This year has been quite a mix for me, but then again, I could say that about my past couple of years. However, this year is very special because I learned so much from it! Perhaps this post is overdue, but I think I really need to say what I've learned. Somehow, I have an interesting but relatable story to tell.
I think a good starting point for my story is sophomore year of high school when I had a slight idea of who I wanted to become in life and why I wanted to do so. This was good because it gave me a sense of direction.
However, that sense of direction didn't last very long. It was only there until I had really become a part of the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS). For those of you who might not know, TAMS is a school for high schoolers who are chosen to be part of a special graduating class within the entire state of Texas. The idea is that you gain college credits while completing your junior and senior year of high school, ultimately giving you a boost in your college career.
Jumping into TAMS
Now trust me, when I interviewed for TAMS, I kind of knew who I was. I obviously had to make my case in the interviews. I recall vividly that I answered that I wanted to become a biomedical engineer, and I admired both math and science. Both of which were true before I began my time at TAMS.
Larger Classes and Smarter Peers
I've always answered questions and asked questions. If there was one word that people used to describe me prior to TAMS, it was "bold". That was not the case at TAMS, and it has never been the same since. I was in a class surrounded by some 200 people, with some being some of the smartest in the entire state. It only made sense for me to carefully craft every response and question to avoid looking like an "idiot." I resolved the problem of looking like an "idiot" by being extremely careful. I would be "careful" by simply not asking or answering any questions. Somehow the fear of being around so many bright and capable people had me overshadowed by some overpowered (OP) peers made me smaller as a person. Let me tell you that this is not good - it's called a lack of confidence. I loved to share my thoughts and offer feedback, which people often appreciate, but that was something I lost. When you really want to change how things happen, then it isn't good sit quietly on the sidelines. There were many times I wanted to SCREAM that something was wrong and I could fix it, but I never did, I always sat and observed because the next guy was somehow better than myself, right?
A Different Kind of Talent
In my previous high school I would hangout after-school for a while, go home and come back the day after. At TAMS, I was always around my peers. Up until then, I've managed to keep two things distinct in my life, one is the "friend" life and the other is my personnel at home. Somehow these two personalties complement each other. One gives me a voice and the other gives me a time to reflect, but staying in one of these personalities for too long is always detrimental. In the"friend"shade , I was constantly learning new things and meeting new people, but it began to dawn upon me that I wasn't as good as my peers in anything I did. Whether it was talking to a lot of people, winning competitions or being the brightest academically, I was always somewhat behind. Huh. I really wanted to fit in, but I can't because I guess I'm not good anything. I could never runaway from the feeling because it was with me 24/7. I ate, slept and stayed at this academy my entire time. It always haunted me knowing that I'll never be as good as my peers, much less to truly fit in with them. So I began to search for what I was good at.What am I good at?
The Failure to Find
One thing that was never clear was the big picture, people went in to TAMS with some large goals (i.e. get into Stanford, be a doctor, etc.) Here I was dilly-dallying, trying to find the right balance between what I like to do and trying new things. I took up research, reached out to the innovation greenhouse at UNT and began to structure an outline for a now deprecated club, BUILD. Now imagine spending an entire year to do this. One where you're trying to figure it all out, but your peers already have it figured out.They have been doing research for multiple years and they win nearly everything they are a part of. So I thought the key was to take part in a bunch of competitions - winning medals are going to make feel more accomplished right? Haha,boy was I wrong. As I had said, people were always better than myself at what they did. In any case,one thing was for sure at that point, I was lost. It was the end of junior year, and I lost my sense of direction. I assured myself that I knew where I was going, but I never had the slightest idea of the big picture.
Senior Year and the Spiral Downwards
In recap, these were my thoughts at this point of life: I don't know what I am capable of, I have no idea who I am, and I don't know where I'm going in life. What I liked didn't matter anymore because during senior year it was just a matter of getting into that "perfect" college right now. I had "wasted" my entire junior year trying to find the right balance and doing things I liked; that's why senior year hit me like a bullet. Was it because I procrastinated on my college apps? Actually, no it wasn't. What hit me harder was that I didn't realize that the essence of these 200 word essays really questioned who I am. Oh shit! I don't know the right answers.
To Be Continued