Oberlin Blogs

So I have this major...

November 18, 2015

El Wilson ’18

This post is about my complicated relationship with my psychology major, a relationship that began long before college. As a point of preparation for you readers, it includes references to suicide.

I have a major that I carry around with me like the game apps on my phone: It's fun. I really like it. It's time consuming. And it's currently serving absolutely no purpose. It's psychology.

Psychology would be a super useful major if I wanted to be a psychologist. But I don't. Due to my bluntness, I am not suited to be a therapist. And I would rather live without caffeine for the rest of my life than deal with the politics of research and academia. All I want to do is write.

I became a psych major because I thought it was cool. I've been interested in psychology ever since seventh grade. Six days before that Christmas, my best friend's father hanged himself in their garage and left my friend and her younger siblings to find him. Not surprisingly, I wanted to know why he did it. When my parents just said he was a coward or that "God works in mysterious ways," I started watching every single psych documentary I could find. I wanted to know how someone's brain could break so badly. I thought that maybe if I knew why it had happened, I could prevent it happening to anyone else. Of course, there's no concrete answer. There are so many factors that contribute to suicide that explaining them all would take another blog post.

Luckily, in my quest to figure out the flaws of the human mind, I also found how awesome it is. I watched films about why we dream, how recovering from OCD works, and why we are attracted to whom we're attracted. In fact, by the time I took AP (Advanced Placement) Psychology in high school, I had watched so many documentaries that I was able to do other homework during class and still end up with a 96%.

During this same time, I fell in love with writing. In seventh grade, my literature teacher figured out that I was much better at creative writing than any of my other classmates. As the only kid in my friend group who hadn't been designated as "gifted," writing was the only thing I could brag about. So, I kept doing it. As I improved, I realized that I could manipulate my reader's emotions. I loved to watch people read my work. Every time their faces shifted from laughter to tears, I would giggle. After reading a prose poem (Yes, those exist.) at a young writer's workshop about my vow to never be a queer teen suicide statistic, and watching half the audience cry, I knew I was hooked for life.

I promise that I'm not a sadistic jerk who takes babies' candy just to watch them whimper. It's just that when people first meet me, they don't see a person. They see an innocent, helpless, inspirational, asexual, disabled angel. By having people read my writing, I can make them see me as a complex human being rather than a mythical being.

I came to Oberlin knowing exactly what I wanted my majors to be. I even took neuroscience my first semester because I knew it would be the psych class I would hate most, and I wanted to get it out of the way. (I was right.) I also took a creative writing class with the full intention of taking 201 (the gateway to the major) as soon as possible.

It wasn't until one of my psychology professors mentioned grad school that I realized I had a dilemma. Having a bachelor's in psychology is essentially useless. My dream of saving the world from suicide had faded by the time I was a sophomore in high school. I didn't want to go to grad school. I wanted to be the next J. K. Rowling, not the next Sigmund Freud.

Many liberal arts college students don't know what they're going to do with their majors. (I don't know too many English majors who are going to grow up to be English professors.) Yet many of the psych majors I've spoken to do have a general sense of what they want to do with their major. They might not have their careers mapped out, but at least they have a compass.

This is the part of the blog post where I reveal my grand conclusion about the situation. Fun fact: I don't have one. I've had two internships during my college career and even though they were both really cool, I can't imagine spending the rest of my life doing journalism or working in a library. My plan for now is to give my psych advisor lots of blank stares, pretend that the grad school posters hanging in Severance are just early holiday decorations, and trust that everything will be fine. As long as I keep taking every opportunity thrown my way, than I'm 90% sure it will work out eventually.

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