PART I: THE SEARCH FOR THE RIGHT MAJOR
Back when I took the PSAT my sophomore year in high school, there was a section where they asked about your personality and interests. Along with your test score, you were given suggested careers based on your answers.
Mine said something to the effect of “No careers found.”
Now I don’t know if that was a curse or an omen, but I spent the next 17 years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Not long after those results, I had to do a report on a career I wanted, and I picked sports and fitness nutritionist. That interest lasted only slightly longer than it took to do the actual report.
When I got accepted to college, they asked for my major, and I said communications because why not? But then I took a psychology class my last semester in high school and enjoyed it so much that during college orientation, I changed my major to psychology.
I loved pretty much every psychology class I took. Even statistics wasn’t awful (and I’m really not a math person). I especially loved the child psychology-related courses, of which there were exactly three at my college. I decided I wanted to pursue that more intensely, so I looked for programs at other universities, found one that sounded great, and transferred my junior year.
And that’s where I got totally lost. I’d actually transferred into an early childhood education program, and as I got into it, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. I liked my professors and there were certainly parts of my classes that were interesting, but overall, I just wasn’t feeling it.
I wound up dropping the major and was officially labeled “undecided.” I was completely lost and unsure of what I should study instead. I didn’t want to go back to psychology for reasons I can’t fully remember, and there just wasn’t anything calling me. I reached out to my school’s career center for help, but it didn’t get me any closer to figuring things out.
Ultimately, I chose to major in communications (the original major I’d never actually started). I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I reasoned that it was a degree I could put to use in any field. Plus, there was a concentration in media studies and production, and I loved watching TV, so why not learn more about it?
Well, the major never really clicked. Other than a great independent study in screenwriting with a wonderful mentor, I just didn’t love what I was studying, and getting through my classes felt like a chore to complete rather than an opportunity to study something truly interesting to me.
But I kept thinking things like “I can’t switch majors again” and “I don’t know what I want to do, so this’ll be fine” and “My school has a limit on how many semesters I can take, so switching isn’t even an option” (which they may have overlooked had it occurred to me to ask). I let my thoughts convince me I had to continue my chosen yet ill-fitting field of study.
Would I change it if I could go back? Part of me says no, because those experiences led me to who I am today—a life coach who can use what I’ve learned to help others get out of (or possibly even avoid) the same experience. Plus I get to be a graduate of a really great school, and I’ll always be grateful for the privilege of having a college education.
But another part of me says hell yes, I'd change it. I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to learn about things that ignited my spirit simply because I thought--thought--I needed to stick with the plan. Honestly, 17 years later, thinking about it still makes me sad.
I wish College Me had gone back into psychology or followed the path of some of the other classes I loved—anthropology, family communications, astronomy. Or studied something new like animal behavior, a class which was in the lecture hall before my geology lecture, and which always seemed fascinating.
[Spoiler alert: Becoming a life coach led me back to these topics—even animal behavior and astronomy! In other words, I got lost for a while, but life coaching—via Martha Beck’s books, working with my own coach, and going through training—helped me finally find my way back.]
In the confusion and frustration of my college experience, I’d silenced my heart, which I have no doubt would have led me back sooner if I’d let it. Instead, I’d given my head the lead, and it wasn’t listening to anything but those untrue, often fear-filled thoughts that ran through it at an almost constant clip.
I was relieved by the time commencement came around, and it was more than just the idea of being done with my formal education. I thought things would get better once I graduated, once I was away from both the school and the studies that had never clicked, once I landed a job I loved. I was so completely wrong. I may have been done with studying, but I was still deeply entrenched in believing I could think my way to making things better. There were many more years to go and many more lessons to learn (and relearn) before I was finally able to find my calling.
So how'd I finally get there? Stay tuned for the next installment of this two-part post: “Part II: Pick a Job, Any Job—Wait, Why’d You Pick That One?”
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist