For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. It all started with my first diary, which mainly contained poorly written song lyrics and all of the deep, dark secrets of a 7-year-old. From then on, I was constantly journaling and crafting stories.
My passion for writing translated into good grades in my English classes, and I began to love writing papers and essays. It seemed that this was something that just came naturally to me.
Nonetheless, I always saw writing as just something I liked and was pretty good at, not something that I would ever pursue long term.
During my sophomore year of high school, my classmates and I all attended an assembly which featured a panel of STEM professionals. At this time, the Women in STEM organization had just been founded and there was a huge push for young women to pursue STEM careers.
After that assembly, it seemed that all of my classmates, boys and girls alike, wanted to be doctors or engineers. STEM careers and classes became the “cool” thing to be interested in if you wanted to be successful and make money.
For girls especially, there was even more pressure to “defy the odds” and take on the male-dominated STEM industry. I felt that a career involving writing was much more predictable and less impressive for me than becoming a doctor was. It seemed to me that taking Advanced Placement Physics class and touring colleges with good pre-med programs was the only way to ensure long-term success.
So, that’s what I did.
I took every AP science class that my school offered, joined the Future Medical Professionals club and began obsessively Googling “best pre-med schools.” I even dropped out of choir and refused to take AP English classes just to make room for everything else.
There was just one very obvious issue: I don’t have a passion for science.
Numbers and formulas don’t excite me— words do. Writing comes naturally to me, but I struggle to understand scientific concepts. I was born with the ability to write, but I had to work exceptionally hard to perform well in my science classes.
At the time, this didn’t really mean anything to me. I was much more concerned with being deemed impressive than pursuing my own passions. By the time I started my college application process, I was starting to figure out that maybe a STEM career wasn’t for me.
I remember sitting in my AP Chemistry class, doing an exceptionally tedious lab where I recorded data over and over again. I thought to myself that I would die of boredom if this was the kind of thing I had to spend my life doing. Sure, people might praise me and I might make a good salary, but I would be so unhappy.
At first, I was devastated. I had just spent the past four years pouring myself into subjects that I would probably never use again. It terrified me that I might end up “unsuccessful” if I didn’t go through with my pre-med plan.
It took me months to finally apply to colleges. By the time I sent out my first application, most of my friends had already started to hear back from schools. Without my original STEM plan, I was totally lost in terms of where to go and what to major in.
The last application I sent in was to Lehigh. On a whim, I checked off journalism as my intended major and hoped for the best. Less than a year later, my first article was published in The Brown and White.
Now, as a sophomore and a journalism major, I find it hard to believe that I ever considered a career in STEM. I love writing for The Brown and White and my journalism classes have given me more than any amount of AP science classes could.
I know now that it doesn’t matter how impressive my major or career are to other people. I’ve learned that success is subjective and wealth does not equate to success. As long as I am doing what makes me happy, I will be successful.
There will always be people who tell you you’re not good enough, no matter what you do. Instead of trying to please others and fit someone else’s expectations, go after what you want. At the end of the day, your happiness is all that matters.