September marks the season of all things collegiate — the last of back-to-school sales, college move-in, class registration, add/drop period, transfer credit deadlines, and my personal favorite, course advising. For many students, this year is the time in which they must begin crafting answers to those questions that have previously been answered comfortably with uncertainty. "What do you want to study?" "What do you plan on majoring in?" and "What kind of future do you see for yourself?" are all begging for an answer and here you are shell-shocked at how quickly these questions came back to you. Question time aside, the real challenge here is to make sense of who you are by finding a way to marry your passions to your academic interests and to give birth to substantial career possibilities. But, of course, all of that is easier said than done.
The sad reality is that you can never be sure about how to best go about a career path, let alone the process of identifying and declaring a college major. Everyone has their own unique experience with their major and what I have recently found is that the "appropriate time" of declaring does not necessarily work for everyone and that is okay. Some of my friends declared as first years and are happy with their choices, while others are in their third year and seem no more ready to declare than anyone else on campus. Yet, eventually all of us will reach the point of declaration and hopefully we will be more than satisfied with our choices. But is it it reasonable to think that one day you will just wake up, know your college major, and just roll with it?
Personally, I started off wanting to be a Psychology and French double major. I had dreams of traveling to Africa to study Afro-Francophone culture and become fluent in French. Life, on the other hand, stepped in and showed me that I had developing passions that trump these goals and maybe this is the point where Sociology became an attractive major. Almost overnight my introduction spiel changed to "I'm a Sociology and Psychology double major... with a minor in French." My priorities were changing— French slowly lost its glow and psychology was losing its edge. Admittedly, French and Psychology are still of interest to me but much less than when I first came to Oberlin and in losing some passion for those fields I discovered a deep love for Africana Studies. From my very first semester up until now, my courses in the department have been the most exciting— the professors are dynamic and knowledgeable, the conversations are mind-blowing, and I feel like I am learning and I enjoy it. Once I finally realized how invested I was in these classes, I jumped at the thought of it being my major, but with that excitement comes a bit of anxiety.
Declaring a major, for me anyways, is more than just signing a form and counting credits so I can be done and get it out of the way. It is a conscious choice for me to identify with one or two departments, making them more significant than all the rest. Declaring is my decision to dedicate my time to a specific course of study and earn a degree marked with its name forever and the thought of all that is overwhelming. Scratch that, it is nerve-racking. A simple signature is the foundation for the rest of my academic career, graduate school, and professional research. I am on the train to bigger and better things so I just need to get with it and sign paperwork, right? Too bad that I know full well that it is going to take some time to reach that point. After all, I am attempting to plan out my perceived life's purpose on carbonated sheets at the age of nineteen and well... that's a big deal to me.
Perhaps what is so unsettling about declaring is that I was the student who had it all planned out. You know that kid who always knew what they wanted to be, how they were going to do it and what their mark on the world would be? Well that was me until my interests started to change. I thought I would always want to study the same things and that my life dreams would remain intact, and when they changed a little bit, maybe I lost a little confidence in my ability to claim what I truly wanted.
Now that I am a little more self-reflective, I realize the importance of personal growth and evolution in terms of being accountable for my changing interests, whether academic, professional, or personal. With that said, I need to create a new mindset when it comes to declaring; I am beginning to envision a stage on which I am the only performer. The audience is silent but is filled with my likely major departments, friends, peers and mentors. I am center stage with my declaration trumpet, playing passionate rifts of commitment to my interests, scores of love for the fields, and songs of confidence stemming from my assurance of choosing the right path. As I stand on this stage, fully embracing the moment, I become what I always dreamed, a soon-to-be college graduate. Certainly, I have a ways to go, but I now have full confidence that my majors will be the ones that make me happy and that is all that matters.
P.S. In case you were wondering, about a week and a half after writing this post I declared my first major in Africana Studies! My sociology major will be declared (hopefully) by the time this is posted :)