What A DUI Taught Me

What A DUI Taught Me

What happens when you wake up upside down dripping blood? What happens when the only person at fault was you? What happens when your entire life comes crashing down?

I was your typical pre-med student at the University of Pittsburgh. People looked up to me, and praised me for my hard work. I was up every single weekday at 7am, and went to bed at 4am after working in a hospital. I did what I needed to do just to get right where I wanted to be academically, financially, and in life. I never thought one mistake could take that all away from me.

Last July 4th I thought I was okay to get behind a wheel after a family party. I was not. I lost control of my new car and rolled more than 3 times. My BAC was 0.162, and as a level 1 trauma (the most severe) I was hospitalized. I couldn’t subtract 7 from 15, and I couldn’t walk for a few days, but I was alive.

The first thought I had after I became conscious was: “What just happened, is there another car?” After crawling out the back window, I searched around in what seemed like a pitch black field for another car, for another person who was harmed by me. Once I found no indication of anyone else, I did what any pre-med student would do: I frantically searched for my brand new, clearly expensive (thanks college) Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. Don’t ask me why. Eventually a car came by, and thankfully those people from high school recognized me and called for help.

The hardest thing to do in this world is to look your family in the eyes while in a hospital bed plugged in to a million things and admit “I am sorry.” I couldn’t do it. I balled my eyes out. I let them down. I let my school down. I let every single person in my life down. I let my morals and ethics fly away, and I let my dreams go up in flames. Years and years of hard work to get to the point in my life where I was happy was thrown down the drain. My medical school application I was working on? GONE. The routine hours spent volunteering? GONE.

It doesn’t matter what my GPA was, or how well I did on my MCATs. It doesn’t matter if I never missed a day of school since Kindergarten, or that I spent routine hours volunteering in the nearby hospital’s surgical/trauma ICU. It doesn’t matter if I always put my seatbelt on before I started my car and drove. I got behind a wheel of a car after drinking, and I had to face the consequences. It doesn’t matter what kind of person I am, I have to face the embarrassment and shame of it all.

What is embarrassing? Being a pre-medicine student, only a few hops away from being a medical student and making one of the dumbest decisions any one could possibly make in their life. What is shameful? The fact that over and over again the saying “Don’t drink and drive” is pounded into your brain from such an early age, and I made that mistake that could have taken away a life (or a few) from this world. I told myself I would never drink and drive… but here I am.

The main thing that pains me every time I think about the accident is that I was fortunate enough to have only harmed myself. I could have killed someone. I could have killed an innocent family traveling safely and soberly home on the holiday. It was as if I got behind the wheel and never thought about who I could have harmed, or whose life I could have turned upside down on both ends.

If you think you are okay to get behind a wheel? YOU ARE WRONG. Just when you finally think you have everything in your college career and life figured out, you will ruin it.

So here is what I learned: Think before you do. I could be on my way to medical school right now, but instead I am forced to take a few years off. 10 months later, and I am still dealing with legal issues, and they don’t seem to be getting resolved any time soon.

I have spent hundreds of hours crying the past few months, because I was stupid. I threw away everything I worked so hard to achieve, and now I am set back a few years. I can’t think about the accident and DUI, without my eyes flooding with tears, and when someone asks me if I learned my lesson, I fight back the tears and think: “God only knows.”

So my advice to you? Don’t drink and drive. Don’t risk your life or your future. Don’t you dare risk the life of anyone else. You are not invincible. Ask yourself what your family would do if they had a knock on their door with a message that you had one two many drinks before getting behind a wheel and dying? What would you do if you woke up and find out you killed a mother and her child because you got behind that wheel after drinking? Seriously, what would you do?

I got behind a wheel after drinking, and I could have easily hurt or killed someone. I deserve the embarrassment. I deserve the shame. I deserve every single consequence the state legally wants to throw my way, and I more than deserve every medical school denying me the privilege of trust after this. I may have only made one big mistake in my life, but I have to live with it and become a wiser person with each passing day. I have to learn to be patient and never give up on my dreams in the meantime.

I have no one to blame, but me. So take it as you will. If you want to destroy your future, you go for it, but whatever you do, don't you dare put the life of a family member, friend, or complete stranger in danger. Please listen to me, it will never be worth getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

Cover Image Credit: Christopher Dixon

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Why Major-Shaming Needs To Be Killed and Buried

Major-shaming is judging someone for their choice of degree--usually directed towards degrees that have a stigma for not being very lucrative.

