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I transferred to Pepperdine in spring 2012. As I sat among other transfers, I could feel excitement surging within me. Home was now thousands of miles away, and the novelty of Pepperdine pumped me up even more. I was a Biology major with high hopes for medical school. I knew it was going to be tough, but I had already dominated community college, so I was ready for the challenge.
Math was always a struggle for me. I spent the hours in my room working on algebra problems, and I would still have to spend time in the math lab with my professors. I stayed up night after night staring at the chemistry book, but nothing was sticking in my brain, and my anxiety was getting worse.
Finally the results from my first exams were coming back to me. I was devastated — I got an F. I imagined all of the people back home who had been cheering me on. All the people who knew I was working to go to medical school. I could feel the dream of a white coat slipping away.
I can still remember one of the first kids I tutored. He was probably 11 or 12, and he was a little difficult. For the first few minutes of our encounter he dominated the interaction. I would try to get him to focus on his work, and he would tip his chair back and make jokes about me. I felt the stress and anxiety begin to stretch me. I thought, “Oh no, this is just another thing I am going to fail at miserably.”
Then he brought up the movie “Soul Surfer.” I told him I was from Hawaii and that my wife knew the Hamilton family. He was all ears. That was the launching point to our time together watching YouTube videos about wood frogs that freeze in the winter and the circulation pattern of blood through the heart. One day, I came into the center, and the student had sketched an impressive diagram of the human heart. He said his teacher wanted to frame it for her display, but he wanted to show me first. He was proud of his accomplishment, and I felt proud too. Some psychologists call this a mountaintop moment. I felt alive.
Unfortunately, my grades continued to slip, and I ended up withdrawing from Organic Chemistry and dropping the major. At first this seemed like wasted time, but when I marched into OneStop to change my major to Psychology and Social Work, I realized that my passions and ambitions were still guiding me.
I was not a failure. I lost a major, but I reaffirmed a passion and a calling. Thanks to my volunteer experiences, I have become more confident in my ability to lead and to define my ultimate purpose in life. During my time at Pepperdine, I have continued to pursue my passion for serving others in many different ways, and for me that sense of purpose and passion is priceless.
If you’re not sure about who you are, serving others is a great place to start.
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