“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It seems like from the moment we are able to speak, people are asking us what we want to do with our lives. While the answer of “I want to be a princess” might be okay at age four (hello, pre-school me!), once you hit a certain degree of academic prowess, people start to expect a more defined and realistic answer. But the truth is, how are we supposed to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives at the ripe age of 18 or even 14? The truth is, it is okay to not know!
I went to a big Texas high school. It was one of those schools where you pick the one thing that you are good at, and you stick to that and only that. So no, you can’t be the star football player and play in the band. For me, my “one thing” was theatre. I grew up surrounded by Disney, Broadway, and a whole lot of singing and dancing. It was what I had done my entire life, so when it was time to go to high school, it seemed natural to become a member of the theatre department. In true big Texas high school fashion, theatre was all consuming. My electives were filled by theatre classes, my evenings and weekends were all blocked out by rehearsals, and any free time I had was devoted to getting better at theatre. That or doing my actual schoolwork, I guess. That being said, theatre was all I knew.
When it came time to start applying to colleges, the next step here also seemed natural. I was obviously going to go to school for musical theatre because I enjoyed it, and I was good at it. So I did just that.I applied and auditioned for 16 university musical theatre programs. Going to school for theatre seemed like the right thing to do. I had never known anything else, so why not just go after what I was enjoying at that present moment? After making it through the rigorous process with multiple offers, I finally settled on my new home.
I dropped into the University of Arizona as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, slightly nervous, and very eager BFA Musical Theatre freshman. They say the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is made for you to “eat, sleep, and breathe your craft.” They were not lying. I was waking up at 6:00 a.m. for dance class and going to sleep at midnight after rehearsal almost daily. My first year at school, I took the required English class that featured a whole lot of writing. I wasn’t too excited about it at first because all I wanted to do was sing and dance. After a couple weeks of free writing in this class, I realized, “wait... I actually like this.”
It was then, at the age of 18, that I made an important discovery: I am passionate about something that is not theatre. My young mind spun out of control.
“How could I like something that’s not theatre?”
“I’ve only ever done theatre.”
“Why do I feel like I enjoy doing this more than theatre?”
It was then that I launched my very own blog, and I began writing for fun. I was documenting moments of my life through words that I could share with friends and family and look back on. At this point, I decided to declare a minor in Public Relations. I wrote press releases, blog posts, newsletters, and feature articles. I got a PR internship. I started freelance writing for different companies. I declared another minor in Journalism.
The whole time that I kept building upon my writing career, I could not get one thought out of my head: “people are going to be disappointed in me when they find out I am pursuing a different path.” I was so scared of letting down the people that had supported me and my theatre career over the years.
“What will they think of me?”
“They’ll see me as a quitter.”
“They will see someone who gave up: a failure.”
The truth of the matter is, changing direction is not giving up. You are not quitting; you are pivoting.
It can be hard to find peace with this when you see people who seem to “have it all together” around you. Some people know what they want to do with their lives as soon as they are born but for most people, that is not the case. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of college students change their major at least once. So, there you have it: most students at your college are also struggling to find their passion, too.
Coming to peace with my change in direction has been liberating and exciting. I am now a senior in college working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Communication and getting ready to apply to graduate school. And yes, I am still the biggest theatre kid ever.
The point of the matter is that it is okay to change your mind. In fact, it is actually expected that you might. The person you were at age 18 crossing the high school graduation stage is not the same person that you are years later in college. We change. When our pre-school selves say we want to be a princess, adults giggle and wait for us to grow up and change our minds. When we are 14 years old in high school, they expect a dead-set answer. Where is the fairness in that?
College is the time to grow, take classes, experience life, and discover what it is that you are truly passionate about.
Explore, discover, and learn all you can. This is your time to truly experience life, in all of its beautiful uncertainty.
Written by: Taylor Maresca