As I mentioned before, I’m a decent student; I get good grades and studying comes very naturally to me. I was a couple of semesters into my new program and people in authority – like professors – would say things to me like: “Brenda, you’re so smart, you should major in medicine or law or something”. I was so confused, because as a young mother just trying to do the best I could for my family, I had no idea what was the “right” thing to do. So, I listened to their suggestions, began taking classes in biology, made friends in that department, got a job in the lab, etc. It was great, very interesting, and the ‘good student’ in me loved learning new things. Especially when I was doing a lot of research with cells and neurons and things like that.
It was definitely not as natural for me to learn that information, especially things like chemistry or biochemistry, and it was the first time ever that I was truly challenged and had to push extra hard to do adequately in a class. I would spend hours studying, more than usual, and not for the fun of it, like when I was younger! NO!! This time it was because I had no choice, but to study and try as hard as I could to get that information into my brain.
So…..in my mind I thought, “OK, this is what I am supposed to be doing because it’s hard, and college is supposed to be hard”. I did it because I thought that it was always supposed to be hard. I was unaware that my natural talent was in other subjects, and no one told me to focus on what I was good at and what came naturally.
They just saw my natural ability to learn and study well, and translated that to mean that I was destined to be a doctor or a lawyer. It didn’t occur to them or me that what I should be focused on during that time was what I was good at. I couldn’t just focus on what was interesting to me – because if you had asked me if biology or chemistry class was interesting, I would have said YES ABSOLUTELY!! Because they were, they fascinated me, but it wasn’t a natural learning that occurred with them. So, then people would say – that’s what you should major in, and they aren’t wrong, but…..in reality the questions they should have asked me was:
“What is it that you have always done well”?
“What is it that feels like it’s just second nature to you?”
“What did you pretend to play when you were young?”
See, if they had asked those questions, they may have helped me see my natural tendencies toward education and my inquisitive nature about how the brain works.
Instead, I changed my major and fought through chemistry and biology classes, and decided that research was the best place to use my inquisitive mind. And I really liked working in the lab, and was curious about so many things that had to do with cells and neurons and how they work within the body. So I began applying to Medical PhD programs because I knew I wanted to do research more than anything else in that major I had chosen. Like I said, it was a long time ago, and I didn’t know any better.
And so, I want to say that is how I ended up where I am today. I went through and followed somebody else’s suggestion on what I should do. You know, I got two degrees. I did what I needed to do and when it was all said and done……I still didn’t love that occupation.
At this time I chose to stop and look at the silver lining of everything; what I learned was that I am naturally talented at learning and the human brain is a huge fascination to me. I learned that I am also naturally good at teaching, and that I enjoy working one on one with folks to help them find their own niche and learning style.
So basically, this has all been a huge lesson showing me that we all have to be stewards of our own plan, we can listen to advice but ultimately we have to focus on what our natural abilities actually are. We need to play our own plan, even if we don’t know what we should do; we can talk to others, but ultimately allowing ourselves to own our strengths is the key.