04.30.14 // How I Almost Became a Pharmacist
by GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Sarah “SG-1” Grant
I’m surrounded by intelligent women and men in my life; I always have been. From the time I was in grade school and hung out more with the teachers than the kids my own age, all the way up until now–just look around the room at any GeekGirlCon meeting! It can be fairly intimidating at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I always knew I was book-smart. I read every single thing I could get my hands on (unless it was something my big brother told me I had to read, and then I ignored it entirely), loved playing trivia games of all kinds, and would far rather watch “Jeopardy!” than any other television show. I was in the upper levels in all of my classes, reading at grade levels three or four higher than where I actually was in school. My mom tells me that a lot of the split level classes in my grade school happened when my brother and I were there; the teachers had to split up classes and send us to different grades for specific classes like reading and math. So yes, I’ve always been told I’m smart.
I never felt comfortable with math, though. Math tests were hard, and we never had enough time to do them. I remember–and still have nightmares from–speed tests in second grade, where we had five minutes to finish ten math problems, and anything not done was marked wrong. I had what I know now were anxiety attacks around those tests, but at the time, I just felt like I was dumb.
A lot of that feeling transitioned into junior high and high school, where math just kept getting harder. I didn’t understand algebra, and geometry was just mystifying. Why did I have to “prove” all of these things that we already knew?? I managed to get okay math grades, but never without much trepidation around report card time. My science classes–physical science, biology, and chemistry included–were much the same. I never thought I was doing anything right, but I managed good grades anyway.
In college, I chose English as my major, for several reasons. First, I got to read stuff. Books, plays, poems, more books–what could ever be wrong with that? Second, the hardest science class I took was Geology 306, nicknamed “Rocks for Jocks”, which was a notoriously easy class that the entire university sports program apparently took at one time or another. Third, I didn’t have to take ANY math. None whatsoever. No math for my English degree? Yes, please!
Fast forward to the year after I graduated from college. I worked full time for my former university as an administrative assistant, but was bored and restless with very little to do after work. One of my roommates convinced me to get a job as a pharmacy technician at the Walgreens where her mom was a pharmacist, and where my roommate herself was a pharmacy intern. My job interview consisted of the pharmacy manager shaking my hand, and then asking me when I could start. Apparently, my roommate and her mom had told the manager that I would be perfect for the job, and he listened to them.
At one point in my seven year pharmacy career, I decided I wanted to become a pharmacist. I had seen and worked for many pharmacists, and I knew I could do what they did. The sticking point: pharmacy schools don’t accept people with English degrees until they’ve taken a lot of pre-pharmacy courses. I started over completely in a pre-algebra class and a pre-chemistry class to see if I could actually do it.
And it was easy. I got As straight through math and chemistry, Bs in biology and physics.
Image by Sayed Alamy
I’d spent the majority of my life thinking I was dumb where math and science were concerned, which brought down my self-esteem considerably. As it turned out, not only was I not math and science dumb, I was actually pretty good at it. I soared through three semesters of math with no problems, even thriving under the strict tutelage of my trigonometry professor–a grumpy, old-school Russian professor who lived and grew up in the Soviet Union. He taught me to rely more on my brain than my calculator, which was awesome and very empowering. Also, after my semester of pre-chemistry, that chemistry professor selected me to become a lab assistant for several of her classes in the following semesters. My next chemistry professor, also a woman, showed us different ways to solve chemical problems of all kinds. She encouraged me each time I spoke to her, in every class and every lab. To this day, Professor Phillips is one of my favorite teachers, and I think of her and her teaching abilities whenever I have to find different ways to attack a problem in any aspect of my life.
I didn’t end up becoming a pharmacist after all, but that had more to do with choosing the profession for the dollar signs attached to it than with my abilities to get through the schooling. If I had stayed on that path, I would be in my third year of working as a pharmacist right now–and I truly believe that I would be dreadfully unhappy.
The reason I’ve always been so into books and reading is because words–their creation, use, and near-infinite combinations–are what truly fascinate me. Money is important as a way to keep a roof over my head, but money isn’t what excites me. My friend Bridgett helped me come to that conclusion over a calculus project, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life. It’s not easy to work with all the words, but the struggle is definitely what makes it worth it–and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Have YOU ever had a realization like this one in your life?