Passion vs. Practicality: Why I Changed My Major

About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

And I am one of them! Yep me, the girl who decided she was going to be an Elementary Education teacher when she was 16. But actually, I just knew I wanted to teach. I was never clear on what exactly, so I chose Elementary because it was the most practical. Most El Ed majors walk about of college with a job in their field. Want to be sure you will have a job right out of college? Go into El Ed. I did everything in high school to prepare for an El Ed degree. I volunteered in every elementary school in Hastings, I became a Junior Achievement teacher, I worked in a daycare. I was certain of El Ed.

In the back of my head I knew my heart was with English. My head told me El Ed. But of course, my head won.  I applied and was accepted into the El Ed program and began taking classes.

Like I said, my heart was always with English. Two specific English teachers changed my life for me. One was in middle school. She was just cool. She was nerdy and passionate about English. I loved that class, I loved analyzing literature and I loved writing about how I felt about pieces.  Another teacher in high school 10th grade English class impacted me more than any other teacher. To clarify, it was not these teachers so much that impacted me. It was the content they taught. Anyways, in 10th grade we read The Lord of the Flies. I fell in love with the ideas in that book. I loved analyzing the symbolism. If you have ever read this book you probably know. If not, here is the Sparknote summary:

In this way, the Lord of the Flies becomes both a physical manifestation of the beast, a symbol of the power of evil, and a kind of Satan figure who evokes the beast within each human being. Looking at the novel in the context of biblical parallels, the Lord of the Flies recalls the devil, just as Simon recalls Jesus.

I wrote the greatest analytical paper of my life for that class. The House on Mango Street was another book that I clearly remember falling in love with during English class.

I was sitting in my 9 am class today, just a normal day, and it hit me. It finally clicked for me. I do not want to teach kids. I want to teach English. I spent the rest of my classes this morning thinking about the switch. What would my parents think? What are the logistics of an English major? Would the classes I am taking right now transfer? How much money am I loosing? Gah! I was a mess but I knew I had to listen to my heart. I ignored my dream of teaching secondary English for years because I knew El Ed was the most practical career. 

But I realized: Practicality is not going to make me happy. Passion will make me happy. I did not want to spend the rest of my life teaching children when I knew it was something my heart was never with. It takes a special person to teach elementary. It also takes a special person to love a single subject and want to teach others to love the subject just as much. 

Head = Elementary Education. Heart = Secondary English

Today I followed my real dream. Right after classes I marched into the Dean of Education office, asked for an appointment, and at 2 pm I talked through the change with my adviser. Luckily the classes I am taking right now will transfer over to the English major.

I officially changed to an English Education major. And I feel better than ever.

I was so worried how my mom would react. The best part: she was incredibly supportive. Parents are the best goddamn people on this earth. They will love you regardless of how many times you screw up. I was not sure how she would react because change is hard for parents. They get stuck in the routine and idea of what you choose, and change can be hard for them. But, change your mind and your parents will still support you.

So all along I knew Elementary Education was not for me. I was doing it because I thought it was the most practical option. There are about 150 Elementary major graduates. There are about 15 English Education graduates. Jobs in the English education field do not come as often as jobs in the Elementary education field. But teaching Middle or High school English is exactly want to do with my life. I feel especially content and secure in my decision.

Follow your dreams. Do not follow the practical path. When your heart is telling you something, please listen to it. Listen to it clearly.

“You can do anything you set your mind to. You’re a human being, full of so many different thoughts and emotions; you’re the most powerful force in your universe. So when you realize that the absolute worst that could happen to you is death, wouldn’t you rather die knowing you did your best you lived your life in the most amazing way? You followed your dreams, you found your purpose and you served the rest of mankind simply by being the best person you can be? Or would you prefer to die with the regret of everything that you didn’t make time to do?”
K.A. Hill, The Winners’ Guide

So, there ya go! Follow your dreams, kids. I listened to my dream four weeks into the first semester.  Next semester I will begin the English Education classes. I was not going to be happy in Elementary, I knew that.

Deep down I knew where I wanted to be, and today I was brave enough to listen to myself.

Go on and be brave.





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