From flower princess to novelist?
When I was little, the first career dream I had was “flower princess.” I mean, why not? The hours were pliable, the benefits were lavish, and the pay was fantastic. But two big changes would come along to make that dream shift a little. One, my flower allergies kicked in; and two, I started growing up. Flower princess turned into ballerina, into movie director, into chef, into novelist.
While a fluid ambition is expected as a child, what I’ve found is that fluidity never stops. Change doesn’t slow down just because we grow up—if anything, it speeds up. So there shouldn’t be a stigma when change appears during college.
Declaring my first major: creative writing
I arrived at Western Washington University in fall 2013, and immediately declared a major in creative writing. That first quarter was bursting with the kinds of English courses I’d always dreamt of, but something about them just didn’t seem to fit quite right.
Words have always been my passion, and for years I worked toward the goal of becoming a novelist. But when I started to hear about the years and years authors would spend on single projects, I began to doubt whether I could handle that much time in my own head. At first I hated myself for feeling that way. It was what my parents had already spent a quarter of tuition for. It was what I was supposed to do. But my heart and my gut were both telling me that wasn’t true, that maybe this wasn’t the right direction for me after all.
I thought back to my time at American Honors and how the guidance of my counselors showed me that I could go farther than the predictable four-year university the majority of my high school classmates would be attending.
AH showed me I had the potential to go to school clear across the country if I wanted.
I had the potential to do so much more than I’d ever thought.
If I could get accepted at schools in Boston and New York, why couldn’t I handle a changing my major? The answer was that I could. I remembered that so many of my AH classmates weren’t certain what they wanted to study when they got to four-year universities, but they were some of the strongest, most intelligent people I’ve ever met. I had no doubt that if one of them were in my situation, they’d be able to handle it. So that meant I could too.
Search for a new major
So I started to look outside of the creative writing department. The heads of the new departments were all more than willing to give me a summary of their major and the possibilities they could lead to career-wise. But still I couldn’t find the kind of connection I was looking for.
I didn’t want to teach, screenplays gave me the same trouble as novels, and technical writing was a little too advertising-heavy for my taste. But no matter what, I wanted to keep writing as a part of my life. If I couldn’t be a flower princess, then I wanted to write.
So when I was in the midst of another string of panicked frenzies trying to rethink my future before winter quarter registration, I was intrigued to meet a fellow student who was working to start a creative arts magazine. He was looking for a reporter for the magazine’s literature section, and at that point I was happy to have a distraction from all the stress. But what I hadn’t been counting on was finding that connection I’d been searching so desperately for.
A few months later, I was sitting in the intro class of the journalism major, and not a single time did I regret the decision.
Traveling around town, meeting new people, and learning new things offered an exhilaration I hadn’t felt since I was ten and imagined becoming the new J.K. Rowling. It was spontaneous and fast-paced, and it came with the new challenge of shaping my writing to be both informative and entertaining.
A few months later, I was sitting in the intro class of the journalism major, and not a single time did I regret the decision. Not only that, but by the end of winter quarter I was ready to change my major officially, keeping creative writing as a minor. Now I’m enjoying my life at school more than ever.
5 strategies to find a major you love
So if you’re in a place where you’re feeling unsure about your path of study, don’t panic, don’t feel guilty. You owe it to yourself to be happy doing something you love, even if that something isn’t what you’re thinking it is now. Here are some steps that might help you out:
Take a deep breath and think about what’s going on in your life--it’s normal to feel uneasy about your place in college, but if you’re seriously doubting your major, you need to keep a clear head to think things through.
If you’re unsure about what you would want to study instead, go explore some of the different departments around your school (this can be in-person, or you can look online to find some of the more obscure categories).
From there, find a few new directions that interest you and make appointments to talk with the department heads (trust me, they’ll be more than happy to talk with you about their majors).
Pick a few classes outside of your old major to take during the next academic period.
Keep exploring what catches your interest, you may not find your choice right away but don’t get discouraged--never settle.
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