Students of VTChem: Zac Croft
April 7, 2022
"Our daughter was born when I was fifteen going on sixteen. It was a pretty scary time, and I had no idea how to be a dad at all. I had never even held a baby before. I was in the room while her mother was giving birth and it was the most terrifying thing to me. After she was born they handed her to me shortly afterwards, and there’s this picture of me looking down at her, where if you could have seen my face, you would see how scared out of my mind I was. But then you see my daughter’s face, and she had this look like “who in the heck is this crazy guy”.
It’s been a really interesting experience coming up through undergrad and now doing a Ph.D while still being active in my daughter's life. Before her, I just wanted to have fun and experience being a kid, but after she came along, my thinking process shifted. I wanted to be there for her in her life because I didn’t always have my dad around for me in mine. I wanted to make sure she didn’t have to experience that same thing. I started thinking about how I was going to best care for her and so became very concerned with my career trajectory. I knew I would need to go to college and decided I shouldn't take any time off from school until finished. I graduated high school and immediately started college and then from my undergraduate came straight into my Ph.D., so it’s been tough. I had to work about 30 hours each week at a local restaurant to provide for my daughter financially and did so for about five years from late high school through to the end of my undergrad. I tried to find the balance between what I wanted to do and what would make a good life for us. I can say now that I’m here, I think I haven't done too bad of a job of that so far.
My daughter’s name is Laura (yes, Laura Croft) and she means everything to me. She’s ten years old now and seems to be growing up faster and faster all the time. My hope for her is that she does what makes her happy and fulfilled in life. She’s a really great artist and already says she wants to go to school for art, which I think is totally awesome. In fact, she has already been commissioned once to create a colored sketch of Pinhead Patrick for a friend of mine who is also in the Chemistry Ph.D. program. The drawing turned out great in my opinion and became her first ever paid project, landing a crisp $20. It was really awesome too because for a while, it was hung up in the window of my friend’s cubby with a note giving Laura's name and firmly stating "NFS" (not for sale), so every day when I came to work, I would swell with pride seeing her drawing as I passed by. I hope that she sticks to her art and keeps getting better, but I want her to be confident enough to pursue new interests too. Whatever she decides she wants to do with her life, I’m totally fine with as long as she follows her heart and lives for herself rather than for the sake of someone else. Regardless of the path she chooses, I wish for her to above all have the determination and grit to see her dreams through." - Zac Croft