The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

Shamelessly Compiled | Have I proven myself to you yet?

Shamelessly Compiled is a bi-weekly blog about navigating identity, indecisiveness, and living life through trial and error.
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Carrington Bryan | Staff Illustrator

At the age of 15, I convinced myself I was destined for a career of lab coats and chemicals. I observed the way people’s eyes lit up when someone told them they were a doctor. The way the words impressive and smart were used in every description of them. The way that they walked into a room with the nonchalance of someone who has never had to defend their career choices. As a devout people-pleasing sophomore who craved academic validation and respect, it seemed like a dream — also, Dr. O’Hara had a nice ring to it. It was like an easy pass to impress adults, teachers and advisors. I was addicted to their nods of approval as “I want to be a pharmacist” rolled off my tongue.

Let me be clear, I did not want to be a pharmacist because I was fascinated with the chemistry of drug relations or craved the knowledge of how Aspirin works. I wanted to be a pharmacist because I thought other people wanted me to be a pharmacist. In my mind, good grades, academic scholarships and AP classes equaled a university degree in STEM. Bad grades, no scholarships and regular classes equaled a degree in communications. I cringed for my friends who told people they were going to study something like writing, fearing their imminent judgment as someone who is “stupid.” I, on the other hand, relished talking about my future goals. My aspirations were enough to prove that I was impressive and smart. 

That is what people may have seen on the outside, but on the inside, I was depressed and burnt out. Once I got to my first year of college as a STEM major, I quickly realized that I never actually enjoyed chemistry or biology. Turns out being good at something is not an automatic indicator of passion. 

I found myself procrastinating my labs, avoiding study sessions and panicking about the thought of five more years of schooling only to end up in a CVS or a Rite Aid. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore, yet I wouldn’t let myself admit it. Because the second I uttered the words “I’m done” would be the second that every ounce of respect and validation I had worked for would be gone. The judgment that I merrily watched my non-STEM peers receive would soon become my own, which made me cringe at myself. 

I continued to cringe when I transferred schools from Duquesne to Pitt. I cringed at myself when I changed my major from chemistry to psychology. When I had to withdraw from organic chemistry. When I changed my major from psychology to communication rhetoric, and then finally to media and professional communications. Not only did it feel like I showed everyone I couldn’t handle pharmacy school, but I was also extremely indecisive. 

I no longer told people my major with pride. I no longer wished that plans after graduation would become a topic of conversation. So, I decided to find things that could be worthy of conversation, things to prove to people I was more than just some “stupid communications major.”

I joined an events planning committee. I got hired as a tour guide. I became the president of a club. I got an internship. I got another internship. I took eighteen credits every semester. I’m still the president of a club. Got another internship. Joined student government. Became a writer (of this blog). Got another internship. 

Have I proven myself to you yet? 

Every semester, my friends and family tell me to slow down, to take a break, but I can’t. To them I am doing too much, but to me, it feels like I am never doing enough. I can’t stop running away from the “dumb communications major” stereotype — no matter how fast I go, it is always right behind me, breathing down my neck. It isn’t until I stop running and I look it in the eyes that I realize all this time it was my own shadow, haunting me like a ghost.

I was never trying to prove myself to my peers, to adults, to you. It was myself I was so eager to please, desperate for the satisfaction that will never come. I was the one who put myself into the box that I kept trying to claw out of as I kept judging myself before anyone else could, diminishing my achievements and good grades to “easy As.”

All of these realizations come rushing towards me once I stop running from the stereotype, and it’s freeing. I will always be my harshest critic, but knowing that I only have one judge rather than a whole panel feels like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I will never be able to please or impress everyone with my major or my resumé. But I don’t need nods of approval for my career aspirations. I don’t need to be the smartest in the room. I don’t need to say yes to everything or compare my own path to that of others.

I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. I need to be proud of what I have done and will continue to do.