Last week a med student, a grad student, and someone with a dual Ph D. came into my seminar to talk with us. I don’t think I have ever felt so good about not knowing exactly what I want to do with my future. Part of me has come to accept that I don’t know what I am going to do after college, but the other part of me is still somewhat uneasy with the uncertainty of it all. But if there is one thing that I know for sure in it is that I will have a job and I will be ok. I am not worried about that.
Lately, I have talked to a few people that frustrated me with their judgmental attitudes about my aspirations. In high school, I wrote a paper about my decision to not be a doctor and pursue writing, and I spent time explaining the stigma that comes along with writing. But as I come closer and closer to actually going through with it, I am experiencing it more. I am so sick and tired of feeling embarrassed or bad that I want to do something with writing or film. While some of my friends are stressing out over their chemistry and calculus classes, I sometimes have people act like what I am doing is not challenging. None of my friends have ever said anything demeaning to me, but I have talked to people who have told me that humanities majors are a joke and that you are only smart if you are doing something hard like engineering. There is this great appreciation for engineering and premed students, because they are “guaranteed” a job after college. It’s as if by majoring in anything other than business or science I will be out on the streets begging for money in four years.
People have actually asked me if I don’t like science just because I am not majoring in something in the sciences. Just because I am not choosing to focus on a subject, doesn’t mean that I don’t like it or that I am bad at. It means that my interests lie somewhere else and that I value different things. The truth is that I could go on to make a lot more money than some of these people if I became successful enough. There are plenty of people who aren’t engineers or doctors that are making bank. Ever heard of Martin Scorsese? Or Peter Docter—who studied animation and then went on to make some of the greatest kids (Pixar movies such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc.) movies of our time? How about Amy Adams? I don’t think that Academy award winning actress is doing too bad for herself, and she didn’t even go to college. But my point is that even if I don’t have a huge income, I’m ok with that. I obviously would like to make enough to pay off my college debt and survive in this world, but I don’t need to throw lavish house parties or own a house that I could get lost in.
My college degree is going to matter, because it will be more than a piece of paper saying that I took some classes in some field. I will have experiences and skills that put me ahead of other candidates, because I will put the work in. Sometimes I start questioning myself when I am around people talking about studying for the MCAT or complaining about their math class. But then I realize something: I am doing what I want to do—because I can. I am not taking the easy way out. In some ways it is even harder because it isn’t guaranteed. But guess what? Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. It’s like getting married, at your wedding you are sure that this want you want for the rest of your life. But the divorce rate in this country proves that people don’t always know what they want for the rest of their lives when they are so young. You cannot guarantee that you will be happy in ten years with massive debt from med school and the realization that you just spend the last ten+ years driving yourself to the point of insanity studying. I truly hope you are happy. I do. But know this: whatever I do, I will be happy, too. For richer or poorer.