In the philosophy of existentialism, to “exist” is to be passionate. Passion gives us the motivation to take control of our lives and gives us a reason to live. According to this philosophy, no matter how many oppressive forces that we have in our lives that may hold us back, we all ultimately have the power to make our own decisions in our lives. College is the first time in our lives that we become independent from our parents by moving into the dorms where there is nobody constantly looking over you and telling you what to do. We get to choose whether we want to wake up in the mornings and go to our lectures, whether we want to study or hang out with our friends, and even what time we can go to sleep. All of this freedom without the constant nagging of our parents.
In college, we are also allowed to choose what classes we want to take and what majors we want to study, instead of being spoon-fed the same curriculums in high school. This freedom can thus empower us with the ability to shape the context of our own education, but it can create a ton of stress as well. Although we no longer live with our parents while we are in school, there can be constant family pressure to pursue a certain major or field of study for us to be “successful.” We are often told to choose “practical” majors which will give us high-paying jobs that are full of prestige such as being a doctor, a lawyer, or even an engineer.
However you must decide to choose a major which you are passionate about. You cannot let your parents dictate what you are to study. I have a great first-hand experience when it comes to this. When I was entering college, my parents wanted me to be a doctor and thus I chose Biology as my major. However only a few weeks in the curriculum, I found that I genuinely despised the material and didn’t feel that I was getting anything fulfilling from it. I told my parents and they told me to simply “suck it up” and continue. I attempted to just “stick it out,” but I found myself getting more and more depressed the further I delved into the subject material. I knew that I had to switch my major and pursue another major that I was truly passionate about to find meaning and satisfaction.
I soon stumbled upon Sociology and it sounded interesting as it addressed many different subject matters when it comes to society. And with it piquing my interest, I made the plunge and took a leap of faith and changed my major. After a quarter of studying Sociology, I knew that I made the right decision. I found myself for the first time in my life actually wanting to go to class and I immersed myself into the class materials and readings. I felt empowered by the knowledge that I was learning and my world-view started to change. I started to see things for the way they truly were, rather than what I was taught to believe by society. And three years later after my freshman year, I find myself wanting to get a Masters and a PhD in the field.
Family pressures can often be a very difficult obstacle to overcome, but you must realize that in the end, you are the one who can make the ultimate decision. Regardless of how much pressure you may face, you are the only one able to choose your major, not your mom or your dad. Sure your parents may even threaten of disowning you if you decide to pursue History or another major instead of being that world-famous doctor they wanted you to be, but don’t worry; those are all bluffs. Your parents have dedicated the last 18 years or so raising you with love and support, so they will continue to support you regardless of what decisions you make.
So decide to pursue what you are truly passionate about, not what makes a lot of money or sounds “practical.” College is not job training, it is “life training.” Through college, you learn about the world around you and learn to see it in a different way, while developing the critical skills in being an independent thinker. You will also learn how to better interact with other people and create some of the deepest bonds in your life. You have only one life to live. Live life to the fullest without regrets. After all, if you don’t pursue your passions, you will always feel empty and longing for more. And on a philosophical level, fail to even exist.