'So, What Are You Going To Do With That?'

'So, What Are You Going To Do With That?'

Saying good-bye to biology & hello to happiness.

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It was a very chilly as I trudged back to my dorm one October evening, my breath materializing before me as cold tears rolled gently off my face and dripped onto the frosted sidewalk. Campbell's Biology in Focus and my introduction to chemistry textbook pull my shoulders down to the ground as I question why I thought it would be a good idea to walk all the way home from Raynor at 2 am on a Tuesday, and my tired eyes start to blink rapidly as I text my now-asleep roommate that I was on my way back.

I had been at the library for nearly 6 hours, pouring over countless pages of notes on the cell cycle and respiration, in an attempt to study for a biology exam a week away.

Yes, that's right. I was there for 6 hours, and the test wasn't for another week, but with biology, if I didn't start hitting the books at least a week before the exam, I would never learn everything I needed to know in time for the exam.

It was on my late-night trek back to my dorm that I came to the realization that I hated every minute of it.

I hated the way the pages in the textbook ripped whenever I turned them too fast, and I hated that I had to listen to the same three classical albums over & over again because I couldn't focus if I didn't. I hated that I hadn't done anything else all day except study for biology and that I now had to rush through an essay tomorrow for a class I loved and wish I could spend more time on. I hated that I never understood anything in lecture, and I hated that I always got the clicker questions wrong despite how much I thought about them or how confident I was in my answer. I hated that despite how much I thought I loved learning about the "science of life", I was constantly checking the clock to see when class got out and I dreaded having to do anything that involved me looking at the textbook after class; I hated how boring and pointless I thought discussions were on Fridays.

I hated being a biology major.

Stunned with this realization, I got back to my dorm and broke into tears almost immediately. I was spending $40,000 a year to study something I absolutely despised, to be unhappy and stressed out all the time and unable to enjoy my college experience.

I had a plan, and I was determined to stick to it: get my degree from Marquette, go to graduate school at Northwestern and pursue my own cancer research, and then carry on with it into the rest of my life; I thought I would "change the world" in this way and in this way only.

I only had this plan because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I thought that this was the only way I could give purpose to my existence, to make something out of my time here on Earth and do something that could benefit the wholeness of society.

To hell with happiness and purpose, I thought as I looked at myself in the mirror and wiped my mascara-streaked face with Kleenex. Pull yourself together.

Then it hit me.

I loved to write, stitching together simplistic words and phrases to create the fabric of something complex and beautiful; furthermore, I found that I actually enjoyed writing essays for most of my other classes, using such assignments as study breaks and as ways to de-stress from biology and chemistry. I also loved my intro to philosophy class and was considering a minor in philosophy prior to my 2 a.m. an existential crisis.

So, the next day, I stopped by Sensenbrenner, met with my advisor for all of 30 minutes, and began the process of switching from a Biological Sciences major to a double major Writing-Intensive English and Philosophy.

I decided that this was my life, and if I'm going to be spending the next three or so years of it in school, I should be learning about something I love.

Something that I don't mind waking up at 7:30 in the morning for, and something where I don't end up almost crying in the middle of nearly every exam (wish I was kidding about that).

I am in college to change the world by doing something that I love and that makes me happy. I am here to redefine my own purpose for existing, to figure it out what I'm meant to do without the influence of anyone else. I am not here to prove myself to anyone, or to live up to some lofty goal in a field that breaks me down instead of building me up.

I just finished filling out the paperwork to switch a couple of weeks ago, and it honestly one of the best decisions I have made at Marquette so far. I am about 110% happier now than I was at my happiest point last semester, and January has only just ended.

As of right now, I am not exactly sure what I want to do after I graduate. I am very interested in journalism and media/communications but am also enthralled by the idea of law school and philosophical research. I do not have a set "plan", because this time, I don't see a reason for one. I know that whatever lies in front of me is bright and promising because I know that wherever I end up, I know that I will be happy.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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