It’s August 29, 2016 9:10 in the morning and I walk into my first ever college Biology class. I’m a freshman Biology Pre-Med Major at a Catholic University in Northern Ohio and if you asked me on that day, or any day of the four years prior, I was going to go to Med School and be a Pediatric Doctor of some kind. I loved the idea of medicine, I loved science, I loved helping people and I loved the rush of being in a hospital. It was a no brainer that medicine was what I was going to go into.
It’s August 29, 2016 1:50 in the afternoon and I walk into my first ever Philosophy class. Being enrolled in the social justice program here at school it was a class I had to take. Because of my drive and my love for learning I was still excited, but not nearly as excited as I was for that science class I had taken in the morning. We talked about what Moral Philosophy is and what it’s used for and what my professor did for a living and it seemed like that class, that type of class, you’d look back at graduation and say “dang, that was fun and a super easy GPA boost.”
Fast forward 4 weeks, into the heart of my classes. My biology class is interesting, a little hard but still enjoyable. My moral philosophy class is amazing, and fun but really, really hard. Not in the sense of work load or even content but it seemed that every other moral dilemma that was introduced it was me verses the entire class. For the first time in my life I was the minority in conversations. I was challenged, everything I said I had to uphold with a solid argument and I had to learn how to not back down if my arguments were ripped apart, and to be able to create open and honest dialogues about where the disagreements lie. I loved every part of it, from having to research on my own and reading about these issues, to creating my own (Yes, mine. Not my parents, not my teachers, not my friends but my own) opinions expressing them clearly without fear of being torn apart. And, the best part, I was REALLY fricking good at it.
My professor, who would eventually turn into one of my biggest mentors, asked me to stay after class one day and proceed to ask me if I had ever thought about adding philosophy to my life plan. I kind of laughed it off, told her I was going to be a doctor and dropped the conversation. The weeks went by, my grades were great, I loved my classes, I loved my major and I was getting ready to plan out my next semester. As I was looking at my available courses I constantly found myself falling back into the philosophy department and I thought the first one was easy and a nice break from the facts and memorization of science so I added Bioethics to my array of science classes and labs.
Bioethics class was everything I ever could have imagined a class being for me. It brought together the medical world but in a way I did not know imaginable. We talked about AIDS and HIV, abortion, defining death, physician aid in dying, consent, confidentiality and everything in between and we took an in-depth look at the different ways people use ethics to make decisions. It wasn’t even a week into this class when I became a Biology/Philosophy double major on a PreMed track.
This was the first time I was ever required to enter a formal debate on a topic pertaining to Bioethics. This was a game changer because it was the first time I had ever really read and studied law. I read case after case and remember my partner looking at me saying, “you know, you can skim that, we don’t need all of it” but I was so passionate about it. Passionate about how it was written, about the language used, about who gets to make the calls, and how they were enforced. I loved it, and loved bioethics and knew that it would be something I would continue to study but top of medicine.
As my philosophy classes continued, it was like it almost got harder to find people to agree with me in class. Conversations pertaining to ‘right to life’ were the hardest but there were others that I didn’t expect to fall on the outs with, such as physician aid in dying, intersex athletes in the olympics, confidentiality arguments and arguments on autonomy and when autonomy is lost, to name just a few. These topics became something I was interested in reading about outside of classes, finding articles pertaining to discussion, listening to podcasts on morals, ethics and professional responsibility. I felt as if I needed to be the most educated in the room if my opinions were different. I was doing so much work, driven by passion, outside of class for philosophy, all the while, my science classes were getting rather difficult. Biology, anatomy and chemistry were requiring lots of studying, lots of memorizing, and lots of… no fun. I HATED it. I hated the bones, I hated the muscles, I really hated chemical reactions and I was bored. Science wasn’t for me and I knew it but that was a scary jump. I was at an expensive, private institution known for the science program and about to change my major to what, the study of thinking?
Blessed with some amazing people around me and an opportunity to study abroad in Tanzania I was able to have these open conversations about my passions and about this idea of advocacy and policy. We talked about what philosophy can do for me, what rooting myself in my own beliefs can do for me, what being able to disagree and then grab lunch and still be friends can do for me and how good I was at it. I took two more class before I made the jump, Philosophy of Medicine and an English class about the Body in Pain. I made sure to root all projects in policy, advocacy and law to make sure it was what I truly wanted and found out it most definitely was.
So as a second semester sophomore I officially changed my major from a Biology-PreMed to a Philosophy-Political Science Double Major on a PreLaw track and I couldn’t be happier.
I am a firm believer that if I wasn’t put into that Moral Philosophy class, with the professor I had, and as a brand new college student I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I am a firm believer that if I wasn’t constantly in the minority of the argument I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I am a firm believer that I am exactly where I need to be and being someone with more progressive views at a very conservative institution got me here.