Posted by Noah G. | Posted on October 16, 2010
This is the plan:
Get into Johns Hopkins (CHECK), double major in Mol. Cell. Biology & Neuroscience, and graduate with a combined BS/MS in MCB. Go on to pursue either the Hopkins or Harvard/MIT combined MD/PhD, and ride that wave right into a professorship at an amazing university like Hopkins (or even a second-rate school like Yale or Duke).
It’s a concise plan, is it not? Sure, I’ve drastically oversimplified my dreams and ambitions, but the point remains; I am always focused on what’s ahead.
I’ve always pointed to the future, to MY future, as a justification for the way I live my life.
“Two majors and Varsity Soccer?”, they ask.
“It’ll all be worth it when I’m accepted to Hopkins Med (or when I win that Rhodes Scholarship).”, I reply.
“Six Red Bulls in one night?”, the kindly old Lebanese man at UniMini asks, concerned.
“I have a Neuroscience midterm tomorrow. It will all be worth it when I’m a Professor at Harvard. Someone has to rehabilitate their Biology department.” I reply through a daze of exhaustion.
My mantra, through it all, has been that science demands nothing less than the fervent and unconditional dedication of our entire lives. I believe that’s true, and I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t sit awake some nights in desperation, searching my mind for what Nash called, “a truly original idea”.
But there are times when I feel that if I were to read one more sentence about Delta-Notch Lateral Inhibition or vertebrate neuroembryology, my head would explode. It is then that I have to take a step back and think about how I’ve gotten to where I am now.
So I flash back to Houston, Texas, where I’m sitting in a booth at Whataburger (If you don’t know what that is, and I’m assuming that you don’t, ask me at an open house. It’s a conversation we need to have.). Across from me are my really good friends Allison and Madeline. It’s 12:30am and we’re talking and laughing hysterically about things that don’t matter in any scientific context. Yet, this singular moment matters more to me than all the hours I spend drudging through the stacks of papers to be read, textbooks to be memorized and worksheets to be filled out. Somehow, despite the obligation I feel to bury my head in my studies for the future, this moment of decidedly meaningless enjoyment is given so much more meaning by its very nature. It’s a great feeling just to be happy to be alive.
That was a night I should have been studying and was better off for having not been. See, if you spend your life burying yourself in work, there will come a time when you’ll look up and be unable to see the sky. That is when you should uncover yourself, call a few friends over and blow off your responsibilities.
No, no, wait. That’s not what I mean. What I’m trying to get across is that putting your nose to the grindstone for too long doesn’t end in success; it ends with you losing your nose. Sometimes, we all need a moment to just sit back in a booth and laugh at inside jokes. Sometimes, we just need to sleep.
I can tell you from experience this is true. That night, the one I mentioned before, was extremely important. I had been studying for two years in order to do well on the exam that I would take over the course of the next day. That was the night before my International Baccalaureate Higher Level Biology Examination. I spent it eating the most delicious fast food in the universe and debating whether Darren Criss or Daniel Radcliffe was the superior Harry Potter. I needed that.
The moral of this story is that we all came to Hopkins to work hard. But don’t become to attached to the idea that if you come here, you’ll have to light the candle at both ends just to stay afloat. You can, but you’ll burn out fast.
Just like you probably do with your schoolwork, devote some time (say Friday and Saturday nights) during which you don’t allow yourself to even think about the work you have to do. Go to a party, go see a movie or go to a 24-hour fast food restaurant with some friends. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself.
Thursday, I had one of those days. I literally threw my Neuroscience notes across my room and shouted, “I QUIT!!!”. So I went to see “The Social Network” and hung out with my friends on the 3rd floor of Wolman East until I fell asleep on the couch in their common room. I woke up feeling completely prepared to take my Neuroscience midterm. Had I not taken some time for myself, I don’t think I would have done as well.
Oh, and I rocked that IB HL Biology Exam, by the way.