"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
This is a question we are asked practically from the day we are born.
When we are 8, we're asked if we'd rather be firefighters or pop stars. When we are 12 we are asked if we want to be doctors or business executives. When we are 18 we are asked--perhaps most crucially--what we want to be yet again.
Often, we have an answer to rattle off, as if our tongues have always known the perfect way to articulate the words "Marketing," "Chemistry," or "English." We are confident in our response, sure and unwavering. We think our 30-year plan is profoundly unshakeable.
Often, we are wrong.
In our society, we have a tendency to ask our children to decide what they want to do with their lives as soon as coherent thoughts about spaghetti and puppies form in their minds. From day one, we train our kids that they have to choose something--that the course and ultimate success of their lives will depend on the subject they have resolved to study.
Did you know that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of students in the U.S. change their major at least once?
Eighty percent. Let that sink in for a moment.
I mean, we all remember our college days. We went in Econ, came out Physics, and somehow ended up in nonprofit work.
We found what we really loved to do by trying to do all the things we didn't.
Figuring out what you want to do is something that is rarely ever set in stone.
Majors and careers don't take into account something incredibly crucial to our existence as human beings: That we tire of things, that we continue to grow, and that we change, as long as we continue to be alive.
You can, like myself, choose to study about neurophysiological processes and biological systems and molecular pathways for four long years of your life. And, when those four years are over, you can fall madly in love with words and the way they so lovingly intertwine with each other on a page for all the years after.
How in the world can we be what we choose to study? How can a thought so inane be something all of us worry about and obsess over?
To all those worrying about whether their knowledge of Kant's Categorical Imperative will get them a job, to all those wondering whether they will be stuck pipetting in a lab until they die from the inhalation of toluene: Fear not.
Choose to learn something you want to learn.
You don't have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life yet.
There's time to figure that out. I promise.