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Major in your passion, not your family's expectations

July 6, 2014
Photo by Brandon Hankins | The State News

W hen meeting new people, as soon as they find out that you’re a student they have one question: What do you study? I myself am guilty of asking that question. When I answer it, however, it prompts another set of questions — “But, why? What are you going to do with that degree? Are you going to go to grad school? Oh, so do you want to teach?”

I study English and I specialize in creative writing because I want to. No, I don’t want to go to grad school. No, I don’t want to teach. Honestly, I don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I personally don’t believe anybody in college really knows what they’re going to do after that degree falls into their hand.

But I haven’t always studied English. In fact, I began my college career as an undeclared pre-med student. I tried to convince myself — and everyone else — that I wanted to be a doctor, just as they had tried to convince me that studying English wasn’t worth my time. I let everyone around me influence my decision on what I wanted to do with my life because in my mind, older and wiser influences meant accuracy.

Taking advice from family members is one thing, but allowing them to persuade you to do or not do something is completely different.

The issue of whether or not I want a job in the future, or how I am going to pay back student loans — these are both valid questions, but I had become convinced that if I studied what I am passionate about I will never find a job and I will probably be in debt forever. Though I now realize that could be true for any major, because no degree is a ticket to a paycheck.

What I should have realized when I first came to Michigan State was that I shouldn’t let other people dictate the choices that I want to make in my life.

College is a nice buffer zone between being an adolescent and being an adult. It’s a time to figure out what works and what doesn’t in your life — whether that’s deciding your area of study, if you will drink on the weekends, if you will start smoking, who you share your bed with, who you hang out with, if you go to class or what time you come home at night — if at all.

Being a college student is more or less the time to mess up, throw up and, eventually, grow up — but it has to be done without a parental figure leaning over your shoulder. Their words of wisdom may be viewed as wiser and more experienced, but shouldn’t be taken as law.

As an incoming freshman I let my family influence what I would study and was hesitant to tell anyone that after one semester I had switched my major.

I let my parents and grandparents tell me that I shouldn’t drink or smoke, and for a time I did exactly what they suggested — even though they drank consistently and smoked occasionally.

Eventually, when I asked my family for advice, I had to remind myself to take it at face value and not as the line that shouldn’t be crossed. When my parents suggested quitting my job, I thought about it and decided the opposite — and here I am now, by some miracle still hanging onto a job that was once just a dream. When my grandmother told me to never drink alcohol because alcoholism runs in the family, I followed the line to the edge and, eventually, stepped across. After experimenting with alcohol as a freshman, I barely drink anymore as a senior.

Things play out how they’re going to play out with you behind the wheel. If it were up to my family, I would be in my final year of undergrad, planning on entering medical school the following year. I wouldn’t drink, would be working a nine-to-five job, and would probably come home every other weekend to see them.

But that isn’t me.

Chances are, your family won’t like a lot of the choices you make. They won’t like it when you start drinking or smoking or experimenting with drugs or your sexuality, but it’s often forgotten that parents and even grandparents were young once — they did the exact same things and they learned from both their mistakes and successes. Now, out of love, they wish to protect us from making the same mistakes — all in our best interest.

But how exactly are we to know what’s best for ourselves if we don’t experience our own failures?

Danyelle Morrow is the Photo Editor at The State News. Reach her at


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