“Life.” This is my tired answer to the question of what I am studying, the first question people ask of me, the question that has apparently become the new version of the 90s pick-up line, “Hey baby, what’s your sign?”
I answer wearily because I am undecided; I have apparently lost my enthusiasm for creativity, and kind of want to answer that I’m a Gemini. I used to answer that I wanted to learn to breed rare birds or do research on how singing affects plant growth, but humor lost its appeal during my first week in Ann Arbor.
Every other person, it seemed, wanted to be a doctor or engineer or at least had a slight direction. I still don’t. Being undecided means being unique, I read online. For me, it means I can turn any conversation into an awkward halt with my quasi-answer of “the question.”
I used to think I needed to print a list of LSA majors and use the lines of a blue pen to pick by process of elimination (so far, I know I will not be a computer scientist nor a student of the German language). This is not an entirely bad idea, but decisions need to have the right motivation behind them. The decision of what to do with your life shouldn’t be chosen by forced self-pressure.
National statistics, though inconclusive, say that around 20 to 50 percent of freshmen enter college undecided about their major, so the pressure I feel is totally self-made. But I am still nervous.
Statistics also say that many change their majors at least three times before they graduate. I’m still not feeling great, because this is the University of Michigan. Surely general statistics don’t apply to us, right? But maybe they do.
My favorite reassurance about being undecided is that many of the future jobs have not even been created, yet this seemingly helpful point really stresses me out. Uncertainty always does. I don’t know how to prepare for something that doesn’t exist yet.
I’ve heard people say that students in college without a specific goal tend to do worse in school. However, we, the undecided, do have a goal: to figure out a specific goal! We are racing against time and distributions and the limits of our confidence. So are we not more impressive?
Without a doubt, there are some perks of being undecided. Because of the many distribution credits the University demands of us, we get to explore. Like mothers everywhere say, how do you know you don’t like something if you have never tried it?
By introducing yourself to many fields early on, you can conduct the process of elimination with some experience under your belt. Many people do not figure out who they are until college — you shouldn’t have to predict what future you will enjoy without experiencing it first.
I understand; I’m not helping. But I have observed and questioned this phenomenon of treating the undecided like pariahs. Though I have come to terms with the awesome expedition that is being undecided, I have looked into a few tips that might help those with less confidence come to terms with what they are.
Explore different kinds of classes (spending all of your time in the Chemistry building isn’t healthy). Try out the Career Center (it probably exists for a good reason). Talk to people, but do not feel compelled to listen. Just because a friend says that professor was a hippie (and makes it sound like that is a bad thing) or that writers cannot find jobs or your mother is afraid that if you go to Africa you will get Ebola, that does not mean you are obliged to listen.
There is one thing everyone should be able to agree on about us undecided — we are brave.
Payton Luokkala is an LSA freshman.