Declared my major and Ma ain't happy
It all started when my mom called my name, interrupting my contemplation of whether spaghetti or filet medallions would be my entree of choice that evening. “This is Rachel,” my mom told me, nodding at the brunette across the table that looked around my age, “and she’s entering her sophomore year in college too!”
Out of a sense of obligation, I started questioning the girl about her college, major, etc., only to feel the familiar fission of unease run down my spine when Rachel mentioned that she was majoring in health care management. Uh-oh, I thought, here we go again. Immediately, my mom jumped into the conversation, congratulating the young woman on majoring in something so practical and useful and in a growing field at that. As she continued to gush over the wonderful career choice Rachel had made, I settled back into my seat and, spotting the familiar glint in my mom’s eyes, sighed and prepared myself for another skirmish.
My first column last year was on a topic I was intimately familiar with, even as a freshman. Coming from a family in which both my mom and dad had graduated with practical, “employable” degrees (business and accounting, respectively), the fact that I was planning on pursuing a liberal arts degree from the get-go caused many an argument between my mom and me. Now, in my sophomore year at Princeton, a new dimension has been added to the discussion — my decision to be a comparative literature major.
While for some people choosing a major is an agonizing decision filled with multiple “changed-my-mind”s, for me, it was more a realization that I had known what I wanted to do all along. In retrospect, I had really been leaning towards comparative literature for quite some time. My mom, however, was still hoping in her heart of hearts for a last-minute change to something practical like electrical engineering or operations research and financial engineering. She was not exactly thrilled. Not only had I decided upon a liberal arts degree, but the most common response to the major I had chosen was not “How interesting!” or “Good for you!” but “Um, what’s that?”
My mom now wavers between accepting my choice wholeheartedly and getting in snits and snidely remarking that half the homeless people in New York City were probably comparative literature majors at Princeton. I can understand her trepidation, as comparative literature is a pretty esoteric major, even at Princeton. The way my mom sees it, compared to Rachel, my future is awfully uncertain. She is going into health care management, a booming field that will allow her to get a job anywhere in the country, while I have no defined field to go into, nor do I have a list of concrete facts and concepts I will have learned by completing my major.
I know that I am not the only Princeton student who has gone against the advice (or outright directive) of their parents in choosing a major. A lot of parents feel that they know what academic direction and major their child should choose. Obviously, most college students don’t really appreciate the interference, and this often results in the situation that has developed between my mom and me: a lot of tension, some arguments and a never-ending debate. However, I find myself rather fortunate in that regard, for though my mom doesn’t wholeheartedly support my choice of major, snide remarks withstanding, she has a pretty good attitude about it half the time. Personally, though, I think that however far my mom comes in accepting my choice of a liberal arts degree with a comparative literature major, the debate between us will not end anytime soon.
Kelsey Zimmerman is a sophomore from Glen Allen, Va. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.