First of All, I'm Not Supposed to Be Here...
The power of self-doubt.
We have all been there. Whether you would like to admit it or not, we all have struggled with something in our life. Now what may seem like a minor struggle to others, to you, this may have been what seemed like the fight of your life. Trust me, I’ve been there. But I have also seen the light. I have seen the sunshine after the rain and the beauty after the pain. When things seemed impossible, God moved mountains to make it possible. Here is how He moved a mountain of mine & the essential lessons that I have learned from it...
In high school, I was an excelling student. I was able to easily obtain all “A’s” and “B’s” without a sweat. My academic schedule mainly consisted of AP classes where at times I was one out of five black students in the class. Additionally, I was actively involved in numerous clubs as well as community service opportunities. Due to my academic success and extracurricular activities, I was awarded multiple college scholarships as well as accepted into every university that I applied for. At that moment, I truly believed that I was the sh*t! And feeling like the queen that I was, I decided to take my talents to thee Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA). Based on my high school experience, I just knew that college would be a breeze!
“Queen of the C’s”
My four years in undergrad was everything BUT a breeze. What I thought would be a replica of my high school academic success turned out to be the exact opposite. During my first semester of undergrad I managed to finish with all “A’s”, “B’s”, and three “C’s”. Not only did I make my first C ever, I made a 2.81 semester GPA. Now this may seem okay to some, but to me, I felt as if this was the end of the world (dramatic, I know). I have never made a C in my life nor have I ever made below a 3.0 GPA. Mind you, I had to maintain a 3.3 GPA in order to keep my academic scholarship. After viewing my final grades and realizing that my scholarship was now in jeopardy, I cried. I cried for a solid hour because this was something that I was not accustomed to. Again, dramatic, I know. But I more-so felt like a failure because this was my first semester in my program and I was already making non-excelling grades; I just knew that the remainder of my academic career would not get any easier (hello self-doubt). And boy was I right.
I managed to secure a 3.18 GPA by the end of my second semester of freshman year. Okay, all good. I still didn't have a cumulative GPA of a 3.3 which was required for my academic scholarship but no worries, because I was making progress. I even got accepted into a prominent research program that included a stipend as well as a partial tuition-waiver in addition to research experience that I would conduct for the remainder of my college career. Things were finally looking up for me and I was back on track! That is, until the end of my sophomore year when I failed a class for the first time ever… General Physics, the devil himself. I thought that I was handling the class quite well but it turns out that I obviously didn't. I still remember to this day of my embarrassing moment of pleading to my physics professor to raise my grade to a C and when she dismissed me, I ran to the bathroom of the second floor in the science building, to cry. Y’all thought I was dramatic with making my first C during freshman year? Tuh. Well you should have seen how I reacted to making my first D on my transcript. How pitiful. I even called my mom to immediately tell her the situation which is something that I have never done before – I like to handle things on my own before I get my parents involved. But I could not hold that in.
As a result of failing my physics course, my GPA plummeted and my academic scholarship was revoked. I still had my research program tuition assistance to fall back on, thank you Jesus. But I felt so discouraged and belittled myself every day about losing my scholarship. For the remainder of my academic career, I continued to make multiple C’s (All Hail Queen of the C’s) and my GPA never regained its academic glory.
I felt as if I did not belong here. Now I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Why didn’t you just change your major?” Although C’s aren’t terrible because C’s get degrees, right?! But for someone who wants a career in the science field, getting C’s and failing a class may not be a good look. You’re right, I definitely could have changed my major to something that I would excel in... But my love for science and conducting research was unmatched. I was that determined to finish strong and obtain my Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Not only that, ya girl wanted to finish this degree within 4 years as well. Although I love my school dearly, XULA was stressful as hell and I was ready to goooooo.
By the time senior year came, I was a complete mess; I was over it. I was tired of continuously making average grades and being in school, period. I constantly stressed myself about my grades and if I would graduate "on-time." I felt as if I was faced with the pressure of being done with college in a 4-year timeframe. I was so focused on finishing my degree that I barely even thought about the next step or post-graduation life. I had hopes of entering graduate school immediately following the completion of my bachelor’s degree because I wasn't exactly ready to enter the workforce just yet. But of course, I told myself that graduate school would be an impossible mission for me. I didn't belong in grad school. What made my predicament even worse, I consumed myself worrying about my fellow peers’ post-graduation plans as well.
