College is so frustrating but post college is even more frustrating. (This will be a two part post)
When I went to college orientation way back in the summer of 2008, I met with my first of many college advisors. I had decided I wanted to be a math teacher. My dream at the time was to teach math to middle schoolers. He told me that most college students change majors and most graduate with a completely different focus from where they started. He also told me that math is a great major and I would not regret it. If you have never had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Straight, at Potsdam, he is a great guy and I truly learned a lot from him.
But considering I had graduated high school I knew everything there is to know about my life. I knew I was way ahead of the game and I was above those silly statistics. I was going to make my college experience as streamline and perfect as possible. I was going to make my parents proud. I casually chuckled, brushed it off and declared my double major of math and education at SUNY Potsdam.
I began my freshman year of college in the tundra as Hollie the math and education major that swam. I chuckle at that now just typing it out since it seems like a different life.
Freshman year of college I kept up with my self proclaimed title. I studied, I made friends, I swam and I loved freshman year. After freshman year when dad came to pick me up he asked if I regretted anything. Despite my spring semester was spent taking all general education requirements (backpacking, human sexuality, modern dance, calculus 2 and a psychology course) I still enjoyed everything. In fact that spring semester was my favorite.
I said no. I loved math, education and swimming. I loved my friends and people I had met. My advisor knew nothing of me and I was going to beat those statistics. I was not the “typical” college student and I was on a mission to conquer the world. I was Hollie and I was a determined student.
Sophomore year was my favorite year of college. Not because of my courses but because I feel like I grew as a person. I was 19 now and over the “cradle robbing phase”. Second semester of sophomore year I really struggled with two math courses (linear algebra and set theory and logic) but made it through. I began to wonder if I really wanted to teach middle school math but knew I wouldn’t be looking at those courses again. I questioned my dream of being a math teacher but didn’t want to look like a failure. I didn’t want to switch to a whole new environment.
I began to wonder why the #$% Potsdam made me double major in math when I really wanted to just teach algebra 1 to middle schoolers. I passed all my classes and once again at the end of the year dad asked: Do you still think math is for you? I responded with yes, of course. Would I want to teach these college level courses? No but I still love math and education.
I also had my best year of college swimming sophomore. It could have been since I swam with all dudes but I had a lot of fun that year and having personal bests don’t make you complain. During the summer after sophomore year I started to run as well to keep in shape for swimming. I felt my identity changing and slipping.
On July 4th I ran a 5k which prompted me to email the Potsdam cross country coach and join the team. Things were already beginning to change my second half of college and I could feel the roller coaster beginning.
Then junior year came. Junior year was an extremely rough year for me. I struggled with swimming and having personal worsts in the pool. My math courses were only getting harder and making me miserable. About the only thing going well for me was my first year of running but that ended in November and I became a full time swimmer again. Throughout the first semester of junior year I had struggled with my new found identity and passion of running. Explaining to people my interests had changed but then struggling once that season was done. Anyone who swam with me junior year knew I was just longing to get back on the roads. I was having a huge identity crisis my junior year and had no idea where to go or turn.
Classes made me question whether I wanted to be a math major anymore. There was not one aspect of these courses I enjoyed anymore. Not one. I liked the education classes but ask my housemates at the time, I hated going to anything math related. I felt like I was settling with myself. I drew pictures of my math teachers outfits in my notebook. Sometimes I look back at my modern algebra notebook for humor.
I was also struggling with my personal life. I felt the person I was dating at the time growing further and further apart and we were. I spent the later half of junior year just trying to figure out what I wanted and who I wanted to become.
Dad asked me again: Do you still love math and education but this time it was different.
I was no longer “Hollie that loved math, education and swimming” but I felt it was too late to change my major senior year of college.
I had grown a passion for running, for health and no longer enjoyed what I did when I was 18. After all I was about to become a college senior. A 21 year old college senior.
The summer before senior year I changed majors. I decided I wanted to be a community health major. Also that summer the person I had been associated with the last three years and I broke up. Three weeks into season, a freshman on the team asked me while we were kicking “If you hate swimming so much why do you do it?”. First I was angry, then mortified then questioning how dare they ask a college senior that. What do they know? Well realistically they knew more than I did and I quit three days later.
I felt like I had wasted three years of college. Three years of courses, three years of me. I was starting my senior year of college building from the ground up.
But you know what? I didn’t.
Senior year I stuck to myself. I ran. I took my health classes and I enjoyed my life. My new adviser helped me assimilate into the community health classes and make friends. I mostly stuck to myself and just focused on getting through senior year. Since I had switched majors a year before my graduation I needed to spend an extra semester at my internship.
But I did it, I graduated in 4.5 years and found myself along the way. I found my passions, my new interests and enjoyment. I don’t regret anything in college because each experience made me grow.
I went into college as Hollie the math and education major who swam.
I left as Hollie the community health runner.
It’s funny how that worked. My adviser had been right all along. The majority of students change their majors in college. You change, you grow and you have to take a leap of faith. If I had never taken a leap of faith before senior year I might be teaching math in a middle school right now. To the naked eye, that is great but it isn’t where my passion is or was.
I wish someone freshman or sophomore year had told me “Hollie if you are miserable, quit”. Don’t get too far into a major to realize that isn’t for you. Do what makes you happy and forget the expectations of others and society.
So I guess what I want college students or anyone really to take out of this post. It may stink to change majors late into college. Or you may feel like you are “letting the world down” by changing majors but there is a life after college. Do you want to be doing that life? You have to continue doing what makes you happy and as you grow older your interests change. I don’t enjoy many things I did in high school, college or even post college. My interests are constantly changing and growing.
You have to truly do what’s best for you. If that means doing a 180 degree turn or looking at a different passion then go for it. College isn’t wasted if you find out where your passions are.
Questions for you:
Did you change majors through college?
What is a one liner you describe yourself now?
I think I could say “Hollie the health orientated runner” though that sounds a little cheesy.