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By Sarah Patriarca

At a very young age, many of us are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And as time goes on, the answer to this becomes more and more demanding. An unfortunate amount of weight is put upon our shoulders to answer the question that goes with the societal norms and approval from our parents and other influential people in our lives. In my experience, the stress and anxiety built up around this one concern can lead us to pursue goals that are unachievable and diminish our happiness. During my last year of high school, I buried myself in biology and chemistry books, pursuing a dream that was not by choice but by fear that if I did not pursue a career that was around science or even business, I would not be guaranteed a stable future. It wasn’t until a week before applications were due, and many emotional breakdowns later, that I decided to pursue my own dream of becoming an English Major.

This decision was not easy and involved much reasoning with my parents, as well as going in completely blind to which schools offered the best programs. With all that in mind, I was not prepared for the backlash and criticism that teachers, peers, and society would inflict on me. At first when telling people that I wanted to pursue a degree in English, the first assumption at hand was I wanted to become a teacher. Then, I didn’t know much about what career paths that I could take with a literature degree but I still did not want to become a teacher. Each time someone would ask me, I would just reply a simple no and move on from the subject, dismissing it entirely because I did not have a plan for myself.

One day at school, a teacher delved into a conversation with my friends about the many degrees they were studying. When he looked at me and asked the same question, I gave him my answer and prayed that the conversation would be over. However, I was wrong, the amount of questions that I got bombarded afterward with gave me an overwhelming feeling. These questions and statements included What will you do with that degree? Do not do that degree, go into sciences you will find a career much faster, do you want to be a teacher? There are no jobs around this field. I didn’t know how to answer him, or what to say, instead I walked away. After that situation, the talk of careers or the future bothered me and often gave me anxiety when conversation switched in that direction. It came to the point where I became embarrassed about what I was studying and why I was studying it. With more and more encounters, I completely separated myself from that topic all together and did not like talking about the future because to me, it felt as if society and now myself, believed that I didn’t have one.

It wasn’t until I was accepted and starting university journey at Ryerson, that most of the embarrassment and anxiety that came with talking about the future subsided. After talking with many people about it and realizing that majority of us were in the same boat, I didn’t feel completely lost in my direction in life. Ryerson has given me the tools to learn and educate myself on the different career paths that can be taken through my interests. Even being in the presence of a school that is for diversity and choice, gives me and my peers motivation to research and look at the many different things I could possibly get into. Looking back at this experience, I’ve realized that although there will still be days that I get criticized for doing what I love, it has made me a stronger person and that majority of the time these people aren’t educated on the paths that can be taken through an English career. I encourage everyone that has struggles with being there true selves and show the world, “This is who I am, if you don’t like it that’s great, but this is what I’m doing.” Be true to yourself and remember, it’s not their life you have to live but your own, you choose your path and don’t let anyone tell you different.

 

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