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All about words



On Choosing Your Major and Planning Your Future

Posted by nancyfreund11 on June 1, 2014 at 1:05 PM

It's that time of year when the college freshman come home for the summer, the high school grads get excited about leaving for college, and there are a lot of summer conversations about in-between-ness and limbo, and how best to step towards the future.  (Do the limbo toward the future!  Or not).  Anyway, here's my own personal anecdote, for your edification.

I always wanted to be a novelist and started UCLA planning to major in Psycholinguistics.  I wanted psychology to learn what made people tick and I wanted to study language to learn how people communicate with one another.  I bravely made an appointment with the head of Psycholinguistics before the first day of freshman year.  He held up a hand and said, "Let me guess -- you have two questions." (Indeed I did have two questions).  He said, "one, what is psycholiguistics, exactly, and two, what can one do with it?"  I was stunned.  Those were my two questions.  Clearly a psycholinguist could read minds. Great!  But then came the answers... I'd be studying the way the tongue works in the mouth to form sounds more than the way the mind works in the brain to form meaning.  And what to do with it?Answer: Nothing.  Or teach Psycholinguistics.  

Wow.  Burst my newly inflated psycholinguistics bubble, big time.  I still enrolled in an entry level class, just to be sure, but after my 4,000th tongue drawing and learning what bilabial and guttural stops were, I'd had enough. I still wanted to be a novelist, so I kept looking for a way to meet my goal.  I didn't yet know that UCLA's English department offered a nearly secret opportunity for a BA in Creative Writing.

My freshman roommate, a brilliant and creative girl from Orange County, said, it almost doesn't matter what you choose now, it almost doesn't matter what you major in, you will find throughout your life, you'll keep coming back to the thing you truly want to do.  She was applying to the super competitive Design Major -- and she knew even then, that as much as that major would open valuable doors for her, not getting accepted by it would not necessarily prevent her from pursuing a career in design.  Soon enough, I discovered the Creative Writing major and applied, applied again, and I eventually found my way in.  No doubt, it has served me well.  But what has served me REALLY well is that newsflash from my roommate.  You'll keep coming back to that thing you really want. 

How to choose a major?  What do you keep coming back to?  Despite other plans, other programs, other successes, where do you find your curiosity leading you?  What do you hear yourself talking about with people you don't know well?  How do you WISH you could introduce yourself?  If it's as a writer, forget the major, the course of study, all the trappings of being a writer, and just BE A WRITER.  I'm not saying be "out and proud," because there's a time for that, and it may not be now.  But if you might like to be a writer, then for godsakes, WRITE.  Get stuff written.  Squirrel it away... write it backwards or in Spanish or in code.  Write a blog that no one knows is really you.  Email it to a password-protected secret email address and delete it from your hard-drive.  Print it and mail it all to your uncle in Topanga with strict instructions to keep everything in a fire-proof box.  Don't tell anyone, don't show anyone... unless of course you're ready to, in which case, by all means, DO.  But begin doing the thing you love doing, and get some inventory stacking up, so that when the time comes -- and trust me, it WILL come, you'll be ready.  

That's one thing that's true.  The time does come.  Just when you're in the middle of saying, it'll never happen, it happens.  It's never going to happen until it happens.  That's another wise thing my roommate said at the time.

And if you can major in the thing you want most to study, for goodness sake, do it.  Even if they reject you the first time (or two) you apply.  That major is there to serve and to honor and to be served and honored by YOU.   Do not thwart yourself.  You'll be dealt hard knocks throughout life, but this isn't the time for that.  God knows, do not do this to yourself.  Get up and get in there.  If they HAVE finally accepted you, it's because your time has come.  Don't question it, don't sabotage yourself, just get in there and do the work they think you're capable of, and they hope you'll do.  And in the meantime, regardless of major, or school, or job, or time you wish you had to commit to it, JUST WRITE.

Categories: education & literacy, be brave, get gumption - motivational, writing & publishing

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