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The Mentality of a Child: Natalie Benson

When I was younger, I was so sure of myself. When I grew up, I wanted to be some sort of scientist. Despite this certainty, I could not pinpoint a time in my life where I had an “aha!” moment and knew I loved science, I just kind of always knew. I cannot help but think this is because of how I was raised. I was the baby and was always told I was going to do amazing things and could be anything I dreamed. Therefore, I was free-spirited, did not have a care in the world, and never questioned myself. Even when it came to fashion, I was set in my ways and wore windbreaker pants every day for almost two years of my life, and no one stopped me. I am the youngest of five children and they all have at least 11 years on me. None of my siblings have a bachelor’s degree, so when it came to me, it was never a question about whether or not I was going to college but more about which sky-high aspiration I was going to chase. Do not get me wrong, my siblings are all very successful and have great lives. I am not saying I am better or worse than them for choosing the path I chose, there was just less of a choice for me.

I believe it is very common for individuals in this generation to suffer from what I like to call “smart kid disease.” This “disease” is caused by constantly telling kids “you are so smart” and categorizing them into the “gifted and talented” classes from an unnecessarily young age. I was one of these kids. Now, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging intelligence in children; however, if it is overdone, it can start to become their identity. These kids go through school with ease and are very aware of how smart they are. Once school begins to get more challenging, these kids struggle and essentially think if they aren’t the best at something right away, then they should just give up. Personally, I hit this point in early high school.

I held the mentality of an invincible child until about my sophomore year of high school. It was my first-time taking AP classes, and needless to say, it did not go well. My grades fell below what I was comfortable with, and I did not know how to handle it. The material was more difficult, meaning studying was necessary for the first time. This would not usually a problem, but I had no clue how to study, so I didn’t. Around this time I became friends with this group of girls. These girls happened to make up some of the top 10 students in my graduating class. I, however, was not in the top 10, or top 50 even. My school was very academically competitive so even though I was smart, I was not hardworking and therefore nowhere near the top of my class. By default, I was the “dumb” friend. Every test, I received the lowest grade of my friends, and so I eventually stopped trying and played into being “dumb.” After a while, I even believed it.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. Thankfully, my ACT score and long list of extracurriculars were good enough to pick up the slack of my GPA and carry me 2,000 miles from Minnesota to SDSU. I remember walking into freshman orientation looking through my folder and reading that I was a chemistry major with an emphasis in biochemistry. This was news to me, as I did not remember putting that on my application, nor did I really know what biochemistry was. I stuck with it though, because it sounded impressive. Soon after, I discovered that science was hard, very hard, and for a hot minute, I was failing all my classes. I wanted to abandon science completely for the first time in my life and felt more lost than ever. The only reason I didn’t switch out of my major was that I could not be bothered to fill out the paperwork and visit the advisors.

After numerous phone conversations with my parents, I realized I owed it to myself to stick with science. I then tried to find a new career goal, so, obviously, I turned to Google. After searching for weeks, I came across genetic counseling. I fell in love with the career and set my eyes on my new goal. Here’s the catch: I was still unbelievably unsure of myself and whether or not I was intelligent enough to accomplish this new goal. It was around this time that my forced me to attend a WSS meeting. I am very thankful she did because WSS changed my life. No, really. WSS began to restore that confidence in myself that I once had such an abundance of as a child. I learned that every single thought going through my head was normal, and everyone felt this way at some point or another during their education journey.

Now here I am, the newest addition to the leadership team of the same organization that changed my life (not to be dramatic). I finally figured out what exactly biochemistry is, and I love it. Most importantly, I am slowly overcoming the repercussions of “smart kid disease” and thinking like a child again, in the best way. Although, I think I’ll pass on the windbreaker pants this time.

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