Define your own success — despite downfalls

So, uh. Graduation is a thing that’s happening soon. I read the senior op-eds last year, and the year before that. I tried not to think too deeply about them at first read.
Never would I dare to connect the words of my graduated peers with my rising self. Never would I take it a step further and consider my own position in the ever-multiplying mass that is the Xavier alumni. Now that I’m literally a week or so away from getting the decorative and honorable boot from undergraduate education, I have no choice but to reflect.
Even just by judging my little bio underneath the picture of my face, things might look pretty swell. Three majors, amirite? And I actually am graduating in four years with all of them. Why shouldn’t I be flexing that?
The number of degrees I have is not how I measure success. I doubt it’s how anyone measures success. In fact, I didn’t even have what I have now till spring semester of last year — which is really late to be considering adding another major. It was never a “goal” of mine. I never explicitly wanted to triple major going into college. I just wanted to be successful. And if you ignore the triple major thing, what I see from my undergraduate career is a mixed bag.
On the positive end, I grew a lot. I cannot stress this enough. I walked into Manresa with a major in biology. This was my parents’ decision, not my own. My father’s a doctor and he strongly recommended I study to become one as well.
I thought I was being independent and confident by seeking a compromise: being a doctor… but for animals. I’d rather stick a needle into a mound of soft fur than a grumpy-looking person, I thought. I also happened to love animals. Clearly, that made me suited to be a veterinarian. I’d already taken chemistry for college credit senior year of high school. I did pretty well, too. Clearly, this was what I was supposed to do with my life.
Little did I know, I had been lying to myself all along.
It started to show on the last day of Manresa. Chemistry was not the only college class I had taken during high school. I had taken a wealth of English classes. From composition and rhetoric to British literature, I already had quite the set under my belt. It would be a downright shame if I didn’t go ahead and add the English major — which was exactly what I did on the final day of Manresa.
Still, I told myself that this second major would be a “side gig.” Something that would make me more well-rounded for things concerning my actual career path: veterinary medicine. English wasn’t my priority. It wasn’t something I should’ve been spending significant time on.
This came back to bite me sooner than I realized. I didn’t actually want to go into medicine. Biology was my stressor, and English was my de-stressor. But I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy what enticed me, because I had already sworn that it wasn’t my priority.
The very thing I liked had to be put on the back burner to the thing I didn’t like as much.
But I ignored this because the pressures to remain on the track I had signed up for were innumerable. My parents. My professors. My peers. My friends. In medicine, the path to success is rigid. You get accepted to medical school, you go to medical school, you do residency and then you’re a physician. I didn’t know how any other education path worked.
With my English major, my mother supplied I could be an English teacher, but I had no interest in that field. Any option beyond this was foreign and unknown to me. I didn’t know what was out there, let alone what out there could 1) capture my passion enough to follow through with it, and 2) allow it to lead me to some form of concrete success.
On top of this, I was isolating myself from even my peers. The few friends I had dwindled and dissolved into something negligible by an increasingly unhealthy psyche. I couldn’t talk to anyone about my confusion.
I was stuck for what felt like a long time. Spring semester of my freshman year was when this spiral turned most tangible. Because I considered English less of a priority, I forced myself to get through biology homework and studying first. However, I could never even bring myself to finish this biology stuff, because I didn’t want to do it and never did. As a result, I could never get to English.
I still remember the words written onto a big essay I had submitted for my poetry class that spring semester. There was no letter grade written on it. Only, “This paper is pretty much a disaster. Please see me after class.”
Some months later, I finally mustered the courage to take charge of my own life, dump my biology major, and pick up Digital Innovation, Film & Television instead.
Things got better after that. I learned things I wanted to learn. I fell in love with filmmaking and finally had the freedom to embrace English again. Later down the line I stirred my long-dormant fascination for computer science and picked that up. On top of this all, I was fortunate to study abroad in Japan for the summer of 2017.
Over and over I am reminded by how my freshman failings bogged down the rest of my undergraduate career. It tanked my GPA. Almost exclusively because of it, I don’t qualify for some high-GPA honors.
But honestly, thinking back on it, I would never trade the growth I experienced in that year for a fancy certificate that could be another bullet on my resume. To me, personal growth is a greater honor than uneventful academic success could ever be.
This goes hand in hand with happiness. I may still be figuring out what I want to do after graduation, I may not have had the chance to be successful in every facet of my Xavier career, but at least I am happy. At least I know for sure that my freshman self would be speechless with awe at my accomplishments and experiences. It would be ridiculous of me to ask for more. So, I am content.

By. Soondos Mulla Ossman

Soondos Mulla Ossman is a graduating senior. During her time with the Newswire she has served as the Features Editor and a copy editor. She has three majors.