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Why did I believe I wasn’t smart enough for a Bachelor of Science degree? It was one of the many thoughts my mind sifted through as I was decluttering papers from my safe.
Similar to other areas that attract messiness when tucked away, my safe was full of paper clutter like old bills, statements from credit cards I didn’t have anymore, and insurance I no longer use. I gradually combed through each manila folder and added more useless paper to the shred pile.
Eventually, I stumbled across an old progress report and an unofficial transcript from high school. This was my proof that I was an average student; mostly B’s with a dash of A’s and C’s. Considering how little effort I put in school, it is a surprise that I managed average success.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered – why did I think I wasn’t smart enough for a Bachelor of Science degree?
It’s hard to lay blame on any one reason. It could have been that I hung out with average students. Perhaps, it’s what I strived for after moving so much. Average was a whole lot better than “the new girl”. Whatever the reason, I identified myself as – average. Normal. Typical.
Either way, when my science teacher suggested I look into a Bachelor of Science degree, I was quick to respond, “I’m not smart enough for that.”
I hope it was said half-heartedly, but it probably wasn’t. Ironically, I didn’t feel smart enough to handle the rigors of a science degree. Yet, at seventeen, I felt hardy enough to enlist in the military.
A DARING CHANGE
When I enlisted, I knew that whenever I finished my contract, be it four years or twenty, I was going to get a college degree because I had signed the paperwork for the GI Bill and paid my dues.
The confining structure of military life and less than ideal supervisors were reasons for my short four-year contract. Or at least, that is what I remember fourteen years later.
Getting out of the military and going straight into the workforce was similar to how I felt about getting out and joining the circus. I didn’t have the skills, let alone an idea of what I would be good at, let alone enjoy. College felt like the kinder, gentler version of figuring out happy ever after.
After years of working in a field that brought very little joy, I knew that I wanted to work somewhere fun and meaningful. This slow, persistent realization lead me to agreeing to a science degree. I had to dig deep and rally myself for the academic rigors; if I could survive the Navy, deployments, and two wars, I should have enough fortitude for a science degree.
A SCIENTIFIC REBELLION
I visited a few universities in Wisconsin and settled on the one that felt right, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. It had a small, warm campus, plenty of fun courses, and, most importantly, a giant library. Sure, the library looked like a prison, but it had more books than I had seen in a long time.
It felt like home.
During my orientation when I was confirming my major, I changed it from pharmacological to natural resources. This quick degree change was unusual since I tend to plow through big decisions with copious amounts of time and at least one pros versus cons list. However, this felt right like a warm embrace of my future. Plus, I would be taking a bunch of classes about plants and animals? How could I go wrong?
A DEGREE IN DEFIANCE
The first semester was the hardest. Probably because I doubted myself constantly. Finding success in the Navy was easy. I did what people told me to do. In college, I had to develop my own idea of success, and worse, I had to figure out a plan and stick to it. No supervisors to update or comrades to commiserate with, just one girl trying to figure if she was doing it “right.”
Thankfully, I was, and continue to be, stubborn. Even when it’s hard and there are tears. After a while, the struggle got easier and the expectations became obvious. I continued to struggle with other parts of the college experience but overall I felt like I was accomplishing the right things. At least my grades were better than average.
It would take four and a half years but I achieved my Bachelor of Science degree. My endorphins and ego got an extra kick in the pants of happiness when I was nominated by my professors for the Chancellor’s Leadership Award.
As I reflect on the tides of time, I realize just how far I have traveled and how much I have accomplished from the girl who didn’t think she could do a bachelor of science.