I write to you now from the window seat of row 8 on an American Airlines flight to San Diego. I am one day away from my eighteenth birthday, about to meet one of my two roommates for the first time, be her guest for a few days, but not before spending three days at orientation at UCLA- the last day of which requires that we sign up for fall quarter classes promptly at 9 AM. You see, the interesting thing about signing up for classes is that in doing so, you are choosing what you are going to study. The unique thing about being at UCLA is that I already have a major: Neuroscience. But that isn’t what I want to major in. So what in the world am I supposed to be signing up for?
I’ve known this little fact for months; that’s a lie, more than just months. I applied to TJ, my now ex-high school, with an application geared for neuroscience. My personal statement was filled with little nuggets raving about how I had found my interest for the brain in my love for reading, letting my imagination run rampant as I stumbled across telepathy in my favorite fantasy novels. It was perfect in angling to me to ultimately end up in the neuroscience research lab my senior year: which is exactly what I did. But when the time came, five years after my acceptance to TJ, and all kinds of biology, chemistry, and physics classes later, I couldn’t finish.
Researching became something that I could barely force myself to do. My proposal was interesting, I had plans, equipment, all of the resources I could need, but what I lacked was the desire. I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t like it. In that, having already been accepted to UCLA as a neuroscience major, I realized I had created a very large problem for myself.
Is it my fault? Yes. I, the humanities kid, went to the most vigorous science and technology school in the nation. Good call? Oh, great call. Terrific call. I’ve graduated with a sort of science-phobia and a craving to finally, after so many years, put my heart into exactly what I love. The crux of this beautiful, inspiring and freeing decision is that until yesterday, I didn’t know what the hell I wanted.
Yup, I didn’t so much as grace the course catalog or list of majors more than once or twice in the months since my commitment to UCLA. All I kept saying to anyone who asked is that I wanted to switch my major out of neuroscience, but I couldn’t say to what. I was spewing all kinds of negatives while never affirming what my (obviously, very well thought-out) next step would be. So, yesterday, one day before I left, and under a ton of heat from my parents, I sat down in front of my computer screen with some purpose. English? History? As much as I love them, my parents made it clear they aren’t financing something they aren’t confident will put me solidly on my feet once I graduate.
A lot of researching, a lot of listening—to my parents, other counselors, and myself—have me in a spot where I actually just might be comfortable. I know that I find the brain interesting, but I also know that I’m allergic to the hard science that it can easily turn into. I have a love for writing that hasn’t died out since I was young, and I want to be able to use this time in my life to cultivate it for the first time. And, of course, there are simply things I want to learn; I am determined to study Italian, as well as live in Italy for some portion of my life. So, the grand result? Cognitive science, communications, and Italian. I might double major or double minor with two of these, no one knows for sure; but I’m done making sacrifices, and I will dedicate my time and hard work to what I love.
All that remains is that I talk to my advisors once I get to school and actually make this major change happen, petition and all. But the best part of how strenuous these past 24 hours have been is how calming it is to finally have some stability in mind. I went from the kid who never knew what she wanted—and I’m not joking here, seven-year old me’s indecision was pretty impressive, too—to a T-24 hour adult, finally spitting out the words that I have always been choking on.
The one thing I truly have to say following my high school experience, as I move into my college one, is this: free them. Don’t let the words die in your throat. They will accumulate and softly begin to suffocate you, until one day you try to inhale and can’t because your hopes and desires have wilted in the dark. You deserve more. We all deserve more. Let’s give ourselves everything we’ve got.