Our first mother-daugher Smarty-Pants Woman combo. 31-year old Lia Banie is Susan Banie’s daughter. They’ve inspired each other to push the scholastic limits. Here’s Lia’s story:
My journey through academia has had many highs and lows. I started out as an honor roll student in elementary school, and I was very motivated and competitive in my studies. When I went to high school, a small, private institution that stressed the importance of creating a passion for learning, I was seemingly lost in my ability to assess my performance because they did not give grades. I did not understand or like this concept, and my studies suffered as a result (I eventually saw all of my grades at once when I was preparing to apply to colleges in my junior year. Talk about traumatizing!). I felt pressured into going to college by my parents, so the resentment that I experienced on top of my new found sense of freedom combined for a more than lack luster performance in my studies. I attended UC Santa Barbara as a pre-Med student, and I successfully achieved B’s and C’s in most of my classes. That first year, I remember not completing any of the work for an Anthropology 1A class (I have still yet to read the only assigned reading, Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa: the Life and Words of a !Kung Woman), and the day of the final, I accidentally slept in until 9:30am, missing the 8am start of the final. I rushed over to the Lecture hall in my pajamas, tore open the doors to the 800 person room auditorium, only to have everyone turn around and stare at me. Practically in tears, I told the professor that my alarm never went off, and that I would like to take the final. This kind hearted man (Dr. Mattison Mines and you can read his book Public Faces, Private Voices: Community and Individuality in South India) agreed to let me take the final, and even offered me words of reassurance, as he could see that I was incredibly distraught and upset with myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to succeed or do well in college; it was that I was ill-prepared for the rigors of college life, mentally and emotionally.
The next semester, I went further down the rabbit hole, got
mononucleosis, and I was forced to withdraw out of school.
That summer of 2000, I had a lot of time to think about my life and
future. I realized that I wanted to try harder in school, and I didn’t
want to be a college drop out. I enrolled in two classes at San
Francisco City College, and I got two A’s in both Statistics and
Psychology. I felt more determined to succeed at UCSB, and so I
returned that fall. The rest of my college career involved a lot of
studying, a lot of drinking, a lot of part-time jobs and a lot, of
well, drama. I had no idea how to manage my time or how to focus. I
thought that if I talked about studying enough, it would somehow get
done, but it just helped me to procrastinate, worry, feel guilty and
ultimately, not study as effective and efficiently as I could have.
During my last quarter in school, I was beyond ready to graduate and
return to the Bay Area. Then I got a letter from the registrar’s
office explaining that I had one unit to complete before I could
graduate. I was devastated (and I still have a reoccurring dream
involving this incident). I was so depressed and I felt like I would
never finish school. In the end, that last quarter I took a full
course load and worked 20 hours a week at my job in order to keep
busy. In retrospect, that quarter was literally a god send because I
was able to work with an inspirational and fantastic mentor, Dr.
Armand Kuris, doing a directed reading on Leishmania, a trypanosomatid
parasite carried in the sandfly that currently affects approximately
12 million people worldwide. He later gave me a stellar job
recommendation for my current research position in a molecular biology
lab at UC San Francisco. I believe that if I hadn’t endured that last,
almost unbearable quarter in college, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Despite my struggles in school, I graduated with a Bachelor of
Sciences degree in Biological Sciences in the spring of 2004. I’m not
going to say that it was an easy ride, but it was definitely a journey
with many lessons learned, in and out of school.
After working in the lab for almost 8 years, I am now motivated to go
back to school to continue my studies to become a Clinical Laboratory
Scientist. I am completing my prerequisites for the program, and I am
currently taking Immunology at UC Berkeley Extension. I have my mom to
thank for encouraging and inspiring me to go back to school.
Sometimes, I think that it’s too late or I should just be happy with
the job that I have, but it is important to never stop learning and
always challenge yourself. I know that I was a part of the inspiration
for my mother to take college more seriously and aim high. It’s a
beautiful thing that we are able to inspire each other and it is
something that I am very grateful for. She is so enthusiastic about
learning and expanding her horizons. Her passion for continuing her
education is infectious. Even though I had what seemed like a
stressful and unhappy experience in college years ago, I see that I
can actually enjoy learning. It all depends on your attitude and how
you approach the process. I looked at my education as something to
bemoan and complain about. I looked at it as something that I didn’t
want to do but something that my parents wanted. I put a lot of
pressure on myself to succeed, not because I wanted to, but because I
didn’t know how else to motivate myself. Now I see that learning is
fun, and ultimately, you are in a competition with yourself and no one
else. It’s easy to get in the mind trap of “Who got the best grade?”
or “I did so bad on that test,” but this kind of thinking is
self-defeating. Avoid the naysayers and only listen to people whose
point of view you respect. (The professor in my first chemistry class
told me at his office hours that I should probably look into another
major besides Biology because he didn’t think that I was cut out for
it. He also wore the same pink collared shirt every day and he had a
horribly bitter attitude.) We should be building ourselves up as women
and realizing our true potential. As cheesy as it sounds, you can
truly be whatever you want to be in this life, and that is the richest
gift of all.
With that said, I have a few suggestions that took me a long time to
Be healthy and kind of yourself. Don’t drink too much coffee or eat
too much candy while studying. Get enough sleep. Alcohol and weed are
fun in your free time, but don’t take it too far and practice
moderation. Be open to eliminating these things from your life if you
suspect that you may have a substance abuse problem.
I had some major emotional problems that I needed to work out. If you
unnecessarily suffer, I recommend individual talk therapy, especially
with an emphasis in cognitive behavioral and/or dialectical behavioral
therapy (DBT) if it seems right for you. Everyone is different, so
explore your options and do some research.
Practice Mindfulness and meditation if you tend to worry.
Have some fun activities to do in your spare time.
Time management is essential for creating effective periods of study and play.
Read What Color is your Parachute by Richard Bolles before you graduate.
Have a relaxing home environment that is like your sanctuary.
Moderate use of social media and the internet (I can easily get sucked
into surfing the net!).
Look into summer internships (most are only available to enrolled
college students) or volunteer with a professor that you admire.
Talk to your professors at office hours.
Keep up with your studying all throughout the class and avoid cramming
Take advantage of the Career and Counseling center, which often has
many free services (mine had therapy and massages), personality tests
(like Myers-Briggs), and a wealth of information on how to get a job
and potential contacts.
Pay a visit to your department advisor to go over unfulfilled general
requirements and Upper Division classes as you near graduation.
I recommend taking an Introduction to Business class (which will teach
you practical information that is essential for living in a consumer
society like ours, i.e. balancing a check book, what are stocks, the
meaning of debt, saving money, business plans, etc.).
Above all, have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself.