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The Picture of Success

I’ve struggled a lot with the concept of self worth: specifically, the way we measure how valuable we are. Like a lot of students at CMU, I was considered “the smart kid” when I was growing up. Coming into a college full of brilliant students, it was a culture shock, and I felt intimidated being surrounded by students who knew so much about subjects I had never even heard about. I grappled with insecurity as a freshman, feeling somehow lesser for choosing to be a writing major in a land of engineers and computer scientists.

But I’ve grown a lot since freshman year. I realize how absurd it is to say that any one major is more valuable than another, but sometimes, I still find myself having to justify my choice of major or my future plans. I shouldn’t have to. And you shouldn’t have to either. When I came to college, I didn’t choose a major for the prestige or the wealth — I wanted to purse something I was truly passionate about, and my passion happens to lie in a field that isn’t as monetarily lucrative as others. It has never been about the money for me. If I loved engineering, I would have been an engineer. And even though that’s a more well-paying field, it still wouldn’t have been about the money for me. For me, I see success as doing what I love. But not everyone feels the same way, and I think that’s something that we don’t consider enough.

There are articles everywhere that laud the importance of doing what you love. There are just as many that tell you which majors are monetarily worthless and which will make you rich. Chances are, some of these articles will make you feel bad about what you’re majoring in (and your potential career). Ignore these articles and the bad feelings they stir up. It is so much more important to consider your own personal values. If you’re interested in making a lot of money, having opportunities to travel, or being able to spend a lot of time with your future family, you should look for a job that lets you do that. If you want to do something that you truly love (even if it doesn’t make a lot of money), then go for it! There’s no right answer to what you should look for in your future. But I think it’s very important to consider that your values may not align with someone else’s, and that’s okay.

We all have different ways of measuring success. At Carnegie Mellon, there’s such a huge focus on working for prestigious companies and making a lot of money, but that is only one definition of success. I urge you to define it for yourself. Your goals may not always align with those of everyone around you, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. Your future is yours. If you believe that you are successful, than you are.

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