Red Panda

January 27, 2011

It’s that time again.  The doldrums, or whatever you want to call them.  You know, that period of time in which I can’t stop analyzing and over-analyzing and thinking and whatnot.  In a nutshell, I’m not as happy as I could be right now.  But that’s more or less my own doing, and I’ll have to deal with that and see if I learned from last quarter.  Nothing like a good academic crotch punch to really put you in your place.  Anywho.

I was in Bio lecture yesterday, and this guy gets up to talk to the class before the professor starts.  Older gentleman, well-dressed, very professor-y (white hair, thinning, kind face, tweed jacket, elbow pads, etc).  He’s there to tell us about this program over the summer for academic credit.  Students can go to South Africa (he leads with this), Big Sur, Alaska, Australia… and China.  Why China?  Well, there’s this animal in China that’s endangered.  Very endangered.  Maybe you’ve heard of it: The Giant Panda?  Yep.  10-12 weeks in China, working with Giant Panda’s, helping with conservation efforts, learning about their ecology and behavior, all of that.  Cool, right?  Well, I said to myself “It’s too bad they aren’t working with Red Pandas; I’d be all over that.” After class I go up to get the information, because it is something to do for the summer, and who knows, maybe there’s something in there that I could do.  I’m not too keen on going to China for Panda research, or to South Africa to work with Elephants, but Big Sur is cool.  So I grab the brochure, or whatever it can be called.  It’s more like an informational magazine on the different programs.  Anyways, I grab it and start walking out of the lecture hall.  As soon as I get outside I open it so that I can peruse it on my sojourn to Starbucks to work.  I open to page 2, and what do I see smiling back at me?  A Red Panda.  A very very CUTE Red Panda, mind you.  Where? Where is this Red Panda? I can work with Red Panda’s?  I look to the top of the Page.  China.  Panda Conservation.  10-12 weeks.  Giant Panda AND Red Panda.  WHY DIDN’T THEY MENTION THIS IN CLASS?!?! That’s the selling point! All of this flys through my head.  Wait, maybe I’m mistaken.  They’re just including it because it’s endangered and in the area.  Nope, Red Panda’s too.  Red Panda’s too.  Since I started here I’ve often thought about and considered taking a quarter in Washington DC to hopefully try to work at the National Zoo.  I would love to work with Red Pandas.  Outside of my field, but that’s besides the point.  They’re Red Pandas!

So what’s the issue?  It’s China.  It’s Summer.  It’s 10-12 weeks.  I have to pay a little over 3 grand to do it.  It’s worth 18 units, sure, but still.  I would love to do it.  It’s a great opportunity.  But I’m really not sure about it right now.  The worst part is that I have to apply soon or not get it at all.  I’m already staring down the possibility that I might not be doing anything this summer yet again, much to my chagrin, and not for lack of trying.  I have bio professors who won’t even email me back about a meeting for a letter of rec, and one letter is one short of what I need for just one summer program.  Jobs aren’t looking good for me at the moment, what with not having enough lab experience or a 3.5.  I need something where I’ll get paid even just a little bit so that I can stay in my apartment over the summer and cover bills and, you know, eat.  I’ve considered applying to be an ER tech at UCDMC, or even looking into an ambulance shift or two, if it comes down to it.  But the point is, I have no idea what I’m doing right now.  I don’t know what I’m doing with myself, I don’t know where I’m headed, I just don’t know.  And most people here would say “But you’re in college, no one knows what they want to do!” No.  I’m almost 23.  I’m a sophomore.  I want to be a doctor.  But I may have screwed myself out of that, at least for the time being.  I mean, there’s still my backup plan, which may just become my plan, assuming I can manage to bring my GPA up from out of the depths of hell (bear in mind, this is pre-med GPA hell, so just a hair below a 3.0).  But really, where am I going?  Moreso, if I can’t get into these research programs over the summer because of my GPA, or even, apparently, because of where I go to school (Thank you, Stanford HCOP, for giving preference in a 25 person class to people from Bay Area schools), how am I supposed to get research, which roughly translates into shiny bullet points on Grad/Med School apps that show that even though I may have had a bad quarter, I’m a good student and suited for their school?  And because I love to think ahead, what if I just get burnt out trying?  I feel like I’ve struggled just to get where I am now.  I don’t think I’ve had anything handed to me.  What if halfway through Grad School I just say “Fuck this, I’m tired and I want to be done already”.  I’m not sure if I want to be a professor, much less a researcher, for the rest of my life.  I want to be a doctor.  But can I put up with that much more school, stress, and bullshit?  I think it comes down to can I deal with knowing that I’ll never be what I want to be and that I had to settle over can I put up with stress, school, and bullshit.

At this point I really have no idea. And as this goes on, I’ve slowly come to the realization that I’m in a persistent outgroup.  I don’t really hang out with anyone besides people I’m in a club with, or friends of Lucy or friends of friends.  What the hell happened to me being social and always having close friends?  And why do I insist on being “best friends” with someone who can’t even reciprocate.  I’m not really sure if it was ever smart for me to go down that road.  And so instead of dumping this all on a close friend and being able to talk it out over coffee, I’m left with writing it out as my only means of true outlet.  Because anyone else I tell really doesn’t know what to say.  It’s either “You’ll be ok”, or “Oh, Pshaw”, or silence.  And I think I prefer the silence of my blog on my computer screen to the silence of someone I actually know.

One step closer to just saying Fuck It and becoming an introverted and anti-social English major.  Then at least I’ll have a good excuse to write and read novels, and maybe I won’t care so much about what happens in the future.

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