98: No Quitter

98: No Quitter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

No Quitter

Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.

~Napoleon Hill

By my junior year of college, I was hanging on by a very thin thread. My scholarships were gone, I was up to my eyeballs in debt, my grades were horrible, and I hated every minute of school. For the first time ever, I was not in love with college. I was, instead, over it. I had started college one hundred and fifty percent sure that I was going to finish and head to medical school. All I wanted more than anything was the title “doctor” in front of my name. Except now I was not seeing “doctor” in front of my name, I was seeing “failure.”

I hated the life of a pre-med student, and the idea of going to medical school was not even remotely appealing anymore. I had struggled through all my science classes — failing chemistry, both inorganic and organic, more than once each — and I was barely able to survive my biology classes. Still, I refused to give up. Gloria Panzera was no quitter.

I took a creative writing class in the spring of my junior year in order to avoid a meltdown that was sure to follow the existential crisis I was in. I never thought that switching into this course, simply to be in the same class with my friend and roommate, would change my life as a college student. This particular semester I was taking almost all science classes and had decided I needed a break from heavy-duty reading. I had switched out of an American literature course to take this creative writing course. For the first time in the three years I had attended college, I was excited to go to class. I couldn’t wait to get to my desk to start working on a story or read my classmates’ work. I was in college student heaven.

Looking back I should have taken this change in attitude as a sign, but instead I stubbornly continued along the same path for another year and continued to fail and retake science classes. I was no quitter. Because I had room for electives in my schedule, I continued to take creative writing classes since they brought me happiness and were cathartic in a way I could never explain.

The semester before I was supposed to graduate, I met with my benevolently blunt academic advisor for a credit check. “I don’t know why you keep taking these classes, but you’re on your way to being an English major if you want,” she stated. I didn’t know what to say. She continued, “If you go through this upcoming summer and through the fall, you could graduate as an English major.” I left confused and depressed because I was not getting any better at my biology classes, was looking at graduating late with a horrible GPA, and was wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

I knew switching meant many things. It meant I wasn’t going to medical school. I wasn’t going to be a doctor and I wasn’t going to graduate in four years. It also meant I was quitting — quitting the goal of being a medical doctor. When I had started school four years before, I had not been encouraged to study anything other than medicine. “Why would you leave university with so many bills if you’re going to just be a teacher? You’re going to be paying those bills forever,” my dad had repeated to me many times throughout my college career. After long days and months of talking to my friends and family, I decided I needed to switch.

That semester of being an English major was the greatest semester of my college career. For the first time since I had started, I knew I was where I was meant to be. I wasn’t worried about not graduating. My existential crisis was over. For the longest time, my friends and family would ask me, “What are you going to do with all those science classes?” And for the longest time I didn’t have the answer. But when I started teaching high school seniors and college freshmen I suddenly knew why I had experienced those four years of unhappiness and failure. I had students who talked about how their parents wanted them to be engineers and doctors, but they weren’t so sure. They really thought philosophy or literature or music was more their cup of tea. I suffered those four years of college so I could help others who also felt they needed that doctor title. I was put through those classes so that I could tell my students to study their passions and forget about living life for anyone other than themselves. If they wanted to be the greatest guitarist in the world, I said go for it. Work hard, find your niche and you’ll be successful — as successful as a doctor.

I wanted that doctor title more than anything when I started college, and when I graduated with my English degree I didn’t think I’d actually attain it. It wasn’t until I started graduate school and decided I was going to go for my Ph.D. that I realized I would have that doctor title and my happiness wasn’t going to be the price. After all, Gloria Panzera is no quitter.

~Gloria Panzera

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