Why did I believe I wasn’t smart enough for a Bachelor of Science degree? It was a brief thought my mind sifted through as I decluttered papers from a safe.
Similar to other areas that attract messiness when tucked away, my safe was full of 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 any 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. It’s what I strived for after moving so much. Average was better than the new girl look I carried around.
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 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 at four years or twenty, I was going to get a college degree. I signed the paperwork for the GI Bill and paid my dues.
After a less than enthusiastic experience with military structure and unpleasant supervisors, I decided to cut my military career to four-years. Or at least, that is what is dredge up fourteen years later.
Getting out and going straight into the workforce was similar to how I felt about joining the circus. I didn’t have the skills, let alone an idea of what I would be good at or more importantly enjoy. College felt like the kinder, gentler version of figuring out happy ever after.
After years of working in a field that brought 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. Right?
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, fun courses, and 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 as I was about to confirm 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 a 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 and doubting myself constantly did little to help my nontraditional college student look. Navy success was easy, all I had to do was what people said. They used simple words and occasionally a drawing.
In college, I had to develop my own idea of success, and worse, I had to make a plan and stick to it. No supervisors to update or comrades to complain with, just one girl trying to figure if she was doing it right.
Stubbornness to use my GI Bill saved the day!
After a while, the struggle got easier and the expectations became obvious. I continued to war with other parts of the college experience but I felt like I was accomplishing the right things. At least my grades were better than average. It only took copious amounts of studying, tutors, and less than ideal snack choices.
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 when I was nominated by my professors for the Chancellor’s Leadership Award.
As I reflect on how far I have traveled, how much I have learned, and how much ice cream I have consumed, I don’t even recognize the girl who didn’t think she could do a bachelor of science.
Is this what winning feels like? What is your experience with degrees, high education, and crushing self-confidence?