Confusion Corner: Break leads to major confusion

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January 22, 2010

12:33 AM

I’m not sure what it is — a by-product of New Year’s resolutions, early spring cleaning, perhaps something in the dining hall food — but it seems like everyone returns from break questioning their major. They’ve received their final grades, mulled them over, and you know what? Screw that econometrics class; I didn’t want to be an economics major anyway.

I’ve been through the same thing myself — on a near daily basis actually. Sure, a certain degree of indecision is fine, but for me it keeps boiling down to the same question: How do you know if what you’re doing is a huge mistake?

There are some choices in my life I can now say with complete certainty that were entirely mistakes: choosing to play clarinet in the middle school band, my haircut from ages six to 12 and association with the Webelos in the Boy Scouts. And although I had absolutely no idea at the time, I still can’t escape the feeling that I should have figured out these mistakes sooner. I mean, really, I was the only male in the clarinet section. How do you not put that together?

The only way I can justify it is to say that these mistakes were too small to register, too inconsequential. But, I tell myself, if this mistake were a life-altering one — as one always seems to assume major selection is — then, of course, there would be some sort of sign. Maybe you can overlook a haircut, but if you’re screwing up your whole future, you’d have to at least catch a whiff of foreboding. Seriously, it seems that with a combination of astute observation and Punnett squares, Oedipus could have figured out his unlucky fate in a week, tops. In fact, I’m pretty sure even he realized it (and, if I remember correctly, was like, “Alright guys, my B. Let me get the brooches.”).

There’s definitely a line beyond which you have to be aware you’re making a dumb move given your expectations, like if you’re an English major and you think you’ll earn a living wage anytime within the next ten years. It’s a distinction we make all the time — the same line between ignorance and negligence, between “That’s an interesting hat” and “What the hell did you put on your head?” I just have no idea where that line is, aside from harboring an indistinct feeling that it’s somewhere in between philosophy and psychology.

I guess my question is: How exactly do you make sure you don’t end up a year after graduation gouging your eyes out, yelling, “Chemistry was the wrong choice.” Or do you just try not to leave any brooches around and hope for the best?

But then, what if I’m not even asking the right question? (Like asking yourself which nose-ring will look better for your job interview.) What if college itself was the mistake? What if your decision to forgo the few, but surprisingly adept, skills developed in a semester of high school shop class was actually your fatal flaw? The recession could spur a total economic collapse, and before you know it, the world is ruled by berserker motorcycle gangs. You, forced to parlay what few skills you have left into the mean streets of a post-Apocalyptic Oceania, could become the Road Warrior and what good will your B.A. do you in the Thunderdome?

Or perhaps I’ve just spent far too much of break watching bad Australian sci-fi. Either situation seems equally plausible.

This concern over majors, as always, never amounts to much of anything. I always come to the same conclusions: that a Mad Max-Oedipus hybrid would make the best screenplay of any Quentin Tarentino movie, and that I probably should have applied to the business school. Still, I keep plodding along, sincerely hoping that I’m not, like Oedipus, being a dumb mother— well, you get the picture.

__Kevin Mooney is the Flat Hat Confusion Corner columnist. Expect a survey from him concerning his possible majors in the near future.__

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