Over the course of my college years, I feel like I have let so many things go: friends, extracurriculars, expectations, work hours and more. I have dropped so many things that were heavy on my mind and body, without any knowledge of what might happen next. With the pressure of society and parents having such a big influence on our future direction, it can be difficult to find your intuitive path. By releasing what merely “looks” good and instead letting in what feels good, I have reached new heights of happiness. I had to let things go to let better things in, and ultimately value my passions over a paycheck.
Undergraduate majors are something we have to figure out in the process of finding ourselves. As I stripped my identity of the things that were no longer serving me, I found a whole new world of interests. Psychology, art, health and, most importantly, writing, were things I began pursuing. I had to give up the math courses that weren’t serving me. I had to release the feeling of being safe on a business track just because it would bring the money, and I started to focus instead on my own values.
My initial experience with letting go began with withdrawing from my sorority junior year. This was a tough decision for me because although I had worked so hard to make friendships in the sorority house, it no longer felt like the right path for me. It was more than deleting it from my Instagram bio; I was completely removing it from my identity. I didn’t know where I belonged and what type of friends I wanted, but I continued to stay open to new possibilities. For the first time in my life, I felt stripped of an identity that I used to be so passionate about, but then wanted nothing to do with.
After leaving the sorority, I continued to purge my life of things that no longer served me. I dropped a corporate position that was headed toward a substantial amount of money, but had an atmosphere that was slowly draining me. I felt unfulfilled; I had to walk away, but I knew it was the right choice to start finding what I actually loved to do. I spent countless days in the summer just doing my own thing and getting back to the passions and hobbies I once cared so much about. In college, it seems as if there is never time to maintain little side hustles because they don’t provide enough income to offset the time they consume. Instead, they are swept to the side with the rest of the pieces of ourselves we’ve covered up to assume the role of being students at a prestigious university.
Continuing on my purging path, I decided to drop a major I initially was very confident about pursuing. Even more difficult to overcome was the fact that my parents thought it was the right major for my future. To be candid: parental pressure can be overwhelming. It can influence everything from your major to your friend group to your career. Students are often heavily influenced by their parents, especially when picking a major in college. These major decisions come with a large price tag for parents as they are often paying thousands of dollars for their child to attend university.
One student from the University of North Florida said it took her two and a half years until she was finally able to put her foot down and switch to the major of her liking: communications. She notes that at the end of the day, it comes down to what you love, because you are the one who will wake up every day and go to the job. Ultimately, if you choose your career based on the expectations of others, you probably will not be fulfilled.
On the other hand, parental guidance on our decisions during college can sometimes be a positive factor. A research article from the College Student Journal indicated that many students see their parents as a positive influence on their majors. For example, some students may have grown up with their parents talking about their own jobs, and the students have become inspired to follow in their footsteps. Early childhood educator Kaitlyn Berger said she was inspired to follow her mom’s career path to become a teacher. Additionally, she added that she looks to her family for guidance because they are the most influential people in her life, and they are the ones you respect. She mentions how important it is to have these people in your life because it helps you make unbiased decisions.
Another study showed that high levels of parental involvement is indicative of the current generation. The Schlossberg transition theory is another factor of whether or not a person will be heavily influenced by their parents’ guidance when in college. The theory has four underlying areas: the situation, self, strategies and support. Situation proposes means of timing, duration of transition and one’s experience with similar transitions. The self refers to the individual who is experiencing the transition. The strategies involve how they are coping with the college transition, and the effect it has on them mentally. Lastly, the support involves people, organizations or institutions that the person turns to for help with the transition. All of these factors lead to the decisions students make when dealing with their college experience, and the impact of other variables on their educational route. However, parents are proven to be the most impactful when it comes to these components.
While at least 80% of students change their career plans at least once during their college experience, some people may change up to six times. In fact, 61% of college graduates wish they could go back and change their majors, and 26% of degree holders would change their majors to pursue their passions.
As I unpacked my prior life decisions and changes I made, I began to see the influences that played a part in my choices. Whether it was the environment, my family, my ego or simply what felt right at a given time, I let go of the things that held me back and allowed more room in my life for what felt more important. I began to spend my time trying to revive the hobbies that felt organic: drawing, painting, writing, dancing and creating content again. It felt like the real me had returned to where I was meant to be, before predetermined expectations pulled my creativity away. It was the corporate job, math-filled major and pressure to succeed that I gave up along the way. I felt like the conditioned expectations of society no longer served my true self, and I was more than excited to follow the unpredictable path. Whether it felt safe or not, it felt right. School and jobs are safe, they lead to a financially stable route and should be followed like what others before us have always done. But something feels so right about finding myself again beneath the heavy layers of lost identity.
I know I have taken a step in the right direction; I have begun to prioritize what makes me feel most like me. I’ve taken on writing for both The Daily and a journalism internship, branched out and met new friends in unconventional places, auditioned and sent resumes in for things I would have judged myself for years ago and taken classes way out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I have given myself unconditional permission to be myself, and so should you.
Maddie Wein is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.