Major Changes: A Response to Sarah

An article that caught my eye was about changing majors called “Changing Your Major Doesn’t Have to Be Scary.”

The writer, Sarah Abdelkahlek, explains her feelings as she changed majors from biology to psychology. She wanted to pursue a doctorate degree, so it definitely sounds like she is committed.

She expressed her outlook on the change, and I think it summarizes at least a part of how we should make decisions about majors. She said, “Now that I switched my major and I know I want to be a clinical psychologist, I finally feel like I’ll be able to contribute to an area I’m passionate about, and that’s a very satisfying feeling.”

I love that! I think it’s important sometimes that we remember that even though some of the work that we do in our careers and majors are frustrating or don’t interest us at times, we can remember that at least we are “able to contribute to an area [we’re] passionate about.” I, personally, am passionate about being able to express one’s self in creative ways. I write music, poetry, draw, write stories, and (used to) keep a daily journal. There are so many things that we can share with others that will be of benefit to them in many ways. Of course, we don’t always agree with everything we read or hear, but I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to freely express your views and dedicate yourself to a cause that you are passionate about.

I changed majors from Computer Engineering to Communication. I am a creative writer and artist by nature, and I want to be able to communicate my message to my readers so that they can grow from what I express or teach.

To me, it’s important to focus on the things that are uplifting, or learn from the things that aren’t so that I can help others. To be honest, that’s why I write poetry. I want whoever reads my poems to at least be able to relate to what I’m expressing. Good and bad feelings are ok to express! I’ve learned over the years that when you put up walls to filter yourself, or when you cut out the negative feelings from your writing, not only does the writing suffer, but so do the people around you in the sense that they can miss out on that feeling of identity when they need it. I never want someone to feel alone, and I’ve learned that no one is, truly, because someone around them has had a similar experience that can help them in their life.

I have written a lot about PTSD, depression, anxiety, OCD, loneliness, and a lot of other things that tend to relate to psychology and similar behaviors. It has been a wonderful feeling to be able to see how my writing affects others in a positive way. (I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, but…) I have seen people change from a hopeless state to a hopeful state because of my writing, and have received personal thanks for writing what I do.

I know I went off in a different direction with this post, but I think that the overall idea that I want to give from this week’s post is: When we pursue what we are passionate about, it benefits us and the world around us. If our career involves our passion, our wallet isn’t the only thing that grows happier, but ourselves as well.

My invitation is to find, follow, or help others fulfill their passion. Consider what you might be passionate about and then find ways to contribute to it; there are many people out there who will thank you.

Thanks for reading

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A Story Behind: Stella Cox

STELLA: THE COMEBACK KID, A FIGHTER, A BORN TEACHER

Stella PhotoWhy would you be in tears? I asked.

“If I couldn’t get a word.  If I got stuck.”  Her eyes stared straight ahead with a sideways smile and a small, slightly embarrassed laugh escaped from her.  “And if I started crying then we were done.”

Stella Cox, a nearly-graduated student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, moves forward at almost arm’s length from her life-long dream of being an English and History teacher.  It is her vision and her passion—but it wasn’t easy to make it to this day.  With her beaming smile and deep, soothing laugh, it would be almost impossible to tell that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

As she sat comfortably on a leather couch, a black and gold-striped dress covering her from shoulder to toe, she started by telling me of her life before her love of words—how difficult it was for her—to get to this point in her life.  “It seems like opposition has always been apparent in my life.”

It surprises me to hear from an English teacher that, as a child, she struggled to learn to read.  Being from a family of 7, she felt that the beginning of her education was difficult.  Newborns in the family caused her education to be “put on the back burner” when she started school, and by the time she was in second grade, testing showed that she was reading at a kindergarten level. When her mother heard this, she began to focus on her struggling child.  “My mom freaked out,” she said.

For the rest of the school year, they read together every night.  By the end of that year, she improved from a kindergarten level to a third-grade reading level.  That growth continued into later years until, in sixth grade, they named her a gifted student.  Her mother was impressed by this rapid change.

“My mom calls me ‘The Comeback Kid,’” she said, “because every time something hard happens, I always overcome it.”

She was right.  Before high school, her parents were in the middle of divorce, and she had to move out of the house where she was born.  Unsure of what would be happening, she focused her everything on her studies.  She battled the effects of parental divorce and two deaths in her family which triggered a mental illness that left her battling for stability.

More trials came.

At age fifteen was her first sign of bipolar disorder.  It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary—just heartbreak.  However, the emotional impact was just enough to trigger an episode.  She explained how bipolar episodes happen with her.

“It’s always a six month build up.” She said. “I was still functional. . . [but] I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I stopped smiling. . . . Everyone just thought I was heartbroken until I was delusional.”

She explained how she refused to take her medicine, so it took a long time, but she improved.  Because of this episode, she missed half of her sophomore year.  When she was about to return to school, her brother, also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide in a state of depression.

