The Major Question

For most of this summer, despite my advisor’s wishes, I spent a lot of time worrying about choosing a major. I’d been leaning towards double majoring in English and Theatre and Dance. But whenever I mentioned this to people, I reconsidered because many of them urged me to major in something more “practical” instead. Practical as in something that will heighten my probability of being offered a well-paying job upon graduation (Econ).

All summer, I tried to tailor my interests in playwriting and comedy to Economics, Mathematics, and, maybe, LJST. I didn’t think deeply about why I was doing this until I saw a documentary called “I Am”.

In “I Am”, the director, Tom Shadyac, attempts to find out, through a series of interviews, what’s wrong with our world and what we can do to change it. One of the interviewees, Thom Hartmann, said in response to the question:

“You know, these foundational notions of our relationship to stuff are grounded on a truth and a lie in our culture. The truth is that if you’re naked and cold at night outdoors all alone in the forest and it’s raining, you are unhappy. We can all agree on that. And if somebody, you know, opens the door and says ‘Come on in, here’s a fire you can sit next to, here’s clothing you can put on, here’s a blanket, here’s a warm place to sleep, here’s a bowl of soup, suddenly you go from being unhappy to happy with very little stuff. But it’s stuff that makes the difference. Just like that. So that’s the truth. The lie, then, is well, if this amount of stuff will make you that happy, then ten times as much stuff will make you ten times happier or one hundred times as much stuff will make you one hundred times happier, or one thousand times as much stuff will make you one thousand times happier. And Bill Gates must live in a state of perpetual bliss.”

Another interviewee, Howard Zinn, added:

“We have a psychological problem… people are driven to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate without asking the question of ‘Will this make me happy or not?’”

I realized that I was trying to tailor my interests to “practical” majors so that I could eventually accumulate stuff and have a secure future. But the accumulation of stuff doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness. And I know that I am neither patient nor strong-willed enough to dispassionately work for several decades to have one or two decades of complete freedom and happiness. I figured that I should major in what I’m passionate about. I should follow my dreams! Shoot for all of the stars in our universe!  What the hell, all of the stars in ANY universe.

But then I remembered that I have a family who has made a lot of financial sacrifices for me. They have worked hard so that I will have more than they did when they were growing up. Each investment, from private schooling to summer enrichment programs, was made in hopes of making my life a little bit easier, in terms of surviving, than theirs were. I had/have no desire of disappointing my family or making them feel that their money and time have been wasted. But the more I thought about it, the more I noticed that I had very little interest in the direction that I was being encouraged towards. It was time for me to become the captain of my own yacht.

I decided to prepare myself for whatever outcomes may come my way from double majoring in English and Theatre and Dance, or other “impractical” majors. I did some research on people whose careers I admired and on majors in general. Surprisingly, I found that, nowadays, the correlation between college majors and career paths is exaggerated. Our majors are simply one piece of information that employers will see and make their decisions on along with our previous work/volunteer experience, school, GPA, extracurricular activities, personality, and speaking, writing, and thinking skills.

At the end of the day (today), I respect my family. All of their love and support has put me in a place where I can choose to follow my passion without as many consequences as they would have faced. I encourage everyone to figure out what’s best for you. As for me, I’m going to take a couple of very deep breaths and stop being so obsessive (over majors at least).

Further reading: – This document studies the influences that gender, race, socioeconomic status, and academic preparation have on students when choosing a major.