My dad always told me growing up that it’s important to choose a career path that is either going to make you a lot of money or one that is going to make you happy every day. As an 18-year-old kid, having virtually no money, it seemed obvious that even though money doesn’t buy you happiness, it definitely helps.
When I was a senior in high school, I decided I needed to have all my college decisions already made. I was going to be a woman with a plan. The only question was what the hell was I supposed to do with my life. Now most people say when you go into college that you don’t need to have everything already figured out. They all say chances are you’re probably going to change your major at least twice anyways, so why rush? Well that just wasn’t me. I was going to have a plan mapped out and ready, so I could just get through my four years and start my life. My first major choice ended up being Bio-Med. I was going to be a doctor. Of course, the fact that I was watching Grey’s Anatomy at the time had nothing to do with that choice…okay, maybe a little. But who wouldn’t want to be a doctor, given the option? I always considered myself to be a somewhat intelligent person; I could pull this off. Doctors had prestige and glory. They were respected in almost every community, and soon, so would I.
Well, as you can probably imagine, that didn’t work out so well. During my first semester, I was taking chemistry, biology, anatomy, etc. and at the end I found myself asking “why?” Did I even really like science? Was the 8+ hours of homework a day really worth this big “dream” of mine? After much thought, I found the answer was a hard no. So I switched to undecided until I could really figure out what I wanted.
My second semester was full of liberal arts and NAU requirement classes. After having had class at 8am 5 days a week with 8+ hours of homework per day, it was a cake walk. I had the chance to actually do some of the things I loved, like drawing and painting and writing! But I could never make a career out of those things…my parents always told me those were “hobbies,” not jobs. They would say, “You can always be a doctor who practices art, but you can never be an artist who practices medicine.” For a long time, this made sense to me. I could have the best of both worlds! I could be a strong career driven woman who also likes to occasionally write short stories or draw pictures. Boy was I wrong.
The first semester of my sophomore year, I took my first engineering class. I’ve always been very good at math and design work, which allowed me to use some of my more creative side. Even though the class had a lot of busy work, it seemed to be worth it. I was doing design projects with other students who shared my interest, and I even made a bunch of new friends. Granted, they weren’t usually the kind of people I hung out with, but I liked that I could get along so well with people who were so different than me. After the semester ended, I had made another decision. I was going to be a mechanical engineer. My family was so proud—they even liked to brag about me to their friends, so they said. It made me feel so good about myself in the beginning. It was hard, sure, but ultimately I thought it was what I really wanted to do. I found myself telling people I was going to try and work for Google or Apple. I was going to be a designer for new products and be “famous” in the mechanical world. I painted a glorious picture in my mind where I was a strong, respected woman in the engineering community. I even had the advantage of being a woman—I could work anywhere.
Being undecided still in my first semester as a sophomore allowed me to take some classes I might not have otherwise. One of these classes was my very first creative writing class. I thought “why not?” this could be really fun—and I was right. To this day, ENG 270 with Erin Stalcup is still one of my favorite classes that I’ve ever taken at NAU—and I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say I have taken a lot of classes. I should have realized at the time what my heart was trying to tell me, but I was so dead set on becoming the picture perfect person in my mind that I didn’t listen.
Second semester of my sophomore year brought on an entire schedule filled with engineering classes. At the time, I was taking mechanical engineering, calculus, physics, computer science, and even a lab or two. I know, fun, right? The first round of engineering classes weren’t too bad, I managed to hang on to my grades and was even able to convince myself that I was doing the right thing—that I was doing what was best for me. Well I’m sure you’ve come to realize, I wasn’t.
My first semester of junior year, I was taking some more upper level engineering classes, and they definitely weren’t what I was expecting. I knew they would be hard, but I had no idea they would be that hard. With all the homework, tests, and projects they piled on us, I had no time for any of the things I actually liked. I lost touch with myself in a way because I wasn’t able to have a creative output. Creativity has always been my best friend, and I had ultimately shut it out.
Second semester of junior year, I was still set on being an engineer. I couldn’t just give up on being that person. That person who my family was so proud of. That person who impressed people when they heard her plans. That person who I so badly wanted to be, but just wasn’t. I was taking all these engineering classes, and each one of them I hated. When people used to ask me about my major, I would proudly say “Mechanical Engineering” with a smile, but towards the end of the semester, something funny started to happen. I felt almost like I was lying to them. Like I was faking my enthusiasm towards this subject because it was still the “right” thing to do. I knew in my heart what I really wanted, and engineering just wasn’t it.
At the very end of my second semester of junior year, I had made a final decision. English. It had come to a point in my life where there really wasn’t any other path for me. I had came to the realization that I could either choose for myself, or let my family choose for me. Spoiler alert: I chose me, and I couldn’t be happier. Today I am a very happy and excited English major student working towards certificates in Literature and Creative Writing. I actually enjoy the classes I’m taking and feel like I am really where I’m supposed to be.
Here’s a little tip from me to you; everybody, especially family, will try and make decisions for you. They will give you their opinions even when they're not necessarily wanted. And you should let them. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t gone on this crazy college roller coaster adventure. Sure, it was stressful at times, but along that path I found my true self. I had an epiphany of sorts and finally came to the realization that this life I’m living is mine and mine alone. I can’t go on trying to do things because it’s what others want or expect of me. I have to do what’s best for me because no one knows me better than I do, and because no one has lived my life but me.
picture credit: universi-tea.tumblr.com