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.
Your story is mine in reverse! I spent 2 years as a criminal justice major, thinking i’d go on to law school. Then literally one morning I woke up and just knew I had to change my major- to math and education!!
Funny thing is, now I work in hospitality and tourism 🙂
I actually had no idea you were wanting to be a math teacher. I think in college we all find out what actually does and doesn’t work for us. hard lessons to learn but necessary
Went into college wanting to do a media/communications degree… left with a degree in Kinesiology and now I’m doing a masters in Physiotherapy! Haha 🙂 I don’t regret a thing, and I definitely found my passion. I learned so much over the years and truly grew into a stronger, more confident person!
Wow that is a change but it sounds awesome!
I definitely am doing something different now than I was in school. Life works in mysterious ways. I am glad you found a new path that works for you, and I think you are a great role model for community health and obviously running.
Nice post! I remember you clearly all torn up about Swimming Vs. Running and the realization you just really couldn’t do both. None of us wanted to tell you what to do, it was your decision. You clearly made the right choice! So many of us run after our swimming careers are over, you started a bit early. 🙂
Thank you Lindsay! You are seriously the best and I cannot imagine Potsdam without you. I actually debated putting one of those white trash photos from sophomore year but I couldn’t make it fit LOL
I wanted to be Jen, the dancer who was going to be an RN and work in labor and delivery. Instead, I’m Jen, mom and personal trainer.
I -wish- I had changed my majors in college. I graduated with a BA in psychology and philosophy, and while I enjoyed learning about psych, I realized late in the game that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a career. I probably should have switched at that point, but I felt like it would have been too much time wasted so I stuck it out, got a job in the psych field after I graduated, and was pretty miserable doing it. Fast forward a couple of years, and I finally took the leap of faith to make changes and pursue a career in the area that I’m passionate about. A little late in the game, but better late than never, right?
Do I remember correctly that you were doing integrative nutrition lately? I have heard of many people having mid life crisis so I guess it;s always better late then never. 🙂
Yep! IIN now and more nutrition courses when I’m done with it. Also, I think this is my quarter-life crisis — I don’t even want to know how bad my mid-life one will be 😆
Right on! My mid life crisis will include a new car. Haha!
I absolutely love this! So well thought out and I can almost bet that every single person who went to college can relate. Glad you figured it all out and graduated with what made you happy.
Great post! I knew what I wanted to major in before I went to college and somewhat took that path. I always wanted to be a writer or do something in the writing field and went for my degree in English w/a concentration in creative writing. I also loved history so much that I made it my 2nd major. After working in politics during and after college I went for my Master’s in history and public policy. While it wasn’t an English grad degree, history requires a LOT of writing and editing which is why I’m drawn to it. And now I have the best of both worlds in my job in public health – grant writer & project director. Funny how life works itself out! I think you chose the right path and you never know – you can always tutor math on the side since you have an excellent base.
That sounds really interesting. I’ve always thought that grant writing would be something I would be interested in. If I went back to grad school, it would probably be for health administration.
Great post! I began my college career as a music major with voice as my primary instrument. Changed to “undecided”. Changed to English/Education. Dropped the Education. Graduated with an English degree. Continued on to get my Masters in Public Relations. Now I don’t work in the paid sense – but I do fill my time with my family, volunteering, and taking care of myself. For a long time, I didn’t work myself into the equation nearly as much as I should have but I feel like I’ve finally found a good balance. xo
That sounds like a full time job to me. 🙂
18-22 is such an important stage in developing your identity. At 18, I made the decision to join the Army because I thought it would lead to the career I wanted (I wanted to be a spy at the time). By 23 I realized I really didn’t enjoy that kind of stuff, and longed to do something else, but I was stuck in a contract my 18-yr old self had signed. I think it’s a lesson that everyone learns eventually – our needs and wants are always changing and evolving so we might as well accept that and just go with the flow.
