Education Over Reputation

Our whole lives, we have a path carved out for us. Senior year hits and suddenly we need to have everything figured out for the next step of our lives.  Students apply to schools with the stress of possibly not getting in, and now, not getting into the most challenging program.

When you feel like you have to pick a certain path or program, it is likely much more difficult to eventually switch your major.  A realization like that usually takes failure or breakdowns, and once you come so far you don’t want to have to go through it again with another major. The truth is, we don’t know what is really out there that might cater to our interests until we explore the options.

Exploration is key during these 4 years of undergrad. No one is addressing the benefit of failing or exploring his or her career paths because the college atmosphere is so incredibly intense and competitive.  It would seemingly set you back to take time to choose rather than “stick with something and run with it.”

I have personally battled with deciding which major that I can be both passionate about as well as intellectually challenged with. I have never been one that is monetarily motivated and I somewhat ignored that factor because I hated the idea that people pursue their life career with such a shallow objective.  Once this creeps up on you, though, you begin to think you have to choose a realistic path and start to weigh which matters more, passion or income.  This is a lot to handle as a 19 year old kid who has had their academic career practically carved out for them until this point.  I personally felt a load of pressure, and started to lose sight of what I was working toward.  

Originally I went into school knowing I wanted to help people, specifically through nutrition and health.  Once I started this track, it was practically pre-med, and my ego drove me to try and pursue medical school because it was highly respected and obviously a better salary. When people ask what my major was (all the fricking time) and I said pre-med, they were honestly impressed. That measly self-given title comes with a lot of respect. It has 10 years packed onto it and the baggage of the current load of courses.

The thought of spending the next 10+ years of dedicating my life to medicine and spending my life in a hospital sounded miserable to me and really stressed me out. I could not help but try to convince myself daily that it would all work out and I was on the right track.  I was walking through sludge. Studying wasn’t even fun, and let me tell you I usually love hunkering in and studying for a subject that interests me. But memorizing every single muscle and bone in the body was not stimulating and didn’t let me show my ability to think and learn. It did not feel like there was an end goal anymore, but just the long haul of schooling leading to my eventual hard earned income. I lost passion, and didn’t even feel like I would be helping people the way I wanted to with how conventional medicine is today.

I ended up failing two exams. I have never failed, or come close to failing, anything in my life and within the span of a week I failed both exams. At first, I was devastated. I actually felt like I was a failure. But, as I reflected on the outcome I knew that this was the biggest sign I needed for a change.  

And I honestly realized the voice in my head telling me to switch to psych for the past year needed to be heard. Psychology was a subject I kept picking up classes in when I could, and was so excited to take them. Within that terrible week of experiencing failure, I actively made a change, and I had never felt happier. Everything began to feel fluid and easier for me, even the classes that had previously felt unmanageable. Life in general felt a little more fulfilling. I switched my major, and I began interviewing for internships I was interested in, that felt way out of my realm beforehand.

I should have known that psychology was more for me when I kept trying to fit psych classes into my schedule, but something was holding me back.  I thought I needed the hardest major and the hardest classes in order to be on the right track. Things don’t seem to come into fruition until you listen to your gut instinct.  I have met so many kids that are specifically, but not limited to, business or pre-med and they don’t even like it at all. Specifically, I was talking to a student that had gotten into the business school, but his passion was in the arts. He didn’t even like business, he just thought that the name of the specific school was too hard to pass up. He really is one of so many students I’ve talked to that are legitimately convinced that it’s worth it to be unhappy now to achieve some sort of status or potential outcome. Whether that status be as a student on campus or on your resume. The truth is, if you aren’t happy now, in this moment, you aren’t getting into a habit of living for yourself. Our ego drives a lot of our decisions, especially during these critical four years.  

And I know, it definitely takes perseverance to reach your personal goals, which might not be easy. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows. There will always be a hard class or obstacle that doesn’t make you happy, but I am talking about the big picture that makes it all worth it. If you lose sight of that, that’s when it's time for some self reflection. We grow and learn more about ourselves when we try to overcome the obstacles while being open minded and flexible. So many students put the emphasis on being stressed or unhappy, but maybe it just shows laziness when you aren’t willing to change. When the end goals seem foggy, it’s okay to be open minded, take time to sit back and evaluate your path. It is easy to pick something and “run with it,” but it’s much more challenging and rewarding to face the uncomfortable feeling of the unknown and self assess until the solution becomes clear.

For the past couple years I have tried making a conscious effort in not letting my ego control me and my decisions, but it is so hard to tell sometimes when you are so stuck on something. I was able to lift that weight off my chest and realize that I am allowed to switch my major and do what makes me happy, even if it isn’t the hardest thing for me, it’s hard for someone else.

On a campus like Michigan, many students feel crippling anxiety with the thought of failure. I am one of them. If you can’t do everything perfectly, then what’s the point? The point is that there is a beauty in the endless choices of paths we can take while coming to the end of our academic career and into our professional career. It all comes back down to what makes you excited to go to class and pay attention, what makes you happy and able to think about your goals clearly and with passion. It is different for everyone, and feeling stuck can only be changed once we accept it.