One of the most common questions on the playground when I was a child was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers ranged from ballerina to policeman, astronaut to actor. We all saw ourselves being anything we wanted to be, and success was our only perceived outcome.
It’s true that not a lot of kids playing in sandboxes know how to say “phlebotomist,” let alone desire to be one, but as we get older and are exposed to new things, we lose our old aspirations in exchange for more practical ones.
Beyond practicality, we often decide to pursue careers based on the paths that will please those who love us. But when you’re a people pleaser, it’s easy to forget about yourself.
At some point, someone tapped us on the shoulder with reality, teaching us to think about income, opportunity and stability. At some point, someone must have gently pointed out to me that ballerinas should be a little bit taller – and good dancers.
While there are many people who, because of true passion for these professions, choose to plunge their hands into biology even though it’s bloody, or sink their teeth into finance even when it’s fatiguing, there are also a lot of people out there who are pursuing jobs that don’t necessarily please them. They made seemingly necessary “adult” decisions, guided by authority, and often funded by authority’s bank account.
I met a pre-med student the other day who, when prompted with what type of doctor he wanted to be, replied “I don’t know – I’m just going to med school because I have to and I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there.” I was reminded of a friend who always wanted to be a teacher but wasn’t allowed to pursue anything outside the medical field.
We don’t pursue prescribed goals for the sake of attaining happiness; we pursue them for the sake of avoiding disapproval. It becomes a case of internal satisfaction versus projected satisfaction, and the former is lacking. We renounce what we really want because we become anxious about failing to uphold the expectations of those who believe in us.
If you’re unhappy with your major, don’t let the weight of your conscience sink to your feet and prevent you from making the trip to your academic adviser’s office. The proudest we can make our parents is to show them we’re thriving. And we can only thrive when we’re happy.
Hunter Wright is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.