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Finding Passion In Our Education System: Why Can’t We Have Both?

“I wish I could be an art major!” is a common phrase I hear almost every day in my conversations. Many of us end up in careers of business, pre-med or engineering instead of pursuing our actual interests just because we prioritize money over happiness. This is entirely understandable because unfortunately, money is important. The fact of the matter is that it’s generally easier to make a comfortable income with careers in STEM, as opposed to careers in the arts.

In elementary school, I participated in pretty much every activity you could think of. Soccer, swim, figure skating, dance, painting, piano and viola are just some examples. In middle school, I narrowed the list down to dance and viola. And in high school, I just stuck to learning the viola.

Despite what my mother might claim — Hi mom, no I did not quit everything because I was too lazy to continue — I do miss ice-skating and painting! I quit because I was told that it was more important to colleges if I excelled in a few areas than if I were average in many. So, I quit skating lessons, I quit art lessons, I stopped taking lessons in pretty much everything.

Now I’m a freshman in college, and compared to my eight-year-old self, I have almost no talents or abilities. It sounds sad, but it’s true. I can’t feint in soccer for the life of me, I’m too scared to spin on ice and I can only do a double pirouette in my dance shoes now. I don’t feel creative enough to paint anything interesting anymore. I can barely even read bass clef, let alone coordinate my two hands on the piano.

There are many issues with this, but a big one is that I don’t really know what I actually enjoy doing anymore. Throughout high school, my only focus was getting A’s. None of my classes particularly appealed to me, nor did any of the clubs I participated in. I had forgotten how to be passionate.

Now, I’m completely unsure about my future and my career. Most of us are! But the way our education system is structured forces us to choose a major at an extremely young age, and it is daunting to switch a major once you’re in too deep. This causes many students to get stuck on a career path we may have minimal to no interest in. With all our pre-requisites and major requirements, it can be difficult to find a way to dabble in different fields before finding one we are genuinely interested in. It’s ridiculous that teenagers straight out of high school are pressured to figure out their entire futures within the four years spent at college.

When I was six, I wanted to be a babysitter. At the age of ten, I wanted to be a veterinarian. At fourteen, I started to seriously think about college, and I briefly considered chemistry. At sixteen, I decided I should just major in math because I was good at Calculus BC, even though the idea of a career in math made me miserable. At seventeen, I had to write a career research paper for my AP English Language and Composition class, so I was very passionate about environmental engineering for about a solid week. Right before college applications, I panicked and realized I would hate doing calculations for a living, and chose Political Science as my major (mostly because I was still infuriated by the November 2016 election, let’s be honest). In the span of 12 years, my so-called “dream job” — who even has one of those nowadays? — has changed five times. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to study one field for four years and find a steady career I enjoy, but I don’t really have a choice.

So, who knows? Maybe I’ll switch into film.

Rachel is the Co-Campus Correspondent and Editor-in-Chief for Her Campus at UCLA. In her free time, she loves hanging around flea markets and exploring different neighborhoods in LA!
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