The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.
Most 18-year-olds don’t know what they want to do with their lives, but I was certain that I wanted to major in biology. Since I was in eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. My friends and family told me to keep an open mind to other career pursuits, but I was sure. I wasn’t in it for the money, I knew what difficult classes I had to take; I had read all the books. I was going to make it through pre-med and on to medical school, come hell or high water. There was no way I was ever going to change my major.
And then I suffered through a year of general chemistry and the first quarter of biology. I didn’t really enjoy these classes, even though they made up the bulk of my coursework. I found myself having frequent panic attacks and depressive episodes. I sacrificed my mental health for the career that I chose as a kid.
“It’s worth it,” I told myself. “I have always wanted to be a doctor.”
Fall Quarter rolled around and I began taking organic chemistry. The class’s reputation scared me and my professor’s absence due to his fall off a ladder didn’t help build my confidence as I was unsure of what material I was even expected to know. I wasn’t sure I understood the material, and I didn’t find studying for the class at all enjoyable. Again, I started having panic attacks when I tried to study.
After a particularly bad panic attack the Monday before the first midterm, I found myself on the phone with my therapist, reconsidering my whole life plan. It finally hit me: It’s impossible to know exactly what you what to do with your life when you are 18 years old. While pre-med had been my dream since I was a kid, I wasn’t happy with it in actuality. I hated my classes and lamented being unable to take the interesting classes I saw my friends taking. I was dreading spending another four years in school after I graduated. Furthermore, I could see myself being happy in other careers. I thought I might like to be a therapist doing crisis intervention in the emergency room.
After a few days of panicking and soul-searching, I decided to change my major to Human Development and Psychological Services, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. I am excited to take HDPS classes next quarter. I get to study topics I am interested in, like identity and motivation and adulthood and aging, rather than classes I dreaded. It feels like I have a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that I can get a job as a mental health technician without going through more school. If I want, I can work part-time while getting my master’s in social work. I am not even giving up my dream of working in health care. I am studying an area more suited to my strengths and interests that will still allow me to help others, which is what drew me to health care in the first place.
College is about discovering your talents and interests and finding a major that suits you. It’s OK not to know what you want to study right away. I highly recommend all students explore different clubs and classes to find what interests them. If the classes you are taking are making you miserable, it’s OK to try something different.
Even if you were sure.