The Exception to the Rule

T-shirts with “Top 10” lists on the back of them were very popular at my university.  Along the lines of “The Top 10 reasons drinking is better than studying,” for example.

The physical therapy majors decided to make our own shirts.  Ours was titled “You might be a PT major if….”  It was an inside thing.  Most of the 10 items listed only made sense to those of us in the major, and our friends who dared to ask.  I particularly liked, “…if Andre the Giant is a personal friend.”  We had a cadaver in Anatomy class who was massive and we nicknamed him Andre the Giant.  He was so big that he just barely fit on his dissection table.  When you closed the lid, it just grazed the top of his head and the bottoms of his feet.

For those of you that just lost your lunch, I apologize.

Anyway, the one item on the list that was like a dagger in my chest was “..if you’re the exception to the rule.”  There were plenty of rules to which PT majors were excepted.  For example, it was a general rule that you could study abroad in college.  Not PT majors.  It was a general rule that you could take whatever classes you wanted to when in college.  Nope.  Not us.

Having had my department chair laugh in my face when I asked about study abroad on my very first day at college, I knew we were the exception from day one.  And I didn’t like it.  I tried to take Russian one year.  It fit into my schedule, but then the PT department decided they needed to change one of our scheduled classes.  So instead of it being a traditional Tuesday, Thursday class, it was now a Monday, Thursday class.  All 45 of us PT majors were in the same classes on the same schedule, so the department thought nothing of switching.  They didn’t care that this meant that I could no longer take my Monday, Wednesday, Friday Russian class.  I hated being the exception.

Though I was unhappy in my chosen college major, I stuck it out.  And was determined to make the best of it. In my sophomore year, I applied to be an RA.  This, I was told, was another rule to which we PT majors were exceptions.  Faculty, staff, and other students were incredulous when I told them I was applying.  “Junior year is the hardest one in the PT program.  How can you be an RA and a PT major at the same time?”  No one could recall a PT major who had done it in recent years.  I was getting really sick of people telling me what I could and couldn’t do because I was a PT major.

I applied anyway, but was not accepted.  I secretly wondered if it was because someone in residence life thought a PT major couldn’t be an RA.  I applied again the following year.  This time, I was wait listed.  And the summer before my senior year, I was asked if I still wanted the position.  Of course I did!  And I was right – it is entirely possible to be an RA and at PT major.  In successive years, I would watch as PT majors in the classes below mine became RA’s.  I’m not saying I broke ground or anything – just that I was thrilled that they had someone ahead of them that was not the exception.

So I sometimes wonder if the lifestyle I choose to live now isn’t really just like a teenager revolting against their parents – only in my case, I am revolting against a college program that I felt boxed me in.  I couldn’t do what I wanted to when I was in college, so I’m doing anything I want to now – and for the rest of my life.

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