Soundtracking: Changing your Major

Monday, September 18, 2017 - 6:44pm


Illustration by Michelle Phillips


I tripped and ate shit the moment I stepped into a 300-person lecture hall on the first day of classes.

“Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life” — John Denver

Composing myself and dusting off my freshly-pressed thrifted Hawaiian shirt, I made my way to my first lecture of my college career: Something-Something 101. Despite having just ruined any chances of making friends by becoming really solid acquaintances with the floor, optimism shined through me — no sense in being a stick in the mud when your entire future is sprawled out in front of you like Thanksgiving dinner.

A goofy smile stretched across my face. I always knew I would major in Something-Something. My dad was a Something-Something major. My mom was a Something-Something major. My grandma’s brother’s uncle’s neighbor in West Palm Beach, Florida, was a Something-Something major. It was my destiny. No, it was my Destiny’s Child.

Before I got that carpet-shaped indent in my face, the first day of college couldn’t have been more picturesque. Nothing like Animal House though.

“Perfect Day” — Lou Reed

“It was a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you.”

While there was no sangria in the park like Lou would have wanted, the morning started with a lukewarm shower, a long decision of what old man shirt I was going to start my college career with and an everything bagel, toasted, with cream cheese — everything I could have asked for.

As I took my first step out of South Quad, the summer air washed over me — nature’s way of saying “Way to go, Matt. You are so handsome and charming and you would never smash your cranium on a dirty lecture hall floor.”

Flash forward. I picked myself up and made my way to the third row (because you want to show you care but you don’t want to be a brown-noser). As the professor made her way to the lectern, the mental prowess of post-secondary education hit me.

In the wise words of 21th century philosopher April Ludgate: “Time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge, let’s go.”

Why don’t I just take every class ever? Money is not a constraint when the gift of knowledge abounds.

“How Much A Dollar Cost” — Kendrick Lamar

I’m going to major in Something-Something, take every prereq and optional course I can and stay here until I know everything there is to know about Something-Something.

Intuition over tuition.

The professor did that little clearing-your-throat, I’ll-wait, please-shut-the-hell-up beginning of class thing. Everyone fell silent, opened their laptops and I prepared for the greatest first lecture of my life.

“Okay class. Welcome to Something-Something 101. We’re gonna get started.”

And that’s when I felt lost.

“Lost Ones” — Ms. Lauryn Hill

What in the wide, wide world of sports is this woman talking about? I thought I knew what Something-Something consisted of but this is nothing like the major description online. She’s talking too quickly. This lecture makes absolutely no sense, like when you say, “You too” when the movie theater attendant says, “Enjoy your movie”.

While the professor sped ahead, I was about eight slides back — how am I supposed to type that quickly? I never took one of those elementary school typing classes so I still peck the keyboard. It isn’t fair but I live with this academic disadvantage. Give me a medal, please.

By that point, I was freaking out. Was the lecture getting hotter or was it just me? (Not flirting, just genuinely sweaty.)

“Hot in Herre” — Nelly

My fingers were leaving balmy, gross marks on my keyboard. I felt my shirt getting noticeably damper than it was on the walk over from South Quad. Things are moving too quickly. I’m not ready to grow up. I can’t handle this large amount of information packed into 50 minutes. How am I going to make my dad and mom and grandma’s brother’s uncle’s neighbor in West Palm Beach, Florida, proud without my Something-Something degree? I might as well waste away in an abyss of my own self-pity and Milano cookies.

35 minutes in, I was drowning in slides and bullet points and offhand comments that might be on the exam. I was about to burst into flames.

“Man on Fire” — Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

I was a shame. I was a fraud. I was a mess (well, I was a mess before this class but let’s let bygones be bygones).

The 50 minutes expired and everyone packed up their notebooks, laughing as they headed toward their next class. I sat still, lost in thought. I thought maybe Something-Something wasn’t my true calling. I felt like I was abandoning everything I had ever known to be true, but what else was I supposed to think? I was always so set on my future that I felt like I couldn’t quit without becoming a disappointment. But it was the only thing I could think of. How was I supposed to force myself into this major and career if I couldn’t even survive the first day?

I felt like I was stuck in a current, washing me away.

“In Undertow” — Alvvays

“You find a wave and try to hold on for as long as you can. You made a mistake you'd like to erase and I understand.”

Am I in too deep? Can you make such a drastic switch like this so quickly?

Yes you can.

It doesn’t matter if you thought you wanted to major in Something-Something or Yada-Yada or Who-Knows-What. If you aren’t passionate about what you do, you need to find what you are passionate about and chase it. You know what you want. Not what your dad wants. Not what your mom wants. Not what your grandma’s brother’s uncle’s neighbor in West Palm Beach, Florida, wants. What you want.

You can’t force a puzzle piece into a space it doesn’t fit in. Everything’s Gucci, you’re A-OK, and it’s all right.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” — Bob Dylan