Elissa Maudlin is a freshman undecided major and writes “Abstraction" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Elissa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an undecided student, heading face first into my first year of college, I have realized one thing: I care about what people around me think. That goes for the adults who’ve encouraged me, the peers who’ve gotten to know me, the strangers who may eventually know me and everyone in between.
For most of my life, I was the girl who everyone knew as the “music kid” or “theatre kid.” I was a girl who some believed was talented and could go against the odds, becoming a big name and living the dream life.
However, there came a point when I became unsure if that identity fully suited me, causing a level of confusion to become my new reality.
High school rehearsals began to feel more like an obligation than a fun extracurricular. I felt like I was required to be part of every show and every activity related to theatre or music. I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the world of music and theatre behind, but at the same time I felt as if I had no real, true passion for really anything, and it left me feeling hopeless. Like I would never find a career I was truly passionate about.
These feelings were only further perpetrated by the teachers and adults in my life who, thinking they had my best interest at heart, continuously pushed for the music and theatre lifestyle I had always been accustomed to. I was always told to go into theatre, that I could “make it,” and there was a sort of pressure to use that gift from the people around me and even myself.
There were other parts of me that weren’t brought to light through music and theatre, different aspirations and potential that were left in the shadows. To the people who encouraged me, there seemed to be only one right answer for my life, when in reality, the answer was more complicated than they could see from the outside.
My story is one of the many stories of undecided students who work through a mess of confusion, doubt, sadness and many other emotions trying to pick a major. Through my eyes, part of this problem may be due to how some people view undecided students.
I see a society that perpetuates this ideal image of college students having their lives together and knowing exactly what they want to do. The truth is people change their majors all the time, people change career paths all the time and some adults don’t even know what they’re doing.
Most importantly, though, this idea that you choose a major and never falter from it is a lie.
But what if we dealt with the career and major process in a different way that didn’t hinder the students who aren’t sure where they fit into the world? What if we take more caution when voicing our own thoughts through understanding the turmoil a student is going through with being undecided?
Teachers and other mentors can be people who uplift and actually impact the exploration process to find a major and career by simply letting a student explore their options. When students are allowed and encouraged to be adventurous in figuring out what they want, this can empower the student to have a handle on their future.
Perhaps undecided students, like myself, won’t feel like they are put in a box when they aren’t held back by the hopes and aspirations of everyone around them. Some adults are doing this correctly, and some aren’t.
I believe all the adults in my life have good intentions for me, and want what is best for me. However, ultimately they have realized that letting me go and actually live my struggle is what is best for me.
As much as I want to say my feelings of dispassion and feeling lost have gone away, they haven’t. I’m still that same person who feels stuck and confused. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll feel stuck for the rest of my life, never experiencing that passion that I so deeply want.
But I don’t want to lose hope. I want to believe the passion I crave is possible, as I have seen so many others find it for themselves. My career path is still a mystery and I am working everyday to be okay with that. I have begun the journey of figuring out who I am, what I want out of life and how to get there.
All I know is this: I want adventure, I want happiness and I want passion for whatever direction life takes me. One of the beautiful things about being an undecided major is that I’ve learned life is never set in stone, and that a person always has the ability to change.
That goes for all of my fellow undecided students out there, the students who have majors and the adults that are hoping and praying your college student goes into the major you want them to: life is all about change and it isn’t about having the cleanest path. Students may go with the major they have right now or the major you want, or they won’t. They might change their minds a hundred times. They might graduate and hate their major. It happens, that’s what life is about.
However, your response, as an mentor, to a student’s questioning means everything. Lead them in the right direction of exploration, not to fit what you want for them.
Let them live. Let them learn. Let them find their passions.
Through a little understanding and a little encouragement, undecided students will find their own way, no matter how long it takes.