Breaking my own promises

I’m all for setting goals and making long-term plans for myself. But my academic career kicked off when I started to break the promises I’d made to myself.

-Promise number one: I will decide on a major before entering college and never change it.

After a lot of indecision and self-induced pressure to pick a major in high school, I settled for English education. I reached that decision because I knew that I liked editing and talking about books, and I figured it was a pretty good bet since an inordinate number of my relatives are teachers.

After taking two semesters of education classes, it was time to officially apply to the department. The application included a 12-page essay about why I wanted to be a teacher, how I would motivate students and a number of ethical topics. As I began to write I realized I was lying to myself. I didn’t have the patience, the energy or drive to do anything I was writing about.

Thus began my quarter-life crisis. I knew I couldn’t let go of my English degree but worried about its stigma as an impractical field. Salvation came in the form of a panel of English major alumni. As they talked about their careers, I realized that almost all of them had my dream jobs–some combination of reading, writing and editing–which I never knew had existed.  And almost all of them had tacked a mass communications degree on with their English major.

I dropped my education major and added mass communications a few days later.

-Promise number two: I will not join the mass communications department.

In the midst of those education classes freshman year, I also took an introduction to media course because all along I was vaguely interested in the idea of writing for media. The professor and I, to put it nicely, just did not get along. He quizzed over information that was not in the book or lectures, constantly rambled about unrelated topics and graded according to some mystery system which no one in the class could figure out. He was one of those professors.

I knew that I never wanted to risk having this professor again and had concluded from his dull lectures that the field was unworthy of my time. After an episode of particularly unfair grading of the final exams, I declared to all my friends that I would never under any circumstances join the mass communications department.

Breaking promise number one led me to breaking promise number two. I’ve since abandoned the field I pretended so adamantly to be passionate about and joined one I once claimed to hate. Now, I’m not only in the mass communications department, but taking on one of the biggest and most time-consuming leadership roles it offers.

Oops. Too bad I love it.

What the classes don’t teach

As a liberal arts student, I’ve had the opportunity (and have been required) to take courses on a wide array of topics, from Voice and Diction (tongue teasers galore!) to Digital Photography (more PhotoShop tips than you can shake a stick at), from Sun and Solar Systems (more math than I expected) to Spirituality in Literature (all the spiritualities!).

But for all the nuggets of knowledge I have I collected, the best have come from outside the classroom. While it was tough to move to the next state over to a place where I knew almost no one, I’m glad I did.

Living in a dorm is like a liberal arts experience of its own. Depending on the types of people you live with, new experiences build up. Doing normal things, such as washing dishes, trying to fall asleep and coordinating shower times, become learning opportunities simply because they involve working with new people.

Here are some nonacademic nuggets I’ve picked up over the last three years:

  1. It’s impossible to kid yourself into majoring in a field that’s not meant for you. Don’t lie to yourself.

  2. There’s no shame in looking to the simple things for fun. Think sidewalk chalk.

  3. With a good nickname, you’ll go far.

  4. Don’t put leftover cooking oil down the toilet. It may seem like a good idea, but it’s not.

  5. Dryer sheets are one of the most versatile inventions known to man. Besides their obvious use for laundry, they also repel bugs, get rid of static in hair, remove adhesive residue and double as an air freshener for any room or closet.

  6. You don’t really know someone until you live with them. Living together is the test.

  7. A good backpack will be your best friend, especially on a hilly campus.

  8. Baking soda removes coffee and tea stains from mugs. Good to remember after marathon study sessions, which almost always require caffeine.

  9. Sometimes the best alarm clock is your roommate and/or suitemate. Especially if they have a blow-horn app on their phone.

  10. Breakfast is your friend and cannot be replaced by caffeine.

  11. It’s okay to change, and it’s okay to move on.

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