That’s DOPE(amine)!

I did it. I officially passed Organic Chemistry – the “wean out course.” I have successfully completed all chemistry courses required for the Dietetics major, a challenge I took on nearly 4 years ago.

You see, I never had chemistry in high school and have struggled with mathematics my entire life. As a child, I had to go to “trailer;” I was pulled out of class and separated from my friends in order to receive special help with math. (I later discovered that I was not bad at math, but I did have math anxiety. Yes, it’s a real thing). I went to GCIT for theatre, and was ecstatic to hear that I did not need to take a math course my senior year, and chemistry was not required to graduate. When I fell in love with nutrition and decided to pursue Dietetics, however, I did not realize the major challenge that lie ahead – Chemistry. Even worse: ORGANIC chemistry. Because I opted out of math and chemistry in high school, I would need to take a full year of math prerequisites at the college level. In addition to the math courses, I would need an introductory chemistry class (that did not count for college credits) to cover the material taught at the high school level.

For the last 4 years, I have felt this horrible pressure and worry that often made me physically sick. I felt as though there was a giant boulder hovering over my head. That “boulder” was of course, chemistry. I did not even get to General Chemistry until I was 2 years into my college career; I had a bad experience with terrible professors for both General Chemistry I and Organic Chemistry I. I had to drop both courses on the first attempt, pushing me behind academically and increasing my anxiety toward the subject. Hell, I had to switch schools because of the Organic Chemistry professor! I had many, MANY emotional breakdowns over math and chemistry. Still, I must mention that I eventually found a fantastic General Chemistry professor who became a role model and mentor in my educational endeavors. I worked my ass off, and aced both General Chem courses with her as my instructor.

Organic Chem – that’s another story. In fact, last year I felt so defeated after my first attempt at Organic that I contemplated switching my major. (Those who know me know how passionate I am about nutrition and Dietetics so you understand this was a serious internal crisis). I want nothing more than to become a Registered Dietitian; the feelings of self-doubt and idea of being a quitter broke my heart. I went to my advisor and told her I would no longer be applying to the Masters program as planned. She convinced me to apply anyway. I was hesitant, but I applied. And I got in! I was accepted to Rowan’s Coordinated Program of Dietetics last March – Accepted on the contingency that I could pass Organic Chemistry I and II. The nightmare was not over.

I questioned myself a lot. I wondered if I was ever going to pass. I invested hours upon hours of my life at the tutoring center. Months before my second attempt at Organic, my mom hired a private tutor whom I met with every week to get a head start on the material. I stayed up past 3 am writing lab reports on multiple occasions. I cried at the kitchen table doing my homework too many times to count. But I never gave up. I persisted. And here I am, 4 years later, breathing a huge sigh of relief because I did it.

Chemistry is more than just a subject to me; it has been a significant life lesson. Chemistry taught me that you cannot excel at everything in life. And you know what? That’s okay. You don’t have the be the best at everything. You don’t have to get the “A” every time. But you do have to work hard and always try your best, and in the end your best will get you pretty damn far.

The chemical structure of Dopamine marks the end of my journey with chemistry. According to Neuroscience News: “Dopamine levels continuously signal how good or valuable the current situation is regarding obtaining a reward. This message helps people decide how vigorously to work toward a goal, while also allowing themselves to learn from mistakes.”

I would say I did just that. I relentlessly worked toward a goal, and I accomplished it. I learned a hell of a lot about science, yes; but more importantly – I learned a lot about myself along the way.

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