Friend/Parents/Friend of Parent/Relative/Colleague/Acquaintance/Nosy Stranger: "What are you majoring in?"
Me: "International relations with a concentration in Economics and doubling it with English."
Me: "International relations with a concentration in European studies and the former Soviet Union, and doubling it with English."
Me: "International relations... not sure what to concentrate in but will probably double with English."
Me: "International relations, probably with a minor in English. Or media studies."
Me: "International... relations..."
Me: "International..." *takes deep breath* "Will you excuse me for a second?"
My parents had always taught me to have an answer ready for when people asked me what I was majoring in. Scratch that - *I* had taught, even forced myself, to always have an answer ready when people asked me what I was majoring in. After working with a lobbying firm in DC for a summer lobbying for the desegregation of Cyprus, I thought IR was for me. I had spent all summer working with fellow Greeks on a subject I was uber passionate about. On top of that, I had devoted so much time into IOCC, or the International Orthodox Christian Charity, raising money to send to fellow Greeks who were suffering from the economic crisis and could no longer afford healthcare, raising money to send them care packages, letters with kind words, etc. I loved the thought of continuing to learn about ways to help a country that was so close to my heart, so I had forgotten what international relations was. I had spent so much time thinking IR was for me, telling my parents repeatedly that I would only apply to schools with the top IR programs in the country. With that in mind, I applied ED to Tufts, the only thing on my mind how exciting it was to major in IR and to study something that I found... or I thought I found... so interesting.
So excited was I to finally be studying something I cared so much about, I dove right into the IR core requirements, pushing off other classes I might have found interesting in my first semester in pursuit of classes that I found suited me better and were more "IR-like" and "for IR majors just like me." Instead, I found my first day of Introduction to International Relations grueling and strained, and my first day of Principles of Economics even worse. The topics were dry, uninteresting, and nothing I had really imagined them to be. Assuming it was just a first day thing, I pushed the feeling off and continued on with them, assuming they would get better when they only got worse. Economics became drier and worse by the minute, and I would call my parents every night to complain about how horrid it was and how I wanted nothing more than to P/F the class and get right out of there, but how I couldn't because it was crucial to my requirements as an IR major. They told me to stick it out and that they were sure it would get better, but as the days dragged on, it only got worse, and I found myself skipping more than a few lectures in lieu of spending free time writing and reading more books outside of class for my Post War Japanese Literature class, which I was obsessed with and devoted more than a few hours per day delving deeper into each book and writing down quotes in my journal for safe-keeping and reading for when the class was over and I didn't forget them.
I ended up finishing Principles of Economics half heartedly in my first semester and tackled Introduction to International Relations in second semester. It was then that it hit me, sitting in recitation on the first day, when my TA asked the class, "So why are you guys studying international relations?" and everyone seemed to know why except for me. I stumbled upon the question, mumbled my way through it, feeling awkward and timid and babbling about my Greek background and how much it meant to me and then about working with a lobbying firm in the summer, but it sounded more like I was bragging than being honest with my answer. I felt like I wasn't trying to convince the class, but myself. Furthermore, I had no idea what any person was talking about in the class. The TA and teacher would constantly reference real world things happening in the news having to do with the Kurds and the Syrian refugee crisis and Russia and the U.S., and I would be lying if I said I knew any of what was being referenced other than the vague details I could scoop up from a Wikipedia site. And I would be lying if I said I had any interest into delving into it more and learning more. I realized this was all boring to me - I did not feel passionate nor did I have the desire to share my opinion on such matters the way other students in the class did. I was passionless in this class, and it scared me.
It scared me so much. I had always told myself that IR was for me. I had applied early decision to a school BECAUSE I had felt so passionately about this topic, because I had researched it over and over again and felt it defined me and knew me and was exactly what I wanted and needed. And yet, something inside me had shifted after my first semester of college. Something deep and profound. Through finding out more about myself and who I really was, and discovering more about what I really loved, I realized IR may have been for the old me, but it certainly was not for the new me. The new me hated IR, but loved creative writing and learning about literature and culture. The new me loved journalism and media and communicating with the real world. The new me, or perhaps the me that always was, enjoyed history and learning new language yes, but hated math and economics and did not care much for current events. She enjoyed stories and life and philosophy and deep intellectual conversation about the world around her, that which was happening in her micro-world, but not much more for the macro-world that was faraway and distant, confusing and foreboding. And so... the day before the second midterm, she dropped the class. And although this frightened her and made her feel like a disappointment, a loser even, if she was unhappy what did any of that matter? All she knew was that she had to get away before she was sucked into something that she was not sure she really loved. There were certainly aspects in it that she enjoyed, yes, but overall not much she could say she felt connected with. And although that scared her, she was also excited to venture elsewhere and try new things.
What's the point in all this ranting, this rambling and soul-searching? There is a famous quote by Anthony J. D'Angelo that states, "In order to succeed, you must fail, so that you know what not to do next time." My parents kept telling me that sometimes you have to do things in life that make you unhappy in order to get where you want to be. But there is a difference between feeling a little bit unhappy and feeling depressed and dreading going to a class every day, avoiding doing the work for it because you don't feel passionate, and feeling scared and disappointed that you don't like it. In a way, I set myself up to fail. I told myself IR was for me, pushed it upon myself, and even when I knew for sure I didn't want it, I kept trying over and over again to force feed it down my throat and like it, even though I knew all my body wanted to do was throw it all back up. And sure, maybe my ego is still a little bruised. I'm still embarrassed in that I do feel like I failed myself, and a little bit others. But at the end of the day I am nineteen years old, and I shouldn't be expected to know what I want to do with my life. I have another year to take other classes and see my options, and figure out what I want to do, want to study, want in life. I have another three years ahead of me, and freshman year is all about making mistakes, hopping around, taking chances, meeting new people, discovering new places and new things. It's all about learning.
And at the very least, I CAN say that I've learned a lot.