Avoiding the Pursuit of Unhappiness
By Jenna Glover
I am an English major graduate and currently a teacher of middle and high school writing. Part of my job is to teach workshops on college application essays. High school seniors come to these workshops, some eager to hand me their drafts to proofread, others ashamedly pulling out blank pieces of paper. All of them, though, have one thing in common: some dream or desire they can translate into a major to write about.
But not all of them have support for their dream.
This past season of workshops, I came across a young student who struggled to write about his dream major, not because he didn’t have one, but because his dream was not supported by the people around him.
Let’s call this young man Larry. Larry was one of the students who entered my workshop with a blank piece of paper. He hadn’t written any of his essays, and the deadline was less than a month away. I sat Larry down and asked him what he wanted to major in.
“Animation,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, and, as the application asked, “what challenges have you faced in pursuing it? How did your animation journey begin?”
Silence. Larry clammed up. And I couldn’t get anything more from him, so I told him about my journey to English/Creative Writing.
It began with tons of support from my family and friends and zero support from my school. Back when I was first applying to colleges, the tech wave was just starting to sweep the nation, especially in my county. I was a straight A student with an aptitude for math, so I was targeted for the newly-popular S.T.E.M. programs.
But I wasn’t interested.
Teachers tried to dissuade me, advisors told me I was throwing away opportunities, and even some of my classmates told me I was being a fool.
“All the jobs are in STEM,” they said. “All the money is in STEAM.”
But all my passion is in writing.
I told Larry that my journey was not easy, and that it was a struggle that I still face in some capacity to this day. But I do not regret a moment of it because I would rather be struggling with a career I love than succeeding in a job I hate.
Larry did the most amazing thing any teenager nowadays can do: he thanked me.
And the floodgates opened. Larry was struggling with his choice of major. He really wanted to pursue animation, and had a passion for it, but it seemed that no one was supporting him. His parents wanted him to be successful, and, in their eyes, only engineers were successful. All his peers were on board the STEM train, and Larry felt alone and unable to write. What kind of college essay, after all, is about negative experiences with your intended major?
Well, my story, and now his. Larry’s words came pouring out, and I did my best to guide them to the page (within the word count limit, of course). Larry left my workshop with a few thoughts on what to write about for his four college essays and, about a week later, I received an email from him. He had finished all his essays.
I am biased towards the creative arts, but that is not because I don’t value STEM programs, or any other program for that matter. I do. I am constantly amazed by and appreciative for the men and women in engineering and computer science. They do what I could never do.
And I do what some of them could never do. I write. With passion.
So instead of steering our next generation of workers into STEM, or even STEAM, how about we steer them into ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ? Because passion is just as important as money. Because there is value and honor in all college majors and all kinds of professional work.
And I am glad I had the chance to help one student find that value in theirs.