When I entered ETSU, I was a Biology major. Two days later, I knew that wasn’t going to work out. My grades weren’t bad. (Though I dropped Biology I, I kept my Chemistry class and made an A.) I just didn’t like it.
I was terrified. For my entire life I’d heard that if you wanted to be successful, you needed a degree in the sciences. Or Accounting or Business Management or something medical.
And now I knew I didn’t enjoy any of those things. I cried in my honors adviser’s office, telling her I wanted to change my major to English. She didn’t bat an eye, just handed me the change of major form and a tissue.
I knew I wanted to be a writer or an editor. I wanted to work with magazines or books, and I had a special love for fiction and for good arguments. But that was it. I didn’t know how to get there. And the job market seemed bleak. My parents, some teachers, society had hammered into me that pursuing anything in the humanities would lead to homelessness and despair.
What they never told me was the power of passion. Not “OMG, guys! This is the thing I’m doing!” passion (although occasionally it’s like that), but “I enjoy spending some of my free time reading articles in this field” passion. The passion of easily remembering the minutiae of a subject, of seeing it’s importance, of being able to see new connections because it’s not just some classes you’re taking, it’s something you want to immerse yourself in.
I don’t think people give that kind of passion enough credit. It’s not something that can be measured by a career aptitude test, the ACT/SAT, the GRE or the Meyers-Briggs test.
First world problem: I scored well on the ACT. I’m fairly intelligent and I never failed a class in high school. My path would have been more clear if I had failed every class in high school except my English classes. That would have been a clear sign of where I needed to go.
So, confronted with many possibilities, I chose Biology people said would be best in the long run. However, I don’t think I would have been a good Biology student.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I would have maintained a similar GPA in Biology, but I would have been miserable. And I can’t imagine I would have been a happy employee post-graduation, either.
This is the final thought I want to leave with you as my time at the ETSU draws to a close: Don’t let people draw conclusions for you. (It’s what I’ve been saying in other contexts all year.)
When I signed up for Biology, I did so because other people had concluded that it would lead to success. But I believe I can be successful with a B.A. in English.
After I changed my major to English, people concluded that I would be a teacher.
But I believe I’ll be an editor. Or a writer. Or a researcher. I’ll follow my passion because it will lead me where I want to go.