Growing up, I was considered to be one of the smart kids. It didn’t really bother me at first yet as the years go by, I started to despise it. I did not like the expectations thrown at me. I disagreed with the way some classmates and teachers treated me differently. I absolutely disliked the feeling of being different. As a result, I ended up having two sets of friends in high school: my fun friends and my smart friends. Neither of them interacted with each other despite the fact that we all went to the same high school. Having these two sets of friends allowed me to be goofy and crazy one day and then have intellectual debates the next. It felt like I had the best of both worlds. I was neither the fun nor the smart kid.

It was no surprise that this continued in my undergrad years. This time the labels switched from fun to party and smart to neuro, as I was in a neuroscience program. Much like my high school friends, they did not socialize with each other. The dynamics remained the same. My socializations with my party friends were rooted in the stereotypical university life whereas the interactions with my neuro friends were generally wholesome and academic. Once again, this situation was completely alright by me; unfortunately, it was not shared by others. Every now and again I would be teased for studying, for spending long hours at the lab, or for choosing not to party because of my schedule. On the other hand, the neuros would sometimes joke around that I partied too much, that I was a huge procrastinator, or that if anyone wanted to party I would be the one to seek. I was labelled both a nerd and a party animal. Even though I would rather not be labelled at all, if I had a choice I would choose any nerd moniker over party animal. The reason? Because although my party friends teased me as a nerd they still respected me. The neuros, however, would always have a condescending tone when they joke around my partying. The times they joked around made me feel that I am not good enough, not smart enough to be in the program. I was an outsider to academia yet an accepted nerd in the party scene.

Looking back, it did affect me.

I remember always doubting myself because of their label. I remember being both happy and unhappy at the same time.I remember keeping my distance with them. I remember choosing to do graduate school at a different uni eventhough I would’ve loved to work with my undergrad mentor. I remember electing to take the plunge with a professor I have no prior experience with. I remember selecting my well-being and self-worth over  career opportunities. I remember switching career directions and leaving scientific research behind.

I remember the first time I felt content…

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