My Major Is Not My Shell

Inhale. Exhale. I meandered throughout the crowd of people dressed in angular blazers and straight-edged dress pants, feeling conscious of the constant thrum of my own voice in my head: You don’t belong here. I looped around a pole at Eagle’s Nest. Ah, there was the man you wanted to talk to. Okay, don’t screw up. I began to walk towards him. Suddenly, a flash of khaki and blue appeared in my vision, cutting in front of me and making its way over to the man, eager to charm and schmooze an internship out of him. Okay, it’s fine, just play it off. I strode over to the shiny appetizer trays and filled my plate with the rolls. As I stood, munching on greasy deliciousness and watching the incessant conversations in front of me, I felt that familiar voice creeping into my thoughts. You are a big waste of time. Why are you even here if yo

I shoved the last crumbs into my mouth and took a long swig of my water, pretending that it was stronger than it really was. With as much confidence as I could muster, I walked over to the alum that I had initially set out to talk to. As I approached him, I extended my hand, “Hello. How are you? My name is Karen Choi and I just wanted to thank you for coming to Endeavor today.”

During the fall semester, the deep blue posters with Gasson’s spires peeping up from the bottom of the page led me to register for this three-day program to explore my career options. Endeavor promised to help me identify professional skills, network with alumni, and go on a career trek in Boston—all of which I was not aware of until the night before when I decided to look up the Career Center’s website. As I stayed up that night learning about Endeavor, I began to regret my decision. After all, I already had an internship for the spring semester. I already knew what I wanted to do with my life after college. Going to this program would only throw me off this linear progression that I had fully committed myself to.

Perhaps I was right to be worried. But also, maybe this opportunity to explore was exactly what I needed at a point in my life in which I had begun to close certain doors on potential career paths. Endeavor showed me that it was too early in my career path to be barring myself from the many opportunities that present themselves to undergraduates, even if they seemed unrelated to my major.

Many of the alumni at Endeavor took convoluted paths to their current professions, which are sometimes unrelated to what they studied in college. English majors became bankers. Theology majors now guide students through academic advising. Disillusioned film majors who fetched coffee after graduation are now leaders in nonprofit organizations. These alumni showed me that I did not have to conform to the expectations of my major, and that there was no harm in exploring other career paths. Before Endeavor, I didn’t want to consider different industries because I felt that I wasn’t qualified. But most of all, I didn’t want to consider other career fields because I feared that I would become interested in them and distract myself from my three-year plan.

Like many of my peers, I’d grown sick of holiday parties this winter break—not of my family’s beloved traditions or of the delicious food, but of my relatives incessantly asking me what I was going to do with my English major. I have answered this question so many times that I no longer truly believe in my automated response: my major doesn’t really matter. My faith in this statement started to waver as I began comparing myself to my CSOM or CSON friends who seemed to have a clear path in front of them. Suddenly, a liberal arts education and my English major seemed to indicate uncertainty rather than the effectiveness of a well-rounded education. The broad nature of my studies created ambiguity, not a specific wealth of opportunity.

My experience at Endeavor, however, showed me that my major does matter. Not in the sense that being an English major doomed me for life, but that the skills I have developed through my English classes are applicable and useful in many diverse career fields. An introvert can speak confidently to professionals who have become leaders in their companies. An English major can put her skills to use in the financial industry. A girl with a three-year plan can change her mind. This program allowed me to step outside of my self-imposed confines and to develop the skills I already had so that I can explore a future that is brimming with more opportunity than I ever imagined.

We become so comforted by the idea of there being one fail-proof way to reach our dreams, even when we are not entirely sure what those dreams are. Given that college is a time of development, how can we be sure by our second year of college of what we want to do for the rest of our lives? In our comfort, we restrict ourselves. There isn’t just one way, but there are many ways to reach happiness.

On the last day of Endeavor, my group got the opportunity to venture to a company in Cambridge called Education First. The outside of the building had a geometric ribbon of tinted glass running down the front, which we later learned was called the “glass waterfall.” Each square pane was individually cut and fit into enormous, adjacent triangles that cascaded down the building. Some parts spiked out of the building and some jutted in. It was as if someone had cracked open a geode and revealed the glittering layers of crystals within it. As I stood inside the building, marveling at the sunlight filtering through the glass waterfall, I felt as if something had cracked within me as well.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Staff