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Comparing majors like apples vs. oranges

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I’m a statistic. I’ll admit it. I am one of the 25 percent of college students who change their major more than three times. I arrived at Saint Louis University a wide-eyed freshman, sure that nutrition and dietetics was the right major for me. I neglected to think about the fact that I don’t like science and I don’t like most food, but after one failed chemistry exam and three chemistry labs that all ended in sobbing, I decided that maybe it was time for a different career path.

Exhausting my mother with my constant phone calls informing her of a new life plan seemingly every hour, I declared myself a psychology major, then decided to add English, then dropped psychology, briefly thought about public health, theology and social work before finally choosing communication sciences and disorders (CSD) and English. The only person more pleased than me for finally picking a major and sticking with it was my mother. Ironically, I ended up picking the career path that she had been suggesting for me all along; unfortunately, this proves once again that mother always does know best.

Through my continuous changing, I was able to experience a number of different classes. I’ve taken classes in three colleges (Doisy, Arts and Sciences, and Education and Public Service) and across many disciplines. While, annoyingly, my soul searching didn’t exactly help my GPA, it was helpful in that I really figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Whereas my first science classes had me cringing, I was fascinated by my CSD classes and thrilled with my English courses.

In my two years as an English and CSD major, the size of my workload hasn’t changed. When I was in the sciences, I had countless chemistry problems due and endless slides on plant genetics to memorize. I now instead write 10-page papers on “The Lord of the Rings” and learn how to transcribe sentences down to their most basic phonemes. The work is not easier or harder, just different. Yet my work, and that of others in my major and college, is made to seem as if it is somehow inferior to those in “real” majors. My friend who is a social work major is often judged for only being in class for 10 hours a week, yet she is at her practicum site almost 20 hours weekly. My friend who is an education major is in class 18 hours per week and also spends time working at a school in the area and volunteering with several on-campus organizations. Yet she is continually told that she must have so much time on her hands as an education major.

Though each of us works extremely hard, our educations are invalidated by others who have chosen different majors. We’ve been told that if we were in the nursing school, or pre-med, or pre-law, then we would really know what stress and real work are. And while I recognize that these other majors are challenging, I maintain that comparing workloads and difficulty is comparing apples and oranges. There is no way to effectively compare a nursing major with an aerospace engineering major, or a theology major, or an American studies major. It just can’t be done, no matter how many times people try.

It is often implied that because I chose English as a major, I couldn’t handle being a nurse or a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. And while I still cringe remembering the struggle known as chemistry lab, if I had really felt a pull to become a dietitian, I would have gotten through it. But I recognized that I wouldn’t be happy as a dietician or in any career that required me to know what stochiometry is. To quote “Dead Poets Society”:  “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” At the end of the day, I pick poetry, and I pick the things that make me happy and alive, no matter what others have to say about it.

Though perhaps cliché, life is too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy. Hey, clichés are cliché for a reason.

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