Comparing myself to my classmates made my situation much worse than what it was. Many of them proved to be superior in their academic endeavors by being in numerous honor societies and getting accepted into medical school and/or professional school(s). I frequently criticized myself about not being as successful as them! My friends often thought that I was this amazing scholar based off of my research opportunities, but they had no idea of how much of a failure that I thought I was. I allowed myself to become so focused on other people’s journeys that I didn’t even stop to secure mines. Should I continue school? What graduate program(s) should I apply to? What graduate program would even accept me? Will they deny me because I’m average? Should I take a gap year? Should I work in industry? Wait, what industry jobs should I even apply to? What in the hell do I want to do?!
Sure enough, on May 12, 2018 I graduated from the illustrious Xavier University of Louisiana with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry as a National Institute of Health BUILD Research Scholar. Sounds somewhat accomplished, huh? Well I did not feel very accomplished. My GPA was decent but not as competitive as I wanted it to be; I did not graduate with high honors unlike many of my fellow peers (besides the honors cords that I received from completing my research program); and I did not have any plans following graduation. May 12th should have been one of the happiest days of my life but instead all I could think about was the actions of my past (in undergrad) and the unknown actions of my future. Even a month after graduation, I was still not excited nor happy about how I finished college and did not make any plans for the future. Later, I moved back home and I applied to multiple jobs where my degree in biology would be useful, but the job search did not go so well. I didn't receive a single interview. Not receiving an interview increased my self-doubt as well as my anxiety about not having a plan. Post-grad depression became real. I was so unhappy with my life and I knew that I desperately needed a change and soon.
I literally prayed to God every single day/night to reveal His plan to me. I no longer wanted to plan my life, I needed Him to direct my path which is something that I should have been started doing. I realized that I had only relied on just myself to get through this storm but in actuality, God was in charge of moving this mountain. Not only did I pray more, I listened more. In addition to listening more to God, I listened more to my parents. For years, I was very stubborn to my family when they tried to give me advice or tell me what I should do regarding my academic career; they’ve never attended Xavier therefore they had no clue on what I went through at school and how rigorous my course load was in addition to how stressed I was. But after graduation, I had to listen to them because now I needed help. And thank God that I did. My mother had randomly found a graduate program in toxicology (one of my many research interests) in Houston, Texas that had extended its application deadline. They didn’t require an enormously high GPA or an amazing GRE score (btw I did average on that as well el oh el). After receiving more information about the program and talking to a few of my mentors, I realized that I was definitely interested in attending this program and I immediately began my application. I was hesitant about applying at first, but I quickly sent my transcript, test scores, letter of recommendations, personal statement, my research experience and more. I prayed over my application from the moment I submitted, to the moment I was accepted into the program.
Exactly 72 days following graduation, I was awarded the opportunity to continue my education by being accepted into graduate school. I am very thankful that my mom told me about this program, and it was only fitting that she sat right next to me when I received my acceptance letter via email. After we celebrated, I immediately began to pray over myself. I prayed that God would remove my monster of self-doubt and to help me to understand as well as realize that I deserve to be here; I deserve this moment. For years, I considered myself as average and that I was not fitting enough to obtain astounding opportunities. I was wrong. I may not have had a 4.0 or received many accolades for my academic progress, but I managed to complete my research program, graduate in 4 years, and get accepted into graduate school. I was able to ignore my insecurities about not being good enough and to establish that God has more in store for me. I may have struggled a bit during my four years in undergrad, but it has prepared me to conquer grad school and baby I am doing just that! My first semester of grad school, I made above a 3.5 GPA. I was so proud of myself because even on the first day of class that semester, I questioned if I deserved to be here. I was wrong to question myself because following that semester, my GPA continued to climb. Ending Year One in grad school, I was offered a research fellowship where I can continue my schooling for free and conduct scientific research, my passion. I no longer feel average or like a failure or like I don’t deserve to be here. My new wave of confidence had no room for self-doubt anymore. I promised myself that I would NOT allow graduate school to defeat me. I also promised myself that I would no longer doubt myself because I belong here. I realized that my titanic experience in undergrad was very much needed because it greatly humbled me. I had to learn that not everything will come easy and that I need to work hard and remain dedicated for things that I truly want. God has ordained my steps and I know that He is doing the exact same for you at this moment.
I encourage all of you to keep pushing, no matter what. If you don't know your next move, IT IS OKAY. Don't rush the process because again, God has already ordained your steps. Your next move in on the way! Also, give yourself more credit because it took a lot of work for you to be where you are now. Even if you may not be exactly where you want to be at this moment, still celebrate yourself for how far you have come. So please believe me when I tell you that it will all work out. Again, you deserve to be here.
“Never let the sadness of your past and the fear of your future ruin the happiness of your present.” -Unknown
Xi’s Takeaway Essentials:
Destroy the monster of self-doubt
Don’t compare yourself to others
Allow God to lead the way
You control your narrative
It is okay to not have it all together or planned out right now