When I came to college in the fall of 2020, I had known for a while that I was going to work in the medical field. I chose to major in biobehavioral health, which landed me in classes consisting of both hard and soft sciences ranging anywhere from biology and chemistry, to psychology and sociology.
I hated it. However, the most frustrating part was that I was good at it. I felt like I had no right to be so miserable because I was getting good grades and succeeding, so why did I hate it so much? Success should make you happy, right?
Well, it didn’t.
Most days, I would avoid going to classes and when I did go, I would count down the seconds until I could get up and leave at the conclusion of those dreadful 75 minutes.
I had no motivation for school, and that leaked into the other aspects of my life. It was a drain on my mental health and took away any drive I had. I didn’t want to go out with friends, didn’t want to eat, I would sleep until noon everyday and avoid being on campus for any longer than I needed to be.
If this is something you can relate to, take a step back and reconsider. School isn’t supposed to feel that way, especially when you’re studying something you’re going to do for the rest of your life. If you’ve ever even considered changing your major to follow something you’re more passionate about, maybe that’s the true path for you.
Medicine was something that I had forced upon myself since I was 14 years old, when the scope of possible jobs was basically restricted to doctor, lawyer, engineer or business-person. I had decided my path so long ago that I never gave myself the opportunity to truly look into the hundreds of different paths I could take.
For years, I had talked about wanting to be a writer, to travel the world and tell people’s stories, experience culture and live a life of learning. Friends would ask me why I wasn’t pursuing that in school then, and my response was always a simple, “I just can’t.” But why not? Why couldn’t I, as cliché as it sounds, just follow my dreams?
Deep down I knew why: Writing is risky. Medicine almost always guarantees a well-paying job with stability, whereas writing is not always secure, often doesn’t make you six-figures and most of all, does not guarantee success. As a doctor, you are immediately considered intelligent, but as a writer it is much harder to truly feel that validation. I didn’t know if I had what it took to truly be successful in a career that is so subjective and at the mercy of an audience.
I would have rather chosen to be ordinary than failed at being extraordinary. I felt this way because I thought it would be easier to live with the idea of what could have been rather than live with the knowledge that I wasn’t good enough.
In early December of 2021, I finally decided to switch my major to journalism. I had just taken a trip to New York City with Penn State’s Blue and White Society with some of my friends. There, I got to watch my roommate, a telecommunications major, have a lengthy conversation with her idol, Don Roy King, the director of “Saturday Night Live.”
To see somebody talk with such excitement and passion about something and then pursue it as a career is inspiring. I knew that I could no longer continue forcing a future upon myself that I didn’t want because I wanted to love what I do as much as I could tell my roommate did.
It was something I had been struggling with for a long time, constantly thinking “well, it’s too late now,” or “I’ve just wasted all of this money on three semesters of classes that won’t matter, so I can’t switch.” The truth is, it’s never too late. I knew that I could either spend my life being miserable but stable, or I could live my life with a little less stability but with a passion for what I do.
I now get up in the mornings excited to go to class. I find myself thinking my 75 minute lectures fly by as opposed to counting down the minutes until they’re over. I like doing homework (who would’ve thought). I spend time on campus and am more involved in clubs and other activities. I’m now enjoying being at college and I have my motivation back.
The moral of the story is, do what you’re passionate about. If you have a Plan B, you won’t fight as hard to succeed at Plan A. Life is too short to settle for anything less than your dreams. Take the risk, wherever you are meant to end up is where you will be, so live fiercely and don’t be afraid of the future, lean into it and let the life you desire come to you.