head, heart, and history

‘Good morning, Schad!’ you call out hoping to hear a reply.

He gestures with a quick wave of his hand and mumbles, ‘Hi’
— Katerina Anastasiou

Seeing graduation ceremonies in full swing this weekend, brought on a wave of nostalgia. It reminded me how much I miss sitting in the classroom. It got me thinking how drastically different and unplanned my academic experience at Boston College ended up to be. I walked in as a freshman fully confident biology would be my jam. Well, that must have given God a good laugh, because I walked out with a diploma that read: Bachelor of Arts in History. 

I remember the moment I told MOTS. She didn't approve, and it felt weird going against her advice. But like quitting figure skating, this decision was for me. No one else. The paperwork was finalized in Lyons Hall, and I wasn't turning back. Somewhere between practice problem sets and tears, I had a realization: I didn't love college science the same way I loved high school science. This was a different ball game, and I was out of my league. (Red flag #1 of 7829201 that dental school was not meant to be...) I was exhausted, and worse yet, the competition and relentless curve had stolen the excitement of walking into a classroom. 

I wanted to do more than academically survive the six semesters I had left at Boston College. I wanted to love them. Changing from a biology, pre-dental major to History was a bold, millennial, liberal arts move. I was akin to those who had chosen philosophy. I was in the "There is no career in that." bucket. What in the hell was I going to do with History?! Keep my sanity. Learn for the sake of learning. Fall in love with my classes again. The choice wasn't based on a career. It wasn't practical. It wasn't planned. Biology was chosen with my head. History was chosen with my heart. 

I first fell in love as a young girl. Summer afternoons spent watching History's Greatest Blunders on the History Channel with my Grandpa are some of my fondest memories. Thanks to an amazing teacher in high school, history notes, papers, and tests quickly became my favorite. Mr. Schadendorf (Schad for short - rhymes with dad) taught history for forty-five years at Marian. His lectures never came from a textbook, they came from memory. A compilation of every book he ever read, Schad taught history as just that...His-Story. He described historical figures like old friends, and events as though he had seen them himself. With Schad, history was the novel you couldn't put down. You had to know what happened next.

The curiosity of next is what drove me to the Office of Student Services that spring day. Although my dream of being a dentist hadn't changed (it took a few more years...), I knew the road there had to. I hadn't even taken a history course at Boston College yet, but somewhere deep down, I knew it was the right choice. Glancing over the course offering list my heart nearly stopped. The French Revolution and Napoleon. America's War in Vietnam. U.S. Since 1945. Unlike Molecular Cell Biology, they called my name. My blood rushed. The excitement returned. 

It was a scary thought not having all the answers, and to this day, I'm still not sure what to do with my History major. Other than love it. I dream of going back to BC and doing it all over again. History from the start. No tears over chemical formulas or genetic replication. Just centuries of stories. But that's the beauty of hindsight. It's always 20/20. Without the science courses, I would never have learned an important lesson: you have to ignore the expectations and look beyond the dollar signs. Choose happiness. Some decisions just have to be made for you, and only you. Moreover, some of those decisions cannot be made with your head. They have to be made with your heart. I made a decision my freshman year of college, and the rest was History*. 

The *: I recently came across Mackenzie Horan's 101 things in 1001 days. One of the items on her list was to reconnect with your favorite high school teacher. The memories of Schad walking the halls with his lunchbox, waving his hand, mumbling, "Hi, hi, hi, tuck in your shirt, hi, hi, hi." immediately came to mind. So I added #2 to my list of 101 things in 1001 days. Schad's retirement from Marian in 2011 makes his address a tricky one for my envelope to find. But, I am determined. My personalized giraffe (his name is King Henry) stationary will find Mr. Schadendorf's mailbox, because His-Story is the reason I love my Boston College story.