For a while, I thought my future was not safe in my indecisive hands. I’ve grappled with indecision my entire life. But before I reached the somewhat involuntarily decision to take the leap to pursue journalism, I came to a nonnegotiable conclusion: I could only pursue something that I could do for most of my adulthood and not wake up one day hating some random discipline that I’ve spent all my time and resources dedicated to. I considered dozens of majors that would surely bring me tons of money, but I also knew in the back of my mind they would make my abysmally miserable. While journalism is an incredibly difficult industry to “make it” in, I could still see myself writing, asking questions, talking to people, editing and being edited without feeling like the work functions only as means to the end of making enough money to survive.
I couldn’t realistically see myself in another career path.
I seriously considered majoring and eventually going to grad school for psychology. I could become a therapist, like my mom. I knew if I went far enough and dedicated myself enough, I could make considerable money, but I also knew I might end up miserable. Therapy as a profession would drain me emotionally, and I didn’t feel resolved to endure it or ready for that kind of commitment as a 16-year-old. I’d be in it for the money and nothing more.
I even thought about pursuing chemistry or environmental science.
Not because my minimal interest in the topics was enough to declare them as my major, but because I believed these degrees could bring me plenty of job opportunities with reasonable, stable salaries. The fact that I only felt slight interest in the topics didn’t matter as much as my anxiety about my socioeconomic safety. I remember that with my minor knack for chemistry as a high school junior and my old chemistry teacher grimly insisting that any major outside of STEM would be useless, chemistry seemed like a safe bet for me. But I didn’t go through with it. The same reasons (and my hatred of math) stopped me from actually going through with it. STEM at times seemed a little interesting, but just never felt like “the thing for me.”
Something similar could apply to my choice of journalism.
Why would I go into enormous debt for a career that might not pay off? Higher education is a necessity in our working world, but the system that provides us with it isn’t as cut and dry as picking the right major and escaping debt with no pain. As a kid first learning about the idea of working to live, I thought I could pick whatever major I wanted, pay my debts and happily make my living. And yes, you need a degree to enter the working world. But you may need an attractive degree, like medicine, business, engineering and the like to make the six-figure salary many of us thought we would make back in elementary school when we first learned about economic mobility. I felt like I stood at a fork in the road; I could pick journalism and take the chance of struggling economically while creating content I would feel love and pride for. Or I could pick a lucrative discipline and walk away from my love or media for a foreseeable future. At about 16 years old, I decided I’d rather pay off my unavoidable debt by doing something I love. Don’t get me wrong, I feel comfortable with my choice. If I don’t get any choice but to pick something to dedicate my time and money to, I’m glad to pick journalism. If I go into crippling debt, I might as well get an education in something that I love dearly and can do for decades (because it will take exactly that long to pay off my debt).
The option to study journalism came up at a really convenient time when I stared getting scared that I had no idea what I would go to college for.
By the beginning of senior year, my friends had decided on their majors, and started touring and applying for colleges well known for those programs. I didn’t know what I even wanted to do for work, let alone my perfect college or program. I didn’t feel ready. A passion for something never struck me like lightning. But I had to act fast and pick something before application deadlines arrived. Journalism offered the perfect fit to my needs. It combines my biggest interest and my best skills. I always kept a love for language arts while my other classes from kindergarten to senior year faded into the background. If I wanted to excel or truly apply myself to anything, I always resorted to English. It involved my nosiness and love of learning from others. I appreciated that this field involved something about me that wasn’t a conventionally marketable trait like being naturally agreeable or having a knack for equations. I don’t deny or hide my nosiness and journalism, in a way, lets me grow and profit from it.
My Audio-Visual News gathering professor asked me about my future plans once. In the moment, I told him I planned on dedicating my time to reporting but I wanted to try my hand in magazine writing.
I’d come up with whatever answer made me seem most legit and secure in my life. I wanted to seem like I had a set game plan, but in reality, I’ll do whatever I can get my hands on. Not just because journalism is an incredibly hard industry to establish a place in—this attitude would defeat the reason I chose this major. I’ll take anything because journalism has developed into an enormous line of work that changes in incredible ways as technology changes too. Reporting, magazine editorials, data journalism, multimedia online journalism, political media and all the new mediums that come about excite me. As long as I can listen to people talk about something that maters to them, journalism will matter to me.
Either way, I shouldn’t need to have it all figured out right now. Few human beings, let alone young adults, actually do. So right now, my best bet is to do what I think is most fulfilling for myself and make the best of this choice I made as a clueless teenager.