“So much to do, so little done, such things to be.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
At least halfway through our college experience, my friends and I have recently begun talking more and more about the future. We talk about careers. We talk about law schools and graduate programs. We talk about our post-grad lives and locations and aspirations and bucket lists and yes, even our uncertainties. Although we tend to enjoy our undergraduate majors and the classes associated with them, many of us aren’t 100 percent committed to the plans that are laid out for us.
Take it from a girl who has changed her major and minors at least once — deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life is not easy. I had bookmarked about a million pages in my course catalog in the hopes of stumbling upon a major I’d like, and while I did fall in love with the Advertising/Public Relations major early on, I still have no idea what I want to do with it when I graduate. Will I work at a fast-paced agency, or will I go the non-profit organization route? Will I even stick with the communications field? How will I know that there isn’t something else out there for me?
These questions (and those of my friends) bring me back to a single conversation I had in March of 2009. A senior in high school, I had recently committed to my university of choice and was attending a reception held by its president. During cocktail hour, I met an undergraduate advisor who asked me what I planned to major in.
“Well,” I began, “right now I’m registered as a Journalism major because I really like to write, but I’m thinking of switching to Psychology or English or maybe Anthropology…”
The advisor, in his forties, laughed good-naturedly at this. “I remember when I was your age,” he told me. “Like you, I had a lot of interests and was good at a lot of things. Even after I picked a major, I wondered if I should have been a doctor or a lawyer instead.
“I might have been a good doctor,” he continued, “or perhaps a good lawyer. But I found a major and a career I was happy with, and eventually had to stop asking myself the ‘What if?’ questions.
“One day, you too will find something you’re passionate about. And yes, you’re going to wonder if you would have been good at something else. In fact, there will be a whole realm of things you could have chosen to do, things you would have been great at. But once you’ve chosen something that makes you happy, there’s no point in wondering about those other things.”
After that night, I never saw this advisor again. (For all I know, he could have quit his job and applied to medical/law school.) Nevertheless, his words have stuck with me throughout the past two years. I realize that I could have studied to become a great journalist, psychiatrist, English professor or cultural anthropologist, but instead I chose to work in public relations and I’m happy with that. There is still some room for change, and I can always broaden my interests within the marketing world, but for the most part, I am content.
In a way, selecting a major and eventual career path is like accepting a marriage proposal. You can wade around for a while beforehand, exploring your interests and figuring out what you are looking for, but once you commit, you might as well stick with it. (Divorcing your career is always an option, but it’s nice to aim for the long haul, right?) Don’t settle for something that will make you unhappy, but do try to embrace and accept some of the ups and downs, and don’t think so much about the could-have-beens.