Have you ever heard song lyrics so true you felt like the artist stole them from your soul? I feel this when I hear Taylor Swift’s “Nothing New.” The lyrics, “How can a person know everything at 18 / and nothing at 22?” an anthem for my college career.
As I begin my senior year, I feel far more disorganized and confused than I did freshman year. At the time, I thought I had it ALL figured out. I made class schedules for each semester of my four years as if I had a clue as to what reality would have in store. I was pre-med, studying molecular and cellular biology and public health, or other majors I thought I enjoyed simply because I was good at them.
In high school, I was so focused on what was next — getting into a good college — that I told myself I actually liked the subjects I was good at. It was my attempt to stick to what came easy for me to protect my fragile ego from shattering at the slightest mishap: a B on a test, a simple rejection. What I did not know then was that nothing would protect me from rejection. Nothing would protect me from failure.
Throughout the years, I switched majors until I found a combination that fit. Ironically, it took a mental breakdown my sophomore year to gain this clarity. If I could only focus on what I enjoyed, irrespective of the losses that might come with it, what would that be?
I decided on two majors: Psychology and Medicine, Science and the Humanities, both of which I have stuck with.
Psychology allowed me to explore the world through the scientific method, which had particularly interested me as a pre-med student. It also allowed me to learn about the more humanistic side to healing the self and provided me the opportunity to still work in a clinical setting, working directly with patients.
My major in Medicine, Science and the Humanities allowed me to use the science credits I had accumulated throughout my pre-med years and gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for writing, specifically poetry.
Through my numerous poetry workshops, I have met some amazing people and read some amazing poets that have challenged my perspective of the world and of myself in relation to the world.
Poetry has taught me to maintain a certain distance from my experiences and emotions, enough distance to put it to paper and gain a deeper, nonjudgmental understanding of myself and the world. Poetry allowed me to apply the ideas of accepting, processing and challenging difficult emotions and experiences that I had learned in psychology to really heal, or at least begin healing.
As a senior, I have struggled separating the two: psychology and poetry. It feels like I have to choose only one passion to pursue through further education. I could either get an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and dedicate two to three years to my craft, or I could receive an M.A. or M.S. in Clinical Psychology or Counseling to become a licensed therapist.
The child in me is stubborn, hellbent on giving a good fight to anyone who asks me to choose. I do not want to choose. Unfortunately, I will have to soon. Soon enough that the thought completely terrifies me.
So, against the advice of others, I am applying to graduate programs in both Creative Writing and Psychology. This means double the essays, double the application fees and double the odds of rejection. And while all of these things make my stomach coil and want to cave, I owe it to myself to pursue my passions.
I wrote this poem on a day when I felt I was disappointing everyone in my life, especially myself, with the career plans (or lack thereof) I had chosen for myself. As a warning, this poem tackles depression and imposter syndrome veiled behind biology-related humor. Please do what you need to take care of yourselves.
Not long ago I vowed to never kill
a bee. I eye one slurping from the giant
onion’s fuchsia blossoms. After a week
of jangle and bang, I agree on a break: a day. Here,
in the garden, androgynous teens share frenzied tongues
below the low-hanging cherry tree and what’s it like to be a bee—
to buzz with anticipation at the day’s work, to know
your place on this earth? My parents swore
they wouldn’t have sent me here had they
known I wouldn’t become a doctor, had
they known my path would deviate
from the pride and accolades that came
from mitotic knowledge: the division of selves
which led to my nearly apoptotic depression. I wouldn’t
say I’m happy, or even content, in the mind’s hive.
Yet, devoid of congenital expectation, in a field
of my own making, I feel it coming—
Honey. Sweet, sweet honey.
In truth, a small part of me hoped writing this article would bring me some clarity, or perhaps an inkling of which path to choose. But that’s not what art is. That’s not the purpose of art. I cannot write about not knowing what I’m doing and expect myself to figure out what I’m doing simply because I’m writing about it.
I don’t know what I’m doing. And maybe I won’t know for sure until I receive those acceptance and rejection letters in the mail. Maybe even then I won’t know. But that’s okay. I am learning that that’s okay.
I am doing the only thing I can — pursuing what I love and living in the present. I am exploring my options, my passions. I am allowing myself to be me, completely curious and unencumbered — a renegade bee, if you will.
Christian Paulisich is a senior from San Leandro, Calif. studying Medicine, Science and the Humanities and Psychology.