This is the fourth post in That Girl Magazine’s I [heart] my Major series! Do you have deep and unreasonable affection for your chosen course of study? Would you like to encourage younger folks to follow in your fantastic footsteps? Contact That Girl Magazine using my contact form, or contact me on facebook.
Much like Clara I stumbled onto my major unintentionally first semester, but it took me another year to figure that out. Sometimes it’s a process. I came to college with no idea what I wanted to study. Looking at a list of courses for the semester was total cerebral overload. Freshman year I tried just about everything (English, neuroscience, philosophy, theoretical physics, et cetera), because why not?
I also took this one history class, mostly by chance. There was a hole in my schedule and American politics and culture sounded interesting. So I showed up on the first day and it was wonderful. I didn’t know other people in lecture, and I was terrified in the discussion section because I was a freshman and therefore intimidated by people who had all these eloquent insights on the readings. Despite all that, somewhere between Cold War Liberalism and the Culture Wars, I was hooked. Probably the day that the professor used Dirty Harry and Sesame Street as metaphors for conservative and liberal values after the 1960s. [Ed: Yes, it was probably that.]
I loved how everything we talked about was nuanced and yet so clearly important. It was like developing a photograph; the country we live in right now was forming out of the sepia toned past.
After that class I continued my plan of taking basically random courses. Then it was sophomore year and suddenly when people asked me what my major was I was supposed to have a response.
So now I study history. Because I want to know how and why things happened and what is important about the way that they changed. Because I want to understand the world and what made it the way it is today.
I’m constantly reading and discussing momentous times. The classes I’m in now span three continents and several centuries, so there is an overflow of interesting things to learn. I tend to bring them up in conversations. Everybody wants to hear about the contradictions in revolutionary ideology in South America! Or the realignment of the American political parties during the mid twentieth century! (Hint: racism was involved. In both. It is everywhere.)
The thing is, in high school every textbook I read made history sound stunningly boring. The difference between what fascinates me now and what put me to sleep in 11th grade is more a change of perspective than anything else. The past is not actually organized into easy-to-digest chapters. True, the events aren’t about to change, but the motivations and the consequences from something memorable like a protest movement or a war are never simple. All of the neat stories end up unwinding into messy and morally ambiguous knots.
History is still a learning curve for me. It wasn’t always my passion, so probing sources and structuring theses doesn’t necessarily come naturally. But learning to view the past in the right way to elicit questions, and ideally answers, is sort of the point.
All my adventures with premodern times are a comforting place to be while people around me start thinking about careers and postgrad plans. Now, I am terrible at looking ahead. I agonize over minor choices. Picking my major pretty much drained all the reserves of decisiveness I had. So while I’m in college I’m going to stick with history and try and ignore the future for a little bit.
This week’s I [heart] my Major post was brought to you by Nicole C., Brown ’14. Nicole enjoys nail art, pole dancing, and bragging about her area code.