“What is your major?”
If you’re a college student, the “what is your major?” question is the question every person you encounter defaults to. Maybe if you’re a high school student, the question may sound like “what colleges are you applying to?” or if you’re a young adult, “what do you do for a living?” Besides learning your name, it seems to be the first thing anyone wants to know about you. Your college major says so much about you, right? It says what you dreamed about when you were younger, it says what you enjoy doing in college, it says what you plan on spending the next few decades doing until you retire. Right? Right? Wrong.
Your college major is what you spend four(ish) years taking classes around in college. That’s it. You may or may not be passionate about it. You may or may not turn that into a profession post-graduation. You may or may not have written it across a piece of construction paper when you were five and your kindergarten teacher had asked the class “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It may or may not be what you want to define you.
I grew up wanting to be a teacher. I came to college wanting to be a teacher. My identity, the way others view me, had been deeply rooted in education, in me spending my life in an elementary school classroom. When I made the terrifying, courageous, bold, and completely right decision to drop my elementary concentration, I was leaving behind one of the biggest pieces of who I was, or, who others thought “I was.” Now, I am a Liberal Studies major, which is technically the same major I’ve always had. But I refuse to fall into the stereotypical education box that follows the words “Liberal Studies” because that is not me. I find more value in my Leadership Studies minor that I ever did in my concentration and than I do in my major, but I still refuse to let what I go to school for define me. I refuse to let a major – past or present – create my definition of me.
Yes, I am a college student pursuing a certain degree, but being a college student is so much more than what you learn in the classroom. College is teaching you to step out of your comfort zones and try things you never would have imagined trying before. College is meeting people who are so different than you, who teach you to always be open-minded and who teach you so much more than you could have ever taught yourself. College is about figuring out what you want to do with your life – through trial and error, through mistakes, through victories. Some people may major in their dream field, but even they want to be defined by so much more than a future job.
We all want to be defined by each and every little thing that makes us, us. By our dreams, our aspirations, our favorite place in our hometown. By our favorite food, by our obsessions, by our candid laughter. We want to be known for what we love, who we love, how we love. We want others to know us by our quirkiness, our kindness, our caring hearts. We want to be defined by what we are passionate about, no matter what it is.
Next time you meet someone, instead of asking them what their major is, ask them what they love. Ask them what’s listed next to “number one” on their bucket list. Ask them what makes them smile, and ask them about something that made them happy today. And when you meet this new person, remember: they are more than what they go to school for. They are more than the job they work Monday through Friday, they are more than the words listed on a college degree. They are themselves, and that is good enough.