Not too many years ago, I was an anxious 17-year old dealing with what then felt was the biggest problem of my life—to shift or not to shift courses/ degree in college.
You can never really be ready for the ultimate choice that will determine the rest of your life
My high school tried to be helpful and put on a career orientation for its graduating students. There was a quiz to determine which field I would be perfect in (performance arts, which I rejected to be an unsustainable career as I didn’t believe I was that good). There were lots of unsolicited advice from well-meaning relatives. My parents told me that it was my choice and that I should follow my heart.
I did some research and asked around and found out that the field I should pursue should be something I’m at least good at (i.e. if my high school grades in math are good, pursue a degree with math subjects) and something I’m interested in. Second, I am to pick a good school.
My mom bless her heart, encouraged me to take entrance exams in the major universities and colleges and advised me to just pick a course later. So I did. I took several entrance exams, passed all of them. After all that time and effort, I ended up listening to the chatter of my high-school classmates and picked nursing as a pre-law / pre-med course and picked a state university that provides subsidized tuition.
I was ambivalent about law at that time. I felt that since my siblings were in the medical field, and given that nursing was such a hot* field then, I should pursue nursing. My siblings could show me the ropes and nursing appeared to be such a stable field that guarantees well, immediate employment abroad and all that entails. The state university also offered a huge subsidy and with its competitive exam, I felt it would be a waste not to go.
Miserable in nursing
So I chose nursing. I thought to myself, I could always take up law later or even med school later. If law or med wouldn’t work out, nursing would guarantee me a fall-back career.
I went to my classes and met my classmates. I bought my nursing stuff –a lab gown, a name plate… and then I learned about enema and how students would be required to do one on each other. I learned the reality of having to deal with actual blood (I just can’t).
Nursing isn’t just about knowing science (which I felt was one of my strong subjects) but about serving others, bathing them, putting on their catheter. It requires complete simplicity: no earnings and hair must be kept away from the face. It requires a rigid schedule of classes from 8am to 5pm straight, with barely any breaks in between, which to me felt like going back to high school.
The ultimate test of happiness
For the first time in my academic life, I dreaded school days. I dreaded showering in the morning. I just hated going to class. I lost interest in my classes. I broke down and asked my parents for permission to switch courses. My parents had a rule against shifting courses so I had to think really hard before deciding.
I felt anxious because I knew my next course of action will determine my career, my possible job and ultimately my fate. And I would only have myself to blame. College degrees tend to be a barrier to entry for certain careers. It was a huge responsibility which I felt that at 17 years old, I wasn’t ready to take on. I asked my parents to just pick for me but they refused, it had to be my choice.
Thus, after 10 days in nursing school, I was finally free. Thankfully another University let me in despite the short notice. I wasn’t good at math but I switched to a business-related degree which as it turned out, had several calculus subjects! I was happy to discover though that this field actually interested me and I looked forward to showering in the morning again (my ultimate test of happiness). I got my degree and graduated with honors so evidently it all worked out.
After college, law was an easy choice. I would never have survived in medicine. To this day, I can’t stand the sight of blood. How could I have ever thought I would ever survive in nursing, much less in med school?!
So the takeaway is this, once you discover what you want to do, pursue it. Having others pick for you is cowardice. Make your own choices and take responsibility for your own actions.
Was it easy for you to pick a major / college course?
*Had I pursued nursing I would have graduated into the US recession and with millions of Pinoy nurses, joined the unemployment club. By that time, the global demand for nurses waned and I saw former classmates and friends become forced to divert careers. Most became call center agents and some took up further study (medicine).