Wow that is so intense. I do agree though, that you are constantly changing and growing-of course your interests will not be the same!
I’m really glad you ended up switching in the end both in education and sport. It really is admirable to take control of your life when you are lost and not sure what you really want. I almost changed majors from exercise physiology to athletic training because I thought I wanted to be a sports physical therapist. I talked to a PT though and he helped me look at my options and decide on orthopedic physical therapy which you don’t need to be an athletic trainer for. After I realized that everything felt so much better! So I can kind of relate. Though I’ve still got a long way to go and things could still change!
I decided when I was 12 that I wanted to be a nuclear engineer. So…I guess I did not change. How lame of me.
Except that sophomore year, I added a second degree in political science because it seemed like the thing to do.
You were ahead of the world. Can I be you when I grow up? Minus the cycling…and swimming. I’ll just run.
I had no idea what I wanted to do in college other than nothing science related. I took astronomy my freshman year (which is clearly why I’m stuck taking biology as a 27 year old senior). I had no direction in life. At least you found running! I don’t think I read back in your swimming days but I’ve read many blogs referring back to then!
It’s interesting to learn how late on you’re allowed to change majors in the US – I still struggle with the differences between the UK and US system because they’re are so different. Once you start on a particular path in the UK, you’re pretty much stuck on it unless you want to begin an entirely different course from right back at the beginning; you’re forced to specialize a lot earlier on, and that’s one of the many things I loathe about our education system. That said, I do wish I’d had the balls to give up and go for my dreams the minute I realised that English was not something I was passionate about (not in the purely academic sense, anyway). You can blag your way through an BA (undergrad) and even an MRes (Masters) here, but unless you have passion, you can’t get through a PhD. I’ve learned that the hard way and I stayed because I couldn’t stand to be a quitter – all the pressure came from my obsession with living up to society’s expectations, and the real irony is that by failing at my PhD I have done the exact opposite. I wish I had been as brave as you instead of wasting eight years of my life.
Ah, all of the one-liners I can think of are not really suitable for public viewing 😛 It’s difficult to describe myself without using some…ah, strong language.
I think it’s kinda ridiculous that we have to pick a career path so young, especially when the major of college students change their major. It is interesting how much people change, and this is such a crucial time in life.
I agree completely!
I absolutely love this post, Hollie. I’m kind of going through something like this right now, as you probably know, haha. I do love my major, but I sometimes wonder what I will do with it. I also have other passions (baking… yeah that’s about it haha), and I may want to pursue those, but definitely don’t want to “not use my degree” if that makes sense. Anyways, I love how you said that we just need to pursue what makes us happy and follow where our interests lead us!
I am one of what seems like one of the few that came out of school following the exact plan I went in with. I did an accelerated BS/DPT (3 years undergrad and 3 years towards my doctorate of physical therapy). Have not regretted or second guessed my decision and now I’ve been a PT for 1.5 years. As far as my “one liner”… Quirky running physical therapist?… don’t really like it, but it will do.
I tried to change my major and my adviser talked me out of it, because he said it was too late. Given the struggle I had trying to find a job, I probably should have fought him more.
Going into college, I knew what I wanted to major in, and it didn’t change. However, I did experience an identity crisis of sorts during sophomore year. It seemed like all I did was go to class and play basketball, which was fine, but I wanted to do other things too. So I “retired” and became the editor of my college newspaper and studied abroad. I’m glad I got to be a collegiate athletes and a “normal” college student during those four years.
Great post! I transferred schools after my freshman year and ended up also changing majors. When I started college I also swam but I’d been pretty injured and didn’t really love it anymore. Transferring gave me an excuse to quit swimming and inevitably find running and triathlon. I’m entering my senior year of college now and have been thinking a lot about what I’m supposed to do once I graduate. It’s really scary but at least I know I really like my major and what I’m studying
That is great you love your major and what you are studying. I guess that is what led me to leave math…I didn’t enjoy either!
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