As told to: Caity Buechner
Going through high school I was a 4.0 student. I was determined. I had built an identity around that where it felt as though I needed to have perfect grades or I sucked.
I felt that constantly, all the time, striving for perfection. Nothing less was acceptable.
Here at MSU, the first time I got a 3.5, I wept for almost an hour. I had built this whole identity around being a 4.0 student, and then I missed the mark by 0.2%. There goes that. I will never be a 4.0 student again.
Now I am not perfect anymore.
I freaked out. But then I bought myself this ring, it has a little heart on it, just a little $14 ring, silver. I got it for myself to wear every day as a reminder to chill out and know I’m still pretty cool, to love myself no matter what. When I finally got over the challenge of always being perfect, I was able to appreciate my successes.
So now I am graduating in May with a bachelor of science in zoology, and a minor in environmental and sustainability studies.
What I love about zoology is just… I love the idea that I’ll spend my whole life trying to find out more about the world. Your job is to just go at it and discover things, and I love animals, of course. I’m going to go into research, and I’m actually specifically interested in carnivores and how they interact with people and human communities. I’m thinking about Oxford for grad school. This is another big, scary leap. I’m going to do a gap year before that.
I’m worried about funding, of course, but another big, scary worry is whether or not these species are still going to exist by the time I’m done with school. You know? I have built my whole life around wanting to protect wildlife and, especially with this administration, I’m a little worried that it is all going to be gone. There are particular species that I’m trying to get to as fast as I can and help those guys out. I want to help them so badly, and I’m so close to being there! The chance that it could all disappear right before I get there is really frightening. I really don’t want that to happen.
I’m keeping the hope alive. I have to be optimistic. I am excited about all of the cool projects I will get to work on and the people I am going to meet. Already, I am working with this cool lab and the people that I have met are so cool; they do such cool things. I am really excited to be in that community of people and have really intelligent conversations and go out into the field and work with them. I nerd out about the conservation work they do. They work with such cool species, lions and cheetahs and leopards.
For me, it’s not about being perfect anymore. In the long run, I want to point to a population and say without me that probably wouldn’t be there. I have kept this thing safe or I’m helping this community. I definitely want to do this for the rest of my life.
I’m excited to be a scientist.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.