Disclaimer: This is rehashed from an article I wrote in February 2016 for GineersNow. Some parts are added or edited for clarity.
I stepped into engineering school with a solid grasp that I will conquer every subject that I will be dealing with. I came in with a conviction that I will get out of the university with flying colors, just like how I ended my high school being the class valedictorian. But as the first few weeks of my first semester came by, I was startled.
In the hundreds of engineering freshmen with me, there were many valedictorians, salutatorians, and honor students that I have met coming from different high schools. Basically, the college I enrolled in was a congregation of brilliant but still raw minds.
In every engineering class I was in, many others were always better performing than I am. Many others were smarter than I am. Many others were the teachers’ apples of the eye. I failed to level with them because, apparently, I was not good enough.
There were a couple of times that I had the chance to prove myself in class that I belong to the ranks of the honor students, or in the dean’s list; but sadly, I didn’t deliver. The toughness of the civil engineering course may be a factor; but mostly, it depended on my capacity.
I felt that my star already lost its spark. My insecurity had swallowed me whole. I was one of the better students in my high school and it all changed when I pursued engineering. I was just a regular engineering freshman. That was a bitter pill to swallow for me.
It took me the whole first semester to find out what was wrong with the way I was thinking: I had a complex that was hungry for attention; I felt a longing to be noticed by others. As soon as I realized that, I took it out of my system as it was toxic to my studies and my life. All I did then was study engineering one semester at a time; I carried on, still with the conviction that I will become a civil engineer someday.
I failed in my exams and quizzes once in a while like regular students do. But I aced some of them too, although it only happened on a few episodes. Needless to say, I was inconsistent.
Somehow, I finished my civil engineering course in the minimum time possible. I was able to survive the wrath of engineering with that critical shift of perspective when I was a freshman. I walked through my commencement exercise with the confidence of an honor student but minus the honor.
Now, I’m a licensed civil engineer. Looking back to my engineering freshman crisis, I came to realize a golden lesson that I will cherish in my lifetime: in engineering, or in any part of life, I do not need to be the best – what’s important is I am doing my best, and that’s more than enough.