There’s a lot of potential to struggle in college whether it be over the classes you take, your decision to rush (or not to rush), figuring out which clubs and organizations to invest your time and energy into, or even deciding on a roommate. However, the thing I have consistently grappled with is one I never imagined I would have to: declaring a major that people feel entitled to question or disrespect.
When I declared my women’s and gender studies major I didn’t expect a parade or even a tasteful golf clap, I just assumed life as a college student would go on as it always has. Unfortunately, what I didn’t understand is that declaring a major that wasn’t economics or politics or biology would somehow jeopardize the way other people perceived me. Some would tell me, “good luck finding a job,” followed by a half-hearted laugh and whole-hearted eye-roll . Others would just look at me with a completely blank expression, not quite knowing how to react. My favorites were the men who would point to me as if I posed a great threat to their ever-fragile masculinity, “so you’re one of those feminists, huh?” I would reply with a simple, “yes, you caught me,” and pretend like it hadn’t upset me.
But the fact of the matter is it does upset me that many others perceive my major as being somehow inferior to their own. It does upset me that I feel like during every phone interview I spend half of the conversation defending my major and repeatedly promising them that it’s relevant and useful. There have been times that I’ve considered lying about my major just so I don’t have to have to participate in a potentially-difficult conversation about the “why” and the “how.”
Learning to be comfortable in my academic choices has been hard. Yes, it sucks when people don’t see the merit in what you’re passionate about studying. Yes, it sucks when you feel the need to put up elaborate walls with the words, “I swear I’m not trying to shove an ideology down your throat,” painted across the brick in bright red.
It’s taken me two whole semesters to learn that there’s nothing wrong with embracing your passions. You should major in what you feel most passionate about, not what you think will land you the best internships or the biggest salary. This isn’t intended to be a rant rife with self-pity or disdain for the opinions of others. Everyone is entitled to be passionate about whatever they choose, and that’s the great thing about college. It’s about opening up those avenues and deciding what really makes you move and think and create. In the end, it’s all about perspective. I had a phone interview just the other day, and instead of going in with the mindset that I would have to defend my women’s and gender studies major, I chose to look at it as an opportunity to talk about something that was deeply important to me. It was about connecting the dots, and using everything that I had learned to show why it was important, rather than begging someone to believe that it was.
So here’s my advice. In order to really do what you love, you have to believe in it with 110% of your being. It’s okay to have doubts, but never let those overshadow what fuels your fire. Forget the people who tell you that you can’t and instead focus on why you originally believed you could. Be true to what you want to fight for and everything else will fall into place.