I was a freshman at the University of Alabama. That was the semester we helped our friend Jason try out for Big Al, and he made it! That was the spring they fired Alabama football Coach Mike Dubose, after he had an affair with his secretary. I went from “14th floor girl” to an off campus apartment dwelling sophomore. I officially dated not a single person. Yet I still managed to get my heart broken a couple of times. I was always falling in love, or like, or confusion. I was the QUEEN of clueless dating, as in I could not have been more clueless about how to handle boys. I mostly just played hard to get, and it worked. No one got me. Ha!
I was 19, and for most of us, that’s just what we did. Right? Surely I wasn’t the only one.
I cannot, for the life of me, remember if I spent that summer working at the physical therapy clinic or the shoe store, so that’s why I have a journal. I’ll look it up here in a minute. I worked at Alumni Hall during the school year. On campus jobs are the best!
I do remember that when I was 19, I knew exactly who I was, but I had no idea where I was going or what I would be. That’s right. I was an undeclared major. I hated that label. It felt sketchy. I was a scholarship winner. I should have a plan, a purpose of some kind! I should at least know where I was going in life.
But I didn’t. The funny thing is that I was already doing it. I was already volunteering. I worked at Kid’s Klub one day a week, an after school club in the housing projects, where we taught kids about Jesus.
And I wrote. I wrote almost every single day. I made it a habit that every time I sat down to study, and I studied constantly, I would first read something from my Bible and write in my journal.
I was always poor, so I occasionally picked up writing assignments for extra money. I used that money to buy crazy things like food.
The university had a program where you could test out of Freshman Comp (English for freshmen). Therefore, I got to enroll in an American Literature class when I was 19. That class did not go well. The grungy graduate student who taught the class hated my papers. He gave me a B+ on every single one. That seems like a fine score to me now, but back then I knew something was amiss. He never made any marks on the page. I suspected that he didn’t even read them.
I was a firm believer in talking to professors. I used to get my Bs changed to As every single semester, simply by talking to the teacher. I learned this from the movie Clueless. Thank you, Alicia Silverstone.
The graduate student, who spent each class telling us about whatever he did that weekend and how weird he thought southerners were, informed me that my papers “were like a clean coat of paint with nothing underneath.”
He said if I wowed him on the final paper, I could get an A.
I spent that week working on everything but that final paper, saved it for the last two days, and could not for the life of me find a poem I liked enough to write a paper about. I finally scribbled out something ridiculous and turned it in. (I should’ve gone with Robert Louis Stevenson. You can never go wrong with Robert Louis Stevenson.)
My writer dream died that year.
Was that professor right? Maybe a little. I didn’t care much about the topics I was writing about. I was nineteen. I cared more about finding a way to walk to his class without having giant sweat circles under my arms. Tuscaloosa, Alabama is HOT, y’all! I was more concerned about my crushes than I was about writing brilliant essays.
I was also wrong. You can’t let the opinions of just one person, especially a person that doesn’t even know you, affect your decisions.
I don’t necessarily regret my undeclared major or the fact that I never took another college literature class. It was just part of my story, and it’s a great lesson to look back on of not letting hurtful words, whether they are true or not, get you down.
Who cares if he didn’t like my papers? Some people DID like my writing. More importantly, my writing has served many purposes in my life and in the lives of others.
I do want to live a life that pleases God. I do want to be a blessing to my family. Everyone else? Eh…. I do want to be a blessing to them, but I don’t need their approval.
The surest way to please NO ONE is to try to please everyone. Besides, some people will never be pleased.
I did eventually declare a major. I probably did that when I was still 19. I chose psychology, pre-physical therapy.
I have used my degree too, but it has never been in either of those fields because life is funny like that. The thing is, I’m a writer. I was then, and I am now. I could no more quit writing than I could change my eye color.
If you are an undeclared major, or you haven’t figured out “your purpose” yet, just keep charging forward. Stop and notice what you’re already doing. Maybe that IS your purpose. It’ll eventually make more sense. Maybe you just need more time to hone your craft before you can share it. I did. I tried many different things and felt a little lost in the sauce after graduating, but I feel so fulfilled at this point!
Wear your “undeclared” with joy. Your day is coming.
Thanks for the inspiration, Tamera!
I’m off to throw a surprise birthday party with my neighbors! Happy Birthday, Jackie!!