell you all about my color guard days. If you asked me what I feel like I’ve put the most effort into in my life, I would reminisce about hours and hours and days and months and years spent on the tennis courts. If you asked me my passion, it would be the ocean, and the feeling when I write a beautiful metaphor that I have to read over and over again, astonished that the words came from my own brain. Why is it that all the parts of myself that I love most have nothing to do with how smart I am?

Maybe it’s because I was raised in an environment where “artistic” was a bad word. Maybe it’s because being intelligent was the end-all, be-all. Anything other than science was for people lesser than me. I was taught to believe that people that weren’t good at science and math were stupid, and lazy, and didn’t try hard enough. I was taught that writing was a hobby, and that chemistry was forever.

But now here I am, twenty-one years old, and completely unsure of my future, save one thing. I hate chemistry with a passion. It’s taken so much from me: my happiness, my will to live, my health.

I remember being told that “I wish I had written that book”. I remember sad eyes saying “follow your dreams”.

Why don’t we follow our dreams? Why am I, at 21, doomed to a life of lab work, counting down the minutes until I get to leave, and being too tired to do what I actually love?

I wish someone had told me to follow my dreams and actually meant it, not just “follow your dreams as long as they involve science or math.”