Major-shaming is the act of judging someone silently or otherwise based on their choice of degree in higher education. Usually, major-shaming is directed towards those degrees that society assumes are useless. This assumption comes from a misconception that certain majors--usually in the arts or the humanities--aren't lucrative career options, and those pursuing them are simply wasting their time and money. Major-shaming is that moment of awkward silence after I nonchalantly make conversation with a customer at my job by saying that I attend the university that's a very short walk away from the store. "Oh, what do you study?", the well-put-together looking brunette asked. "English", I replied simply with a involuntary customer service smile. English is just the long story short version. My choice usually seems a little bit more practical when I include the double minor in writing (literary writing) and Shakespearean and Renaissance literature. This brief moment of judgement has been something I've felt my whole life. Any degree in the arts, social studies, literature, etc.; subjects that are all perfectly respected within the realm of the k-12 school system, are the subject of derision in society when it comes to higher education. Maybe not overt derision, but that's always what's hiding behind the polite smile of the professional woman getting her green smoothie, or any other adult authority figure that thinks college is just for spending 4 years to make as much money as possible.

Take this helpful meme that details the life of an English major. Pay careful attention to the "parents". "society". and "other majors" sections. This is an accurate depiction of the stigma I previously mentioned, the parents (representing the baby boomer, gen y, older figures that primarily make up society) think that the English major makes no money and likely also feels that a degree in English is a waste of their funds. Of course, this is an example of privilege as not everybody's parents can or do pay their way for college; if I could raise my hand at the moment I would, because I'm that liberal arts English major whose parents are not a middle class couple complaining about the way tuition is being spent. Surprisingly, when one is a first generation student and comes from a lower-income family, parents are more supportive of an unconventional major. My parents were simply impressed, and my grandfather told me that he's excited to possibly see me on CNN one day.
Are they naïve? That would be the case if you think that having an excess amount of money is the goal of college. "Society" seems to in the meme's example, as the example is of a homeless man. A bit offensive and out of touch, but it's a meme not a Teen Vogue article, so I don't actually expect a high amount of "woke". According to Forbes, the number one highest earning college major is Petroleum Engineering and the lowest is Early Childhood Education. Most of the high earning majors list consisted of various types of engineering, and several entries on the lowest list were similar to the lowest earning in that they were different types of teaching jobs. The question that came to me after reading Forbes' listicle/slideshow was: somebody's gotta do it, right? When discussing the financial gain projected from college majors, the stigma that less money=useless inevitably follows and that is where society fails to understand the true meaning of a career. A job is work that you do in order to make money; a career is continuously doing something you love and turning your passion into profit. The dictionary definition of a career is similar to my own as it refers to a career as a "personal calling". College is not about finding a job. You can do that anywhere. College is about finding and preparing for your career. The traditional way that college has been approached is about finding, but in the modern age more college students come from lower-income families and those students are often more practical in that they focus on preparing themselves for the career that they've already planned.

Those who have had to struggle more in life know that if they're going to college at all they have to have a plan, and the reality that most adults won't tell you is that the humanities degrees that are often dismissed as useless are marketable. Forbes says that 51% of those with a degree in English literature feel underemployed, but the truth of your major is that you are not only studying literature, and learning how to analyze texts. As an English major, you have an asset that most job seeking young adults do not: you know how to write, and you know how to write well. Communication is highly valuable in any workplace and there are plenty of jobs for English majors that aren't "teacher"--not that there's anything wrong with teaching, but English majors are often pigeonholed into this profession along with the stigma that it isn't a major that can lead to careers where you really use your degree.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a journalist, but as I got older my dream became published author. It still is truly, and that was how I marked myself to my liberal arts university. I applied early and in my personal statement I stated my dream and that my goal in attending Oglethorpe was to hone my skills as a writer and someday live my dream of being published. Oglethorpe was the perfect place for me for several reasons: they give hella scholarships even though they're a private university, the environment is very welcoming, campus is gorgeous, the unique liberal arts form of education doesn't force me to take the general education math and science courses that public universities would. Ogle's core program is writing intensive and allows me to take courses that help me focus on my major from the start of freshman year.

