I will never sit in a cubicle. I will never have to worry about the finances of running a small business, owning a company car or creating a presentation for a board meeting. And I will never have to worry about these things and more if I continue on my path toward medical school. Those things make me happy. But does my major?
When we were in third grade, our teachers asked us the most important question of our lives, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” At the time, I’m sure most of us answered “astronaut” or something else that sounded acceptable in the mind of an eight-year-old. We didn’t realize just how important that question actually was or how long it might take to find an answer.
In middle school, our perceptive changed slightly to more realistic careers such as becoming musicians, authors and doctors, while high school finely tuned our answers even further to journalists, athletes and surgeons once things became more serious. Until senior year rolled around and it was time to start filling out college applications, I never once looked back on my decision to attend medical school.
And yet there I was, freezing on the “concentration/major” box filling out the Common Application, unable to move the mouse. Through all the confusion, a question formed at the forefront of my mind: Why was I hesitating? Two years later, I’d chalk it up to my subconscious trying to tell my heart something it didn’t want to accept: Maybe I didn’t want to do biology. In that moment, I felt like a child putting their hands over their ears, repeating a mantra of lalalala to keep the truth away. I was good at biology, right? You needed a biology degree to get into medical school, right? I didn’t just need to take biology; I needed to major in biology and love biology if I wanted a shot at becoming the doctor that I always envisioned in my future. At least that’s what I told myself when I hesitantly typed “biology” into that little box.
“Do What You Want” is a chapter in Amy Poehler’s novel “Yes Please.” She essentially argues that to be happy, we need to follow what we want to do in life. As she goes on to detail her early struggles as a rising comedian in an unforgiving industry, you can’t help but notice the great success that came with her hard work. Of course, all fans of “Saturday Night Live” and the ever-popular series “Parks and Recreation” know the name Amy Poehler, whether by her sparkling identity or constant enthusiasm as herself or her persona, Leslie Knope. But only readers of her novel can truly see the depths of her love for work — not once in the novel did I remember reading that she was unhappy. Even as a comedy nobody in a small Chicago improv theatre, Poehler remarked that she was incredibly happy with her new “family.” Reading “Yes Please” was not only a small piece of happiness to feed the “Parks and Recreation” fan inside of me, but also an educational experience about life itself, especially college life.
Do what you want, whatever makes you happy, is an essential piece of advice all students entering college should carry with them. I had entered freshman year carrying the uncertainty of my concentration on my shoulders, and I didn’t even know it. Biology was something that I felt was necessary to my success, not something that was bringing me happiness. Acceptance is the hardest part of any failed relationship, and this relationship was slowly but surely becoming a one-way street. To become happy in your work, sometimes you need to make the hard decision to let go of things that have become detrimental to your happiness. Unfortunately, that might mean breaking up with your major if it just isn’t working for you.
When first-year requirements dictated that foreign language was required to graduate from LSA, I became excited to once again immerse myself in a topic I had adored in high school. This was especially so when Lorena, my fabulous instructor, added an equal mix of passion and fun to the language that spurred me to participate actively in class once more. I found myself excited to do homework and to attend class each day again. I adored Spanish and came to the simple and quick decision that I would pursue a dual degree with the language as my other major, which ultimately led to the rethinking of my entire concentration choices thus far. Eventually, I gave myself an ultimatum: If biology and Spanish were hanging off a cliff, which would I jump for?
The answer was too simple, too quick. I jumped for Spanish. And immediately after I jumped, I called my parents to let them know that, although I was still pursuing medical school, I was going to double major in BCN and Spanish and quit biology. They understood almost immediately, sensing my unhappiness in biology in a way only parents can while giving me various reassurances. Directly after, I unashamedly cried for an hour straight. But they were happy tears, as I had finally found an equal medium where I could still envision myself as a pediatrician, yet be happy as an undergraduate studying exactly what I wanted. I cannot wait to begin my journey as a sophomore in my new concentration, happy and interested for the first time in a long time.
My point is, follow Amy Poehler’s advice and do whatever you want and what makes you ultimately happy in life. Whether you’re a rising undergraduate or a new freshman, never be afraid to pursue the important things in life. Enjoy your work, and you’ll create your own happy future.
Megan Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com.