I feel the scratchy black pants snug against my thighs and hips, as I rest the tip of one elbow in the oversized leather-wrapped arm chair. Sheer curtains hang from a large window on the left, streaming in dim yellow rays. A wall of dusty books lines the front wall, behind the bespectacled man sitting at the large teak wood desk.*
I hear the question in his steady, slightly pretentious baritone: What is it that you like about Biology?
I feel my eyes flit from the tall window on the left, to the top right corner shelf. I think about Mr. Haight, my AP Biology teacher, who really likes me.
I return my gaze to his eyes, and hear the words emerging from my mouth. “My teacher really made the course come to life. As an example, we had a lesson on the Krebs cycle. One of the activities, we each dressed up as the various molecules and then came to the class to act out the cycle.” The response was well delivered, I thought – I pause at appropriate times and was animated and engaging. I finish my response and sigh relief.
He is silent, as if waiting for more. I give a small smile to signal that I am done with my response. He moves on to his next question.
I feel a victorious high as we wrap up the interview. I shake his hand, firmly and with eye contact and thank him for his time. I get into college and graduate 4 years later with a BS in Biology. Success?
24 years later, I remember something about the activity with the Krebs cycle– that it never occurred.
Actually, that is not really true, for how does one remember the absence of an event? What I remember is, sitting for the interview, and my brain fabricating the story of the Krebs cycle, and those words tumbling out of my mouth.
Why did I do that? It was not pre-meditated. I could have cited other interesting activities that actually occurred in the class– the outdoor scavenger hunt looking for tendrils and lichen, or the photography project. Looking back, the real problem with my response was that I didn’t answer the question.
The question was: What is it that you like about Biology?
The question was not: What is it that you like about your Biology class or teacher?
Herein lies a great clue to my life. I didn’t have a good answer to what I enjoyed about biology as a discipline– I only knew that I received above average grades in it, the teacher was nice and he liked me (as most teachers did), and my parents thought it could provide a stable, responsible future. It was not by far my favorite subject. And it wasn’t even my favorite class (those distinctions go to my french, german, and political science).
That moment, of getting away with that fraudulent response, paved an entry to the wrong highway, and then to the wrong destination.
In college, I prioritized biology courses over psychology, even though I have been fascinated with people’s psyches since I was young. To be a biology major I had to take organic chemistry and regular chemistry– which sucked up 4 hours of lab courses each semester, along with a chauvenistic asshole lab partner with a Napoleon complex. I also worked in a lab starting my sophomore year, running the same experiment- mixing the enzyme with the yeast DNA, and running it through gel electrophoresis. And over and over, it did not yield the expected results. My adviser continued to be very supportive of me (teachers like me, remember). However, I finally admitted to myself that I did not enjoy it at the start of my senior year of college. All that was left in my schedule outside of science classes were– one sociology class, one writing class and one art class.
I continue to regret the lost opportunity, and the waste of mountains of my parents’ money. And it leads me to wonder, how many other moments of fraud have I committed in my life?
* Special Note: In an effort to prevent the perpetuation of additional fraud, I must disclose that I do not recall if it was actually a bespectacled man that asked me this interview question, or if the interview occurred in a bookshelved office on a sunny day. I also do not remember wearing black pants, but whatever color they were, I am sure they were snug. The remaining paragraphs are accurate to the best of my current knowledge.