Math and science is constantly advertised as what you should pursue to make money. Money is seen as the end, the means don't altogether matter, but if you ask society they better be practical. Ever since the third grade math has been my worst school subject. I don't dislike it now, but I've always enjoyed it best when I actually understood things--and I do accurately enough understand math, ask my SAT scores, but wait for senior year of college for me to actually study it again (math core is required, but definitely not as intense as actual math. I call it 'English major math', purely ironically). In my junior year of high school, I felt most confident in my math skills. This sense of sureness in my math knowledge only occurred because I had the best teacher. She made math fun and accessible to everyone and even held math tutoring sessions for the SAT on Saturdays (with OJ and donuts!). Nancy was great, still is, but one day in class we weren't doing much and she ended up discussing the best ways to pursue higher education. She stressed math, science, and --big surprise-- engineering. I was probably the only one perturbed by this, because we are brainwashed from a young age to believe that money is the end and the means shouldn't be important.
As I mentioned, you CAN make money as an English major. Forbes suggests careers in communications (pretty much public relations), various types of editors, senior writers, technical writers, content strategists, and other forms of digital communication as career options for English majors (and those who major in other humanities degrees) that earn $70,000-$90,000 a year. I myself have (hopefully not pipe) dreams of being a high ranking editor at a publishing company, and plan to work at a publishing house after graduation. The focus on communication is why a lot of college students (and personal friends, shout out) double major in English and Communications or minor in communications or technical writing. I wondered before if my degree would be better suited with a communications minor, or a focus in technical writing rather than literary, but my academic advisor--a lovely Ogle professor--told me that the specific focus doesn't matter so much, because you have the skills that a company would need regardless of specific focus.

Digital work is one of the best sources of work for English majors, and odyssey is a clear example. Writing for odyssey has begun my online presence as a professional writer and gotten me almost 150 linkedin connections. The platform serves as a valuable way to start your online presence, and practice your skills in preparation for earning money writing articles for online magazines and platforms like Bustle. There are other platforms you could utilize for this purpose as well, such as Medium. However, my greatest resource in finding out just how lucrative my major could be is Dear English Major--an online blog that interviews English majors about their education history, first job after graduation that's related to their major, and their current job. This site sheds a great light on exactly where and how English majors find work, and gives great inspiration to undergrads like me.

No one will receive inspiration and become motivated to gain a degree in something they love, if society constantly demeans majors in the humanities. End major shaming. It's archaic, and just another way for older adults to trash talk millennials as lazy and not hard-working. In the digital age hire a "grammar Nazi". Learn how to market your degree. Own it. Be the alumni that interviewed me during a scholarship competition for Ogle that majored in Philosophy and got employed by Google, because of his ability to communicate. Be that guy. But most importantly, be who you are and say no to pigeonholing.

Cover Image Credit: glozine.com

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College Is A Privilege

Getting the most out of your college experience matters. Here's how you can turn your learning experience around completely.

College is a privilege. It is something that most people have a hard time affording, and it is something that many people would be grateful to experience. By sitting in class and soaking in all the knowledge you can, you are expanding an education that many people don’t have.

However, in college, sometimes you see people who don’t care as much or aren't as grateful for their education. They sit on their phones and play on their laptops while the teacher may drone on about some boring subject. Trust me, I’ve been there before, I know sometimes college can be boring and can practically suck the life out of you. I used to be one of the students that would text in class and I would even whisper to my friends.

That was the old me. Now, I understand that the people who do these things are being completely disrespectful to their professors or teachers. You paid to be in school. You pay your teacher’s salary. By paying for these things, most would assume that you want to be in the class, but when you don’t focus, you give off the body language of not wanting to be there.

The unfortunate thing about sitting on your phone or not giving full attention to the teacher, is that you are wasting your own money. You are also giving up an opportunity to expand your knowledge and get something out of a class.

I was lucky to have shifted my body language when I did. I learn every day, even when it seems boring. I reach out and take the opportunities that are given to me every day. I pay attention and respond, even if I may be wrong. I take the time to do my homework and really understand it. I sit in my classes and I stay there until the professor is done talking and dismisses the class, even though everyone around me packs their bags and stands. I try to make connections with my professors and I ask them questions frequently. By doing this, I get the most out of the education I pay for, and learn so many things every day.

This change that I made to my education and learning style was the best change that I could have made. I am getting my money’s worth and I know that I can appreciate my professors, the knowledge I gain and the connections I make.

Being in college is really a chance of a lifetime, so take the opportunity and shift your body language to one of learning. Participate, engage and learn, then maybe you will get something out of your classes and out of college in general.

Maybe you will have a better experience.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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