Growing up, we were taught by Disney movies that we could do anything. Defeat a fearsome Hun army despite being an untrained girl in an all-male Imperial army? Check. Fly on magic carpets and get a princess to fall in love with you, despite being a kleptomaniac who has zero financial security and a monkey for a best friend? Sure. I believed it, and I still do.
But back in 2009, I realized that society forgot to tell me one important thing: you can’t do everything. You simply don’t have the time. And to make matters worse, at the ‘wee’ ages between 15 to 20, you will be held at gunpoint until you choose what you want to do for the rest of your tenure here on this humongous planet.
At least that’s how I felt.
To be fair, I did have 15 years to think about it. But is 15 years really enough to know what career path you want to take?
So at gunpoint, I hastily decided on AB Psychology. Partly because I was the unofficial psychologist among my group of friends and partly because my guidance counselor told me it was a good course for those who want to diversify (yes, I sort of let my guidance counselor choose my course, sue me). I had no inclinations towards anything else at that time, so I just went with it.
To this day, the lowest grade I’ve gotten in all my classes is the one for the only Psychology class I’ve ever taken (not that I believe in grades, but that’s another story). I was just really disinterested.
The moment I was eligible for shifting, I jumped ship. From being a psychology student, I decided to become a marketing and psychology student. Now what was I thinking? To this day, I don’t know why I chose that course. If I had to guess, I’d say I still felt I had a gun to my head, and I just needed some sort of change.
But by some twist of fate, that really illogical, not so well thought-out decision led me to my first love. I remember it like it was just yesterday, that late September afternoon when I unsuspectingly walked into that classroom, A1006. I didn’t notice her at first, but she was there. She, at the front of class, the center of attention. I, at the back, barely even giving notice. Everyone had their eyes on her, some eager, some uninterested.
She was the sign on the blackboard that read “Economics.”
Okay, so it wasn’t love at first sight, but rather, it was a slow, progressive sort of thing. I started to feel like it was something that suited me, and, humility aside, I did excel in that class. After a month or so, I was set for a final shift.
This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, I thought, and I was ecstatic. I started proclaiming it to the mountains and to the seas: economics! That was the course for me. I remember bumping into an old high school friend along the hallway who I hadn’t talked to in ages, and I gave him a 10 minute speech on my new-found epiphany.
I was in love, and you do crazy things when you’re in love. I started looking for books to read (Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers is a great read by the way for those looking into Economics), and I started scouting potential colleges and universities for my graduate studies in Economics.
Fast forward to the present, and I think you already know where I’m going with this. On my third year and third term in college, I find myself asking the same question I asked back in 2009: what do I want to do for the rest of my life? And I find myself in the same place where I was in back in 2010 and 2011, daydreaming about what it would be like majoring in philosophy, literature, and other fields that are more my cup of tea.
But I’m not shifting anymore. Four courses in four years is a little absurd, even for me. I’m constantly thinking about how many terms I have left. Just five more terms, I repeatedly tell myself. This is when you know you’ve lost interest in what you’re doing, when you’re just counting the time before it ends.
I’ve put myself in this position, but I do think part of the blame goes to the way the system is set up. We’re told to specialize at such an early age that we force students to sit in classes to learn data they don’t ever end up using, not to mention they’re usually too uninterested to actually listen. I mean how many 15 year olds out there applying for a college degree really know what they want to pursue for their future careers? How many degree holders actually plan on pursuing careers in the courses they took?
A foreign exchange student told my friend that he was surprised with the ages of some of the students in DLSU. They’re very young, he commented (and some immature). In their country, apparently, it’s normal for high school graduates to take a year or two off their studies before they pursued tertiary level studies. Also, I hear from several of my friends that study abroad that they don’t have to choose their majors until their third year.
Looking back, would I have done things differently?
A few months ago, I met a student from another school, where she was majoring in the humanities. She told me about how they talked of philosophy often and how they wrote plays in class. I was so jealous because it sounded like something I’d actually enjoy. Then I asked her, “What job is that going to land you though?” She told me she just wanted to learn about what interested her, and that she’d worry about job credentials once she entered her graduate studies. In the subsequent days I lamented and wished I had followed that same plan.
I had lunch with another friend the other week, and he too was complaining about his course. He had shifted to psychology and he wished that he had shifted to economics instead. He had very little interest in psychology, but it was okay, he told me, for “the biggest lesson you learn from college is that in life, you’re going to have to do things you don’t like doing (or you don’t think you need to do).” He too had a point.
This is one of those glass half-empty, half-full type of situations, so I don’t know what I would do if I had a redo. My answer would depend on when you’d ask me.
However, I do know that I’m doing what I can now, and I guess it’s not so bad. I’m not entirely unhappy with economics, and every now and then I rekindle that initial love I had for the subject. I’m sitting in on an Eastern Philosophy class, my most engrossing subject this term, and I plan on doing so in more classes in the future. I bury myself with books, films, and music on a daily basis. I’m learning to write in two of our school’s student publications. Basically, I’m learning the things I want to learn, and that goes beyond the confines of a classroom.
I should have realized this sooner, but that course written in your degree will not define you or what you are capable of doing. It is the things you strive to learn, the skills you work with to attain that will, and that goes well beyond the classroom.