Changing my career path: Third time’s the charm

If there’s one thing I’ve learned at university, it’s that you don’t actually know what you want in life. You may think you do, but you don’t know for sure, and you don’t yet know yourself either, or what you’re capable of.

In late August 2012, I flew out to B.C. from Ontario to start my education at UVic. When I was younger, I wanted to be a vet, but after doing the vet co-op at my high school, I became disinclined and turned to atmospheric sciences. I had taken sciences all through high school and thought yes, this is for sure what I want to do. I would become a research scientist specializing in atmospheric phenomena and help make contributions to the study of global warming. My career path would sort itself out; the most important thing right now was that I knew what I wanted to take in school. No dilly-dallying here, my friend.

So I enrolled in the Earth and Ocean Science (EOS) program and took all of the first-year classes: chemistry, math, physics, introductory EOS classes, and biology. I didn’t take any electives, aside from an English class to fulfill UVic’s writing requirement.

By the end of my first year, I loathed my classes. I told myself it would get better later but deep down I knew it wouldn’t. This huge feeling of doubt crushed down on me: all those surefire feelings about my future disappeared and I pondered what it was that I wanted to do in life. Though I had dabbled in writing, art, and history in high school, I had always been in sciences. Thus, this new revelation stumped me, because I suddenly knew I could not work in the sciences.

So I switched to anthropology: a bunch of anthropology classes, a Greek and Roman mythology class, and two philosophy courses. I was happy with my decision, but after third year I became concerned because I still had not decided on what area I wanted to specialize in. Archaeology? Biological anthropology?  Cultural? Linguistics? Though I found all of it interesting, nothing struck my fancy in terms of a lifelong career.

Once again I took a step back and contemplated. The more I thought about the types of jobs offered in anthropology and academia, the more I knew I couldn’t do it. It felt inhibiting to think about. And then I figured out what was missing: creativity.

Alongside being an analytical and scientific person, I’m also very creative. I play piano, sing, draw, and write stories. I’d always dreamed of being an author, but deemed myself to be not good enough, and the job not practical enough, so I ignored it. But that was the wrong thing to do. In my last year of school, I finished up with my final anthropology classes and took as many writing electives as I could.

I’m graduating this year with a degree in anthropology, but intend to pursue writing as a full-time career, and unlike the sciences or anthropology, I have no uncertainties when I think about it, just determination and passion.

You really can’t know yourself or be sure of anything until you’re put into situations that challenge or inspire you to make choices. So if you don’t know yourself, how can you possibly know what you want when you start school?

My advice? Go into your first year taking a bit of everything that interests you, even if you think you know what you want to do. It’ll all count as electives, so you’re not wasting time. Start general first then get specific. My problem was that I tried to be specific every year. Plan ahead meticulously if you want to graduate on time — I switched three times and still managed to be done in four years. Take summer courses; they’re quick and easy. Get involved on campus and in the city. Take advantage of the school’s resources. I didn’t and wish I had.

But most of all, don’t ignore your passion like I tried to do. It’ll seek you out and hunt you down anyway, so just give in.

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