Dear College Freshman:
This article: “Four Steps to Choosing Your College Major” got me thinking about those early days of college. Age 18, so much journey ahead of you. So many choices. So many changes. SO much. So I wanted to write an open letter to those about to go through this life change.
· First, really, don’t stress too much about what your major is. And it’s OKAY if it changes. Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that this major choice that we make at age 18, 19 and 20 is what will completely decide where we will be in 10, 20, and even 30 years. And to think that is always the case is just crazy in the world that we live in these days. Especially as a millennial and beyond. We are a generation known for moving around, for exploring our options and for often choosing out of the box creative or tech careers that just don’t look like traditional work used to. I was always a little bit jealous of the people who vehemently knew exactly what they wanted to do at 18 and followed that career to completion. Those that want to go into medical school and follow that trajectory, or want to be a college professor and follow that. Major props to them. But you know what, it’s okay if you aren’t one of those people, and it’s okay if you think you are and then change your mind later on. I promise, it’s okay.
My husband has a degree in Sociology…and drives Amtrak trains for a living. My dad has a bachelor’s in advertising and nearly a master’s in film. He delivered Fedex while I was growing up, and was and continues to be a writer and DJ in retirement. One of my dear friends just found an awesome career with her master’s in communication, late 30s, military veteran and 2 kids later. I started out at one college as an English major, switched schools to become a music major and then switched back to being an English major with a Music minor. Even within English, I wavered between teaching and between creative writing, settling in the latter.
I worked in publishing, marketing, corporate and state environments, I played around with the idea of early childhood education. And then at age 27 after the birth of my first daughter, I fell in love with Birth work. It was a meandering path that led me here, but when I think about it, there really was no other way for me to get here. Paths are rarely straight. Dear new college freshman, the path is long, and it winds, changes directions quickly and sometimes you come upon a major roadblock that keeps you stagnant for a while. It’s all okay.
· Enjoy it. (Cliché as all hell I know, but it’s true) There will be stories that you will continue to tell for years to come. You might get as lucky as I did and meet your soul mate and husband at 19. You might make friends at your college orientation or concert band that will be in your life for years to come. (I’m looking at you Annie and Rose!) Or you might be afraid a certain someone isn't going to like you when you meet them after switching colleges and then they become your forever friend, no matter how far apart you are - love you Steph.
· Take as many classes as you can that make you excited. You might find something obscure that leads you to a path that you might not otherwise thought of.
· Do internships. Get a feel for all different kinds of jobs. You can really find out what it would be like to actually be in a career, not just in some abstract way, but in a real tangible way. You might love it. You might hate it. Try to find paid ones or at least ones that give you college credit.
· Learn to QUIT things you don’t love. This is the big one. We aren’t good with quitting. For some reason as a society we equate it only with failing, but sometimes quitting can be the healthiest thing for you. You hear it SO often with people in my age bracket. People have a master’s degree in something they don’t care about because they just felt like they “SHOULD” do it after undergrad, or they went to law school because they ‘didn’t know what else to do’ after they graduated. I almost fell into that trap doing a master’s degree that made me incredibly unhappy or staying in Music when I was beginning to hate music as a music major. (FYI -When you come home crying once a week from classes or a job, that’s probably a pretty decent red flag.) Quitting being a music major, and quitting my master’s degree program were two of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make. I still remember both of those days crystal clear. The terror. The relief. In those moments, they felt like life altering choices, and I guess looking back they kind of were, but not in the way I thought. Not in the “I’m failing this” way. Instead, now I can look back and say Wow, thank GOD I did that. Could I have continued on either of those paths and been successful? Sure. Would I have been happy? Not a chance in hell. Be brave. Don’t be afraid of quitting because of what others will think. Be afraid of staying because of what YOU may feel.
· It’s just the beginning. When you come to the end of the 4 or 5 years you spend in college, you know what? You still may not have it all figured out and that is okay. It’s just the beginning of your path. I will never forget sitting in the car on top of the parking garage next to Capistrano Hall the day of my last final crying my eyes out on the phone to my brother. The “what am I going to do with my life, NOW?” feelings are totally normal. I had already been married a year and even had a decent job out of college but I still felt that crushing doubt and inadequacy. Remember, it really is just the beginning. At 23 I had no idea where I’d be now at 27. Or what I'd go through to get there. Trust that you will figure it out.
I’ll leave you with the sunscreen song.
Be Brave. Have Fun. Take it as it comes. You’re gonna do great!
And because it's #throwbackthursday here's Chris and I at a concert in Tahoe my first year of college.