– Bob Dylan, ‘Mixed-Up Confusion’
I’ve noticed lately on this blog that people have been writing about their majors, and I realized I’d recently written a piece in that same vein. This originally appeared on Femsplain, a website that serves as a community for anyone who identifies as female to share their stories and receive support.
I believe, though, that the topic of the piece transcends gender; it’s something many college students can relate to, as a great deal of students have likely been made to feel insecure about their choice of major at one time or another, whether it be by family, friends, or the world at large. Check it out below!
I WON’T LET YOU MAKE ME FEEL INSECURE ABOUT MY MAJOR
“You’re studying that? Wouldn’t a smart girl like you want to do something else?”
“And what do you do with a degree in that field?”
Accompanied by eyebrow raises, patronizing head nods and slightly-too-long periods of silence, these are the among the typical responses I receive when I tell most people I’m studying communications and double minoring in advertising and art in college.
These disconcerted and disappointed replies immediately make me feel awkward, as if I’m doing something terribly wrong by choosing to learn about what I love. It is then, in a quick fight-or-flight reaction, that I feel the need to justify my decision; to elaborate on how versatile the degree will be; to exaggerate about my work experience or, in most cases, to outright lie and say that what I’m studying is “essentially marketing.” I find that simply saying I’m studying business is typically better accepted than discussing the values and various uses of studying communications.
People especially cringe when I say that I’m involved in art, as though that somehow translates to “this girl is setting herself up for a jobless existence” (which I sincerely do not think it does).
Often times, I find that the same people who have continuously encouraged me to do what I love are some of the first to shirk at the thought that doing what I love might not always be the most lucrative endeavor. What they don’t understand is that that doesn’t bother me; I’d prefer to look forward to working every day and receive a smaller paycheck than make bigger bucks doing something I despise. Granted, that’s easier to say than do, but ideally I’d want to live a life that allows me to follow my passion, and if that means getting the short end of the monetary stick, then so be it.
So why do I stretch the truth when it comes to telling people about my potential plans?
Because the future is unpredictable and sometimes, it’s downright scary. “The job market sucks” is a mantra that has been ingrained into the minds of millennials for quite a while now. The constant looming shadow of unemployment seems to lurk in every corner, reminding me that I will have a great deal of debt to pay once I leave the idealistic world of my college campus, and that I’m going to need immediate income if I ever want to put a dent in it. What if I don’t end up where I want to be, despite putting forth my best efforts? What if I graduate only to find that their hesitant reactions were right all along?
When I am honest with people about wanting to follow my passion wherever it takes me, I am instantly overcome with uncertainty, even though I myself am secure in what I’m doing with my life; rather, I’m overcome with their uncertainty, which is projected upon me like an image projected on a screen: an exact copy, a feeling frozen in time. In that moment, I am a mirror image of their own apprehensions.
But, like a projected image, their skepticism is two-dimensional and doesn’t seep inside me; like a picture in a slideshow, it is fleeting, and my belief in my abilities and my life path soon returns to build me up as quickly as their uneasiness had tried to tear me down. This is what I must remember when my instinct tells me to lie: I am not insecure about my major. They can’t make me feel insecure about my major, or about anything, for that matter. Even if, for a moment, I do feel my foundation breaking, I know that my passion is built strong enough to withstand their doubtfulness.
Next time someone inquires about my major, I don’t want to lie, or backpedal, or sugarcoat. I don’t even want to hesitate. I will tell them with confidence (whether it be completely genuine or mustered from the deepest depths of my being) that yes, I am studying communications, art and advertising. I will tell them that maybe a smart girl like me would want to do something else, but I’m not a girl like me — I am me. And this is what I want to do.
I will tell them that it is interesting, indeed! I’m fully invested in what I’m learning in class and thoroughly enjoy putting my skills into practice outside the classroom. I will tell them about the multitudes of options I’ll have (hell, the multitudes of options I’ll make) when it comes to careers.
Or, I’ll tell them the plain, unabashed truth: I don’t have a clue what kind of job I’m going to get, but I will make damn sure that I love every minute of the hunt, the struggle and the ultimate find. I’ll never stop learning. I’ll never stop climbing. I don’t care if it sounds too idealistic: I’m going to reach somewhere, and once I get there, I’ll keep moving onward and upward.
Their reactions to my newfound honesty will likely be a hundred times more dubious than their responses to my lies. But they’ll have a completely different reaction when I get to finally show them what I can — and will — do.