During my college years, I feel like I let down so many things: friends, extracurricular activities, expectations, work hours, and more. I let go of so many things that weighed heavily on my mind and body, with no knowledge of what might happen next. With societal and parental pressure having such a big influence on our future direction, it can be difficult to find your intuitive path. By releasing what just “looks” good and letting in what feels good, I have reached new heights of happiness. I had to let things go to let in better things and ultimately value my passions over a paycheck.
Undergraduate majors are something we need to understand in the process of finding ourselves. As I stripped my identity of the things that no longer served me, I found a whole new world of interests. Psychology, art, health and, above all, writing, are things that I started to pursue. I had to drop out of math classes that weren’t working for me. I had to let go of feeling safe on a business path just because it would make money, and started focusing on my own values instead.
My first experience of letting go started with my freshman year withdrawal from sorority. It was a tough decision for me because even though I had worked so hard to make friends in the sorority house, it just didn’t seem like the right path for me anymore. It was more than deleting it from my Instagram bio; I completely removed it from my identity. I didn’t know where I belonged and what kind of friends I wanted, but I continued to stay open to new possibilities. For the first time in my life, I felt stripped of an identity that I was so passionate about, but wanted nothing to do with anymore.
After leaving the sorority, I continued to purge my life of things that no longer served me. I dropped a corporate position that was heading for a substantial amount of money, but had an atmosphere that was slowly draining me. I felt dissatisfied; I had to leave, but I knew it was the right choice to start finding what I really loved to do. I spent countless days in the summer doing my own thing and returning to the passions and hobbies that interested me so much. In college, there never seems to be time to maintain small hustles because they don’t provide enough income to compensate for the time they consume. Instead, they’re swept aside along with the rest of the pieces of ourselves we’ve covered up to take on the role of students at a prestigious university.
Continuing on my purge path, I decided to drop out of a major that I was initially very confident to pursue. Even more difficult to overcome was the fact that my parents thought it was the right specialty for my future. To be frank: parental pressure can be overwhelming. It can influence everything from your major to your group of friends to your career. Students are often heavily influenced by their parents, especially when choosing a major in college. These major decisions come with a high price tag for parents, as they often pay thousands of dollars for their child to attend college.
A student from the University of North Florida says it took her two and a half years before she could finally put her foot down and pursue her major: communications. She notes that in the end, it all comes down to what you love, because you’ll be the one who wakes up every day and goes to work. In the end, if you choose your career based on other people’s expectations, you’re probably not going to be fulfilled.
On the other hand, parental guidance on our college decisions can sometimes be a positive factor. A College Student Journal research article indicated that many students view their parents as a positive influence on their majors. For example, some students may have grown up with their parents talking about their own work, and students were inspired to follow in their footsteps. Early childhood educator Kaitlyn Berger said she was inspired to follow her mother’s career path to becoming a teacher. Additionally, she added that she looks to her family for advice because they are the most influential people in her life and they are the ones you respect. She mentions how important it is to have these people in your life because it helps you make unbiased decisions.
Another study showed that high levels of parental involvement are indicative of the current generation. Schlossberg’s transition theory is another determining factor in whether or not a person will be heavily influenced by the advice of their parents when they go to college. The theory has four underlying domains: situation, self, strategies and support. The situation suggests ways of timing, the duration of the transition, and his experience with similar transitions. The self refers to the individual experiencing the transition. The strategies relate to how they cope with the transition to college and the effect it has on their minds. Finally, accompaniment concerns the people, organizations or institutions to which the person turns for help with the transition. All of these factors drive the decisions students make about their college experience and the impact of other variables on their academic journey. However, parents were found to be the most influential when it came to these components.
While at least 80% of students change their career plan at least once during their college experience, some people change up to six times. In fact, 61% of college graduates wish they could go back and change majors, and 26% of college graduates would change majors to pursue their passions.
As I unpacked my past life decisions and the changes I had made, I began to see the influences that played into my choices. Whether it was the environment, my family, my ego, or just what felt right at one point, I let go of the things that held me back and allowed more room in my life for what felt right. Most important. I started spending my time trying to revive the hobbies that felt organic to me: drawing, painting, writing, dancing, and creating content again. I felt like the real me was back where I needed to be, before predetermined expectations took away my creativity. It was the corporate job, the math major, and the pressure to succeed that I gave up on the way. I felt like the conditioned expectations of society no longer served my true self, and I was beyond excited to follow the unpredictable path. Whether he felt safe or not, he felt good. School and jobs are safe, they lead to a financially stable path and should to be followed like what others before us have always done. But something feels so right to find myself under the heavy layers of lost identity.
I know I took a step in the right direction; I started prioritizing what makes me feel most like myself. I started writing for The Daily and a journalism internship, branched out and met new friends in unconventional places, auditioned and sent resumes for things I would have judged myself there. years ago and I took classes way out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I gave myself unconditional permission to be myself, and so should you.
Maddie Wein is a Opinion Columnist and can be reached at [email protected]