My first semester at MIT was awesome - I was very motivated and got all A's, despite everything being pass/no record. I even got an A+ in differential equations. My second semester went pretty well, too, but I struggled very much in organic chemistry and ended up with a B. This was my first B ever, and though I was disappointed, I shook it off and tried to stay positive. I declared math as my major. I'm not even sure why I took organic chemistry, since I was interested in math.
My parents were pressuring me to be a premed and become a doctor (like them) so I guess I was trying to appease them. But at the same time, I was desperately running away from them and their emotional abuse. I was very conflicted and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had always excelled in math and so I chose to pursue that. I didn't know it at the time, but my very sense of self-worth was based on the fact that I was good at math.
My third semester, I took 18.700 (Linear Algebra). I had never done higher-level math based on proofs before, and I ended up with a D. I didn't do that well in my other classes, either. I started skipping classes more and more, sleeping more and more. It seemed like all my friends were doing so well, getting all these internships and opportunities over the summers, while my parents made me fly home and stay with them every summer. The next semester I got 2 F's .
My fifth semester, I realized that I was awful at higher-level math and so I switched my major to computer science. I had lost all confidence in myself. I attended a few classes at the beginning of the semester, but after the first midterms, I completely stopped. My only relief was the dance team I was on. I would sleep all day, muster up the courage to get out of bed and go to dance practice, pretend everything was okay at dinner with my friends, and then go back to sleep. As expected, I failed all of my classes and had to withdraw from MIT.
Sinced I was forced to withdraw, I had no choice but to tell my parents. Over winter break, I told them I didn't want to go back. My dad asked to see my grades, for the first time ever. I shakingly emailed him my transcript, then went to my room and hid behind my bed, prepared for the worst. Instead of yelling or hitting me, though, he just held me and cried. The next day, he took off from work and took me and my mom to a nearby, small liberal arts college (my older brother went there). We went to the admissions office and they literally *begged* them to help me. I felt completely numb.
Somehow, I was conditionally accepted, and I just had to do well my first semester. I took very basic classes on things I had mastered in high school. But I was burnt out, and I had lost all confidence in myself. Before my first biology test, I remember telling my mom I didn't think I could pass. I did pass, with flying colors. But I also fucked up. In my writing class, I could not complete a project on time, and I stopped showing up to class again. I finally talked to the professor, and he gave me an incomplete. The admissions office was not happy, and they told me this was my final chance. If I didn't shape up the next semester, they were kicking me out. They only let me take 5 credit hours.
I was angry at myself, and at them, but the low credit limit was actually a blessing in disguise. Since I had so much free time, I decided to join a biology lab with my professor from the first semester. And I LOVED it. I started doing research ~35 hours a week, and I realized - this is what I want to do! I want to be a scientist! I finally had a goal, and internal motivation, and I decided I would do my absolute best to make it come true. I kept working, day by day, on both school and research. It was hard, and it was humbling. My parents and I had a lot of emotions and anger to deal with. Through sheer determination, I made it.
This past May, I graduated with highest honors, and now I am fortunate enough to have started my PhD in neurobiology.Though it ended up taking me 5 years to graduate from college, I can say now that failing out of MIT was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I realized that a person is NOT their grades. I realized how much my parents love me (and I never could have recovered without their support), and I think we finally understand each other. I finally discovered my passion in life, and now I get to put together my intense curiosity for biology with my love for math!
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