One thing that I’ve learned throughout my experience in post-secondary education is that there is a great difference between studying what you love and loving what you study. This is well understood by anyone who has second-guessed the major they chose when applying to university, which, let’s face it, is no easy feat in itself.
Through my own experience and through discussions with fellow students and friends, I’ve found that these feelings are not uncommon. When we first chose what programs to apply to as we were entering the post-secondary education system, we had no way of predicting our future level of satisfaction or how our interests and life plans would change over time. As we began the transition into our adult selves, many of us gained a growing sense of uncertainty regarding the relation between our current studies and whatever we believed our true passions to be. Worse still, we were uncertain about how the choices we made, or the choices we felt still needed to be made, regarding our education would develop into a satisfying and sustainable career.
Thus, I’ve known some of us who were on the fence fell to one side and switched their major or added a second one. Some of us decided to stick it out and pursue what they had chosen originally. There are still some of us who can’t come to a solid conclusion.
This may be late in the game to post a disclaimer, however this is the point where I must make something clear : I love what I study. I enthusiastically choose my program at Glendon College three years ago and have since found it to be both rewarding and challenging. Where I believe to have lost direction is my uncertainty about whether or not I am studying what I love.
This internal discord can be easily described through a simple metaphor. For most of us, there is a main focus of our life, which could be our program of study or perhaps our career, and a number of side interests, passions or hobbies that we also take great pleasure in. Much like when we go to a restaurant, it is expected that the principal portion of our chosen dish, maybe a steak or an eggplant parmesan, will be the most delicious while the side dishes are there to keep us satisfied between bites. How do you feel, however, when you discover that a simple side dish might have been much more satisfying as your main course?
Life isn’t quite like going out for a meal. What we receive might never be as satisfying as what we were expecting when perusing the menu and ordering. If we find ourselves more passionate about something else than what we originally sought, how do we know to go back and make that our main course? How do we know that one of the most satisfying aspects of the side dish is that we didn’t get too much of it, and thus didn’t tire of it in the same manner?
At a moment when I was most uncertain of my program and very vocal about it, a friend of mine explained something to me that I both appreciated and disliked. If we made the decision to dedicate our studies to a particular subject, there must have been a reason for it to stand out above all others, and that there will always be a way for us to continue being passionate about it. It may not always be fun or easy, and perhaps we’ll find ourselves tired and worn out from it, but that’s simply how life works. There is very little out there that can enthral us for an infinite amount of time. The advice that I was given was that even if we seem completely disinterested and dispassionate in our readings and essays, it becomes necessary to make yourself interested. For better or worse, this is the plate that’s in front of you now, and the best option is to simply enjoy it and finish it to the best of your ability. If you can make yourself interested somehow, by asking questions, by pondering the concepts of what you’re learning, the apathy becomes much easier to overcome. If not, you’ll find yourself bored, unhappy and procrastinating, and in the end, unsuccessful and disappointed.
None of this is to say that once we’ve chosen a path, we must forever continue in the same direction. When something is not right in the life we’ve chosen, we have the ability to reconsider it and look for ways to make change for the better. In the end, the choices you make now, binding as they may seem, are not infinite and should never dissuade you from considering an alternative route later on in life.
When you have the freedom to choose, make the most of it.
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Are you a student who is entering post-secondary education and feeling unsure about what program to pick? Are you a current student who’s considered changing programs, or has changed programs throughout your studies, or even transferred institutions? Or are you maybe considering or have recently gone through a career change? Please share your story or your advice in the comments below!