This I Believe

Nicole - Mountaintop, Pennsylvania
Entered on December 14, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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This I Believe: Being True to yourself

During my senior year of high school, a tumultuous time for any young women, my mother gave me a very special Christmas gift: a slender, silver cuff bracelet inscribed with the words, “to thine ownself be true.” I have forever been a bookworm and a bibliophile, and I was particularly fond of the work of Shakespeare; these words are famously from Hamlet. While I wasn’t aware of it then, I have now learned that the only way to live your life is to be true to yourself.

Following the path of every over-achieving high school student, I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed”, spoke at my graduation, and packed my 4.0 GPA-earning self and moved away to college to study to become a doctor. I’d spent most of my life obsessed with the marks of a true nerd: I read constantly, spent time learning about astronomy and astrophysics, and hung posters of Einstein on my wall. The most natural course of action for such a person seemed to be to set out on the unforgiving and relentless path to becoming a doctor—and so I did. I took Organic Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and a host of other courses filled with cut-throat students and words I could barely pronounce—and I was horribly unsuccessful. I couldn’t figure out where the girl with who never got a B disappeared to, and why she was replaced with one who cried out of fear of exams. I spent two very unfulfilled years at school—having more fun on the weekends (and some weeknights!) than I should have, trying to “find myself” and learning things I knew I did not want to learn in an academic world in which I knew I couldn’t succeed

The summer before my Junior year at Penn State, I had an epiphany. In the room of that girl from high school—the one with the Einstein posters and bookshelves overflowing with novels and poetry—I realized I couldn’t spend another year studying Physics or Chemistry—I wanted to be an English major.

I researched and researched—could I still graduate on time if I switched? Would I get a job? Would my parents survive the shock? Was I prepared to make the change? I found that my mind was already made up, and that my heart was already convinced; so I timidly approached my parents and told them of my decision.

And now, nearly finished with my first semester as an English major, I am astonished. I look forward to going to classes, and should be on the Dean’s List this semester. Had I remained on my former path , I would have graduated with a mediocre GPA and the prospect of a life spent in a world I hated. For the first time since I arrived at Penn State, I am confident in my studies and my future. I know what I want to be and I know who I am—because I was true to myself. And I still wear that silver cuff everyday!