“He was 25, and that kills me because he was so young.  I’m about to turn 25.  I’m going to outlive him.”  Her voice started to soften as she told me about her upcoming birthday.

This trial was the first time she crossed the line into mania.  Catatonic states came, and so did the delusion.  She still refused to take the medicine.  Psychiatrists discussed her case, and one particular psychiatrist, unnamed, took personal interest in Stella.  After much work, the girl finally agreed.

“I have not missed a day of my medication since I was 16.” She said proudly.  “I will be [taking it] for the rest of my life.”

After a time, her outgoing personality returned.  Several years passed, and she decided that she was going to serve 18 months away from home as a missionary.  All the necessary checkups were made, and she was ready to go.

Another trial came.

As her gaze fixed on the wall ahead of us, there was absolute silence.  “And then the week I was going to submit my papers [to leave],” she says, “my dad died.”

I felt tears come to my eyes as I saw her body cringe and her eyes squeeze shut.  An agonized frown began to form on the sides of her mouth, and she continued her story all the way into her time in the mission in New York.  After a few months there, she started to notice the signs of her illness in her behavior.  Soon, her delusions started again, and she knew that her time in New York was already drawing to a close.

“I thought my dead brother was going to come visit me.” She said. “I knew I was going to have to go home but I didn’t want to.”

Out of some miracle, when her mother came to New York before travelling home together, she had a beautiful window of normality and no delusions.  They were able to spend time together as mother and daughter.  This was a tender moment for her.

As she spoke of this time with her mother, I saw the tears she had shed begin to dry as her focus was now on the positive.  I thought of the pictures she had shown me of her mission.  Their smiles in the pictures showed no sign of the trials.

I smiled with her happily as she explained that things have been ‘all her’ since then.

“I haven’t had a problem since I was 21.”  She said. She laughed once and told me how blessed she was, even with the opposition.  Then she cheerily taught me how to take care of my body with enough sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and being mindful of stress levels.

“You know how you keep yourself out of an episode?” she asked. “All the things everyone should be doing anyway, so it forces me to just take care of myself. Which is awesome. . . I literally cannot miss a night of sleep; it might cause an episode. So do I stay up and study all night? No. Do I still get straight A’s? Yes.”  She laughed.

After all of this, her outlook on life has changed. The way she interacts with others, the way she is always smiling and laughing and complimenting others, and how she can be so full of love of life is inspiring.  This wonderful young woman has a light about her that can change the whole feeling in a room. Her cheer helps to open up even the shyest of persons.  While her surroundings constantly change, she holds tightly to striving to live each and every moment with joy.

As she ends her final semester here in Rexburg, Idaho, she has reflected on all of the experiences that she has told me, along with many others.  While teaching her students now and in the future, she will be able to see her students in a different light.  She has realized from her trials that they have backgrounds and trials of their own.  They have their own struggles and weaknesses, but in the eyes of “The Comeback Kid,” every time something hard happens, they can overcome it and move forward with hope… but for now, she might just keep on smiling.

Word Document:

STELLA: THE COMEBACK KID, A FIGHTER, A BORN TEACHER

A Thought About Corrosive Pressure

warning-caustic (1)“If you love it, let it go.”

I completely disagree.
I propose:
If you love it, love it until it comes crashing and burning down in metaphorical flames. Then build it from the foundation up.
Naturally, don’t try this with people, and make sure you’ve got that foundation built correctly.
-H

This was a point of view that came into my head several months ago that I wrote down.  I write songs.  I write lyrics and poetry so often that sometimes words come to my head without me understanding what they mean. Some of it is just junk, but the other part helps me understand what I’m feeling. Sometimes It takes me days to think about it and figure out what I was trying to express.  This one came from someone else’s life.  I had spoken with a girl who expressed her worry about her relationship; she was being pushed and manipulated.

When I asked her about her plan to change this, she wasn’t able to say much.  ‘Maybe something will change,’ she said.  She still waits.

I was a little bothered about these situations that are not rare to see, so, as always, I wrote down the feeling. After much thought, I was still unable to figure out what I was trying to express in the statement, I asked a friend (Alex LeTerneau) about it.   He said we should always improve our talents, but, with people, pushing brings negative results.

“Don’t try and burn out people,” LeTerneau said. “Love them well, love them sustainably. Dont become obsessive or caustic, otherwise the relationship will die.”

Caustic? I asked.

“Literally, it means corrosive, acidic. In this instance, toxic or detrimental, actively wearing down your relationship through excessive passion.”

His words intrigued me.  Do we, out of impatience, want to squeeze everything we can out of an opportunity?  We should always in the sense of our hobbies and interests.  When we have a passion, our desire to obtain it should push us forward constantly. It can help us apply ourselves and work our hands to the bone if necessary.

The thing we always need to remember is this: never impose our will upon another, and don’t give too much of yourself to a person all at once.

In short, my message today is to be persistent in your desire to become better, but in relationships, don’t push the other down with persistent desire.

-H

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