BOOM!!!CRACK!!!WOOSH!!! As a little girl these simple sounds would drive me into the most sheltered corner of my parent’s room with tears streaming down my face as I shiver from pure fright while my mother would attempt to comfort me while holding back snippets of laughter. Now, why was my mother laughing while her little girl was scared to death? It was probably that ever since I can remember, I would plant myself in front of the television every time my favorite tornado and violent weather TV shows would air.
Yeah, that was me, deathly afraid of thunderstorms, yet I marveled over the magnificent twisters on the TV shows “Stormchasers” and “Storm Stories.” I was caught between reality and fiction. Typical right? The girl whose dreams are bigger than her fears, the girl who dreams for a fairytale ending, although that’s all just in the movies. “Suck it up!” I kept telling myself, “you are never going to be like the storm chasers if you can’t even sit through a tiny storm without crying your eyes out!” I could barely stand to see lightning, crippled over at the sound of thunder, and ended up shivering at the sound of torrential rain and violent wind. Yet, I would be in awe over streaking lightning bolts, crackling thunder, falling in love in the sheer beauty of tornados.
Some are short and fat, others are tall and sleek. The massive, blacker-than-black twisters appear to be nothing more than an ominous thundercloud approaching over the land, but they bear down upon a town like a pro-wrestler would upon that skinny nerd from math class. The slender ones dance, twist, and turn sporadically in their gray and earth-toned bodies wearing skirts of a transparent black. How this amazingly murderous force of nature is able to draw such love and admiration from a five-foot girl who couldn’t stand a small thunderstorm? Well, that’s a mystery.
My love for violent weather events began when I was little, but my passion jumpstarted when I saw one “Stormchasers” episode in particular that compelled my heart and soul towards storm chasing. I sat mesmerized as I watched the team cease their pursuit of the mile-wide EF4-tornado to aid the recently stricken town and quickly realize that they were by far the first ones on the scene. As they rummaged through the rubble, they heard a man yelling for help. When the team dug him out, they discovered he had a serious neck injury and carefully carried him almost a mile to the nearest accessible road where an ambulance was waiting.
I aspired to be like the people on “Stormchasers,” to risk my life researching the sciences behind the twisters in order to better the warning systems and save the millions of people who live in tornado-prone areas. And in order to fulfill my aspirations and passion, there was one place I needed to be: The Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami.
You know that feeling when you first discover your life’s passion and you do your best to climb those necessary steps you need to get there, then you discover each step seems to become steeper as you climb and eventually you feel obligated and conflicted to see it through all the way to the end?
I applied to the University of Miami early decision, I had excellent recommendations—one of whom was an alumni who went on to discover genetics behind multiple sclerosis and teach at Harvard and Yale. I did interviews with the Dean of the Rosensteil School, I kept constant contact, I kept my grades up—I was deferred—I waited, I kept positive, I had even more recommendations calling the President of UM on my behalf, I heard nothing, my friend was accepted early action—I was waitlisted and accepted for spring semester. So I gave Miami a big FU and then went to Furman University instead.
Just to be clear, I’m not hating on my good ol’ FU, but it did mess up my entire life plan. Instead I began on an Environmental Science major narrowed to Earth’s systems and atmosphere so I could continue to Miami for graduate school.
After a little over a month at Furman of learning, growing, and attempting to discover myself as one is supposed to when they enter college, I began to think, “Is environmental science really the best choice for me? Will it take me in the direction I want to go in?” And in that moment, my mind drifted through my past landing on an indescribable combination of shock and excitement. The neuron—dendrites, cell body, axon, Schwann cell, node of Ranvier, axon terminals—I understood it, the one area in my AP Biology class that instantly anchored itself in the depths of my mind. The body’s control center and billions of its workers, constantly sending and receiving packages of chemical signals.
They say when people leave for college that they come back a new person, that they have changed. They’re wrong. What people become in college is what they have always been. That part of them was just buried and slowly dug up with each passing day until eventually they uncover his or herself. Maybe that’s what really happened to me. Maybe meteorology has always been a part of who I am, but just maybe neuroscience was always there hiding in the shadows of my passions slowly being drawn out like a scared child. My AP Biology class, the enthusiasm of the teacher, my friend’s tales of his time as a neuroscience major, and my excited response to the complaining of my roommate about the brain science in her psychology class all lured my interest in neuroscience to a place of serious consideration.
What should I major in, environmental science or neuroscience? What if I change my major too many times and I don’t have enough credits to graduate in time? What if I fail in neuroscience? What do I do if I can’t handle the amount work neuroscience requires? I have no idea what my future holds for me or how I will handle the challenges. All I know is that I am in the process of discovering who I am and I know not going to the University of Miami will not be the first major speed bump in my life plan.
So what do I think about all of this?
Yes, it’s commonly known that the average college student changes his or her major three ftimes or something. Yes, its true that the life you plan for yourself will definitely not be the life you will end up with. Yes, its probable that I will change my major three times or something. Yes, its probable that my life plan will be shot down and twisted until its unrecognizable again.
No, I will not let the inevitable crush me again, I will stand tall and embrace it because I know it will bring me to the place I belong.