A few weeks ago, my news editor for the paper sent out a story idea to the staff — it was about something the LA Times called “generation vexed,” which described my generation’s pessimistic attitude toward the future. Here’s the link to the story. I picked up the story, figuring my version would roughly follow the same outline as that one, just on a smaller scale. I mean, it can’t be hard to find someone who hates their major, right?
I searched in vain all over this campus. I asked everyone I could, but the closest I got was a boy who had hated his biology major but changed it a year ago to pursue a career in filmmaking. The art and music majors were all over the place though — and they were so confident and optimistic about their futures. One art major admitted that he didn’t have an exact plan for his future but he figured it would work out. But who really has an exact plan? It’s silly to plan out the little details specifically so far in advance anyway.
Here’s the best part. I interviewed a man who works at the University Career Center and he could not stress enough how important he thought it was for students to pick majors they are passionate about. His main point was that people will be more productive in society if they all follow their passions, because everyone is passionate about something. It reminded me of a Howard Thurman quote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
At the end of my interview with him, this man blamed the media for spreading this general attitude of fear into college students that causes them to choose lives they aren’t in love with just for money. I was transcribing the interviews in bed on the morning my story was due, and I stopped for just a moment to really think about what he said.
By writing my story, I was becoming that powerful voice of the media that plants the seeds of thought into readers, that voice that can slowly but surely facilitate public opinion — or maybe I’m just flattering myself. As much as I had wanted to find a depressed artist trapped in the vacuous shell of a business major, they were nowhere to be found. And I realized that even trying to write that story was a depressing prospect — it would have been unhelpful and depressing to everyone who read it. So I decided to change the story to focus on the power young people have to define their own lives because I felt like I had the responsibility to show a more hopeful side to the story. Suffice it to say I’m obsessed with the final result.
How appropriate is it then, that during this same weekend, I made the decision to quit my job at Larry’s Giant Subs? It began with a seed my mom planted in my head on Friday — she told me that if I am so stressed and busy, then I could quit my job to focus on more productive things, like writing more stories for the paper and studying for all of my classes. Over the weekend that idea grew so quickly, like a vine spreading to and infecting every productive corner of my mind. On Monday, I gave my manager my two weeks’ notice and I am now counting down the shifts I have left as a sandwich slave.
I struggled with my decision a little bit at first. I have a really hard time not being constantly busy, which can be at once a blessing and a curse. I just love feeling productive — there were weeks in high school when I would go and go and go and then on Friday night I would pass out at seven o’clock and sleep for 14 hours straight. I lived for that recuperation. But I talked with most of my friends and with my parents, and my dad said something that really stuck; he said, “Jobs don’t have to suck, Alex.” That’s it. And I guess that’s an idea that I’ve got to learn to accept. I could have a job that I’m obsessed with, and the best way to do that is to consciously take every step forward in the direction that brings me closer to my ultimate goal. And that goal, do I even need to go into that? No, I think not.
Anyway. I’ll post the link to my story once it’s published on Thursday. Counting down three more shifts at Larry’s and until total liberation. Yahtzee!