Yeah… this is embarahzzing. Remember my article last quarter where I explained my position on enjoying the journey, not JUST the destination? Well I lied, mostly to myself, about how happy I was with my Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) major. Every day since I wrote that article I became more and more critical of the classes I was taking and the classes that I had been previously excited to take. Eventually, it became clear to me that I was wasting my time and sabotaging my own happiness for something I didn’t even want. I needed to make a decision that would radically alter my life to salvage what was left of my undergrad career.
It’s TOTALLY okay to change your path to be happier. I’m taking my own advice and I can only hope that it makes you take stock as well before it’s too late. Here was my thought process through the decision
- I’m not happy with my class schedule.
One day in November I was hit with an overwhelming sense of unhappiness. Every morning I woke up dreading my classes and I felt trapped in a monotonous routine that was draining the life out of me. I tried reminding myself that once I got past these classes I’d be able to take the fun electives that I was so excited about just a year and a half ago. I repeated to myself over and over, it will be okay, it will have been worth it. It didn’t work. I took a break from cramming for a physics midterm (yeah, yuck) and opened my major checklist where I had highlighted all of the classes that I had been itching to take. I read through the list and was only met with more dread. I wasn’t excited anymore at all.
In that moment it felt like my life, past, present and future, was crumbling. The prerequisites that dominated my entire first two years at UCSC all of a sudden felt like a huge waste of time. I hadn’t enjoyed them in the moment while I was taking them and now they were no longer worth it. And the classes I was currently taking? The glimmer of motivation that I had left for them, and for the rest of the classes needed to achieve the major, immediately dulled and then ceased to exist. As for my future, I should’ve seen that one coming. My continuous search for the right graduate program had made me realize at the end of September, around the beginning of the quarter, that EEB wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue after my commencement in June 2022. I had still planned on finishing the EEB degree and finding an adjacent, more interesting field. That proved difficult; I struggled with finding a program that I could both enjoy and qualify for. I probably should’ve taken that as a clue that what I was doing wasn’t right.
- It was originally my high school teachers’ decision, not mine.
While I preferred my English and History classes throughout middle and high school, I loved that I had been put on an accelerated track for science and math. I felt proud of myself for being ahead and for receiving recognition for it. My school district hyper-fixated on encouraging their female students in their STEM classes. My chemistry teacher took every chance he got to tell me I would excel as a chemist and my very reserved AP Calculus teacher even made it clear that he thought I could be a great engineer.
I succeeded the same amount in my AP humanities classes, with considerably less effort and considerably more enjoyment, but I let myself lean into the positive reinforcement I received almost relentlessly from my STEM teachers. I additionally let myself fall for the propaganda that work in the humanities is less lucrative, less worth it. No matter how good their intentions were, my teachers’ words of encouragement were too loud at the point in my life where I needed to follow my passions. So loud that they drowned out my own desires and pushed them below the surface. Yeah, it’s also on me for giving their words so much weight. When you’re an insecure teenager though, praise is what you crave and hearing adults express such confidence in me was too good to ignore.
- So… what do I want to study instead? Can I do it in time?
Now that EEB has been unceremoniously tossed into a metaphorical grave in my head, what do I do now? Well, who better to ask than my 18 year old self to see what she likes and compare, what is still true for me today? What do you love to do with your free time? What are your favorite classes? Which classes do you have the best grades in? The respective answers: reading, English and History, and English. Well, that kind of solved it. Easiest mystery ever. UCSC doesn’t have an English department but they do have Literature which I have already enjoyed on a couple of occasions to get my general education requirements done. I looked at the open Literature classes for Winter Quarter, as it was already past enrollment, I was worried that nothing good would be left yet I found that I wanted to enroll in all of them at once. This was the first time I had looked at potential classes and felt excited. Now I had my answer to the question: what will I do now? Easy enough, swap majors to Literature.
That raised another question though… will I be able to get it done without altering my graduation date? After comparing the Literature requirements to the five quarters I had left, it became clear that I could do it pretty painlessly which sealed the deal. I’m going to be honest with you though, I have NO idea what I would’ve done if I had to add on even just one quarter, not to mention more. I feel pretty lucky that I caught my discontent when I had enough time left, and it’s too difficult to guess how lack of time might have affected my decision to change majors. What matters is the balance; is your happiness worth the risk or is tuition too steep to take that chance?
Lucky for me, swapping majors actually opens more doors for me with respect to graduate school. Not only am I coincidentally still able to pursue the EEB-adjacent fields that I had found with a Literature degree, but I can do so much more too. I might still apply for a Bioethics M.S. like I planned with EEB and if I do, at least I found a way to enjoy my journey there so much more. If I don’t, if I decide to instead continue with Literature, then I would have enjoyed the journey to a whole new, exciting destination. Either way, I am happier today because of the decision I made to switch majors.
If this article made you begin to question whether your major is actually giving you what you want from it, first I would like to apologize for inciting that unrest. Second, I would like to take back that apology and tell you that I want you to be happy and if this turmoil leads to a sweet resolution that you’re happy with where you’re at, then wonderful. But if not, then I encourage you to put yourself first. Really look at your life and where it looks like it’s going. Are you satisfied? If not, what needs to change? If it’s your major, I say do it. Give yourself the chance to milk as much joy out of every second of college that you can.
My new year’s resolution to dedicate time and energy to my own happiness was birthed from this life-altering decision that I made at the end of 2020. I am taking the “new year, new me” trope seriously for once and allowing myself to become someone who I am happy being and doing things that I am happy to be doing, starting with my new major. I am choosing me and I want you to choose yourself, too.