Because I’ve lived all my life in Southern California, where life moves quickly in perpetual forward motion, rainy days feel like free passes to me. Waking up on a day where the sky is gray and the air feels slow and thick with rain makes me feel like everything that was so important yesterday can wait to be accomplished when the sun comes out again. On rainy days, all I want is to snuggle up in a cocoon of blankets and listen to the rhythm of the water on the pavement. And—of course—I want to read.
One of the best things about weekend rainy days, for me, is that I have an excuse to get my English reading for the week done. Sure, I could be doing more important things, like homework for classes I actually have on Mondays, but I’ll take annotating a novel over music dictation any day. I’m working through 500 pages of Dickens’s Dombey and Son (for my Victorian literature class) when it suddenly hits me: I love doing this. I have friends majoring in Chemistry or Computer Science who would rather have a root canal than have to finish a 62-chapter novel in a month, but I can’t imagine what that feeling is like. English is my passion.
And yet, I have little to no credibility when I write that last sentence, because I’m still a freshman.
At Pomona College, and at the 5Cs in general from what I can tell, there is a prevailing assumption that the major you come in with will be different from the one on your diploma when you graduate. At our first one-on-one meeting, when I told my faculty advisor that I was planning to major in English, she replied with a raised eyebrow and a little “hmm” before I had even gotten a chance to explain why. She, and other faculty members, have advised me to be “more open to exploring new possibilities” and to “really consider my options” before making a decision. At Orientation, almost all the speeches related to academics involved replacing an old major with a newly discovered passion; I can’t remember any student speakers who said something along the lines of, “You know what? Coming to Pomona, I thought I would be interested in majoring in Economics, and after taking some classes here and exploring my options, I found I was right!”
I understand the fear that motivates this assumption: the idea that you won’t find out that you’re in the wrong major, whether you chose it because it guarantees a high starting salary or simply because you thought you’d like it, until it’s too late. Or the idea that, while you might like the major you’re in, you’d fit even better and be happier in another one. You know—keep an open mind, you never know until you try, don’t shut the door before it’s even opened, etc. I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t explore different majors, especially if you have no idea what it is you want to study yet. I’m looking to double major, and I have no idea what to minor in yet, so I’m doing a fair amount of multi-discipline exploration myself.
What I resent is the assumption that, because I’m still a freshman, my interest in English is something fleeting and variable. I get the impression from the faculty I’ve spoken to that I won’t have the authority to assert my intent to major in a specific discipline until I can prove that I have “really considered my options” and “explored the possibilities,” even though I was never determined not to in the first place. In other words, until I have taken at least six courses as an incoming sophomore, I probably have no real idea whether or not my field of interest will end up being the one I major in. But really, how many sophomores—and even juniors—know with absolute certainty what they want to major in? Why is it more appropriate, and even expected, for a sophomore or junior to have a confident response to the question “What’s your major?” Experience does not always equate certainty.
That said, certainty—whether you find it as a college senior or before you’ve even graduated from high school—is an exhilarating thing. “I can tell you this: I’m one of the very few of the people I know who started with one major and will end with that same major,” writes Robbie Williford in his (pretty accurate) article, “Debunking Classic English Major Stereotypes.” There’s nothing wrong with figuring out what you’re meant to do sooner rather than later. The important part is that you figure it out, not when.
And on that note, here are my 7 Ways to Tell That You’re in the Right Major—in GIFs:
1. You are genuinely excited by it. Even the aspects you don’t like, you actually kind of do.
2. You feel a connection to people with the same major. Anybody equally excited about the field you love = instant friend.
3. You get overly eager when talking about it with other people. How else are you supposed to handle discussing the field you love most?
4. You want others to appreciate your field. They don’t have to love it (even though they totally should), they just have to acknowledge that it makes a significant contribution to society. And that it’s basically perfect.
5. It doesn’t feel like a means to an end. You’re not majoring in this for the job or the money, you’re majoring in it because it’s what you’re genuinely passionate about. (Although, let’s be honest, the job and the money are pretty great too.)
6. You feel like you could study it forever and it would never get old or boring. It constantly feels new, unexplored, like there is so much left that you want to learn.
7. You don’t even hate when you’re up at 4 am doing homework for your major. …Well, okay, you hate it a little less than you would otherwise.
But most importantly, you’re doing what you love. And you know it. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.