What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

September 20, 2012 Features

Think of marine biology. Of what you know of its purposes and aims, of what you know it requires of people—think: what does a marine biologist do, and what must she do to earn a living doing those things? Now think of theater, of an actress; think of what’s required of her. If you think the former vocation is in no way related to the latter, that’s to be understood. But then think of this:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

You: You’ve wanted to be an actress since you were a young child; you’ve wanted to be a marine biologist since middle school. And you’ve always allowed yourself both dreams—for years, you have. You’ve had no reason not to. Not until, one day, you find your hand being forced: You find yourself being impelled to select one dream and abandon the other. This choice will necessarily involve a degree self-renunciation. This will make the choice harder. Really, the only thing more difficult would be finding some manner of reconciliation.

Think of that. Welcome to college.

 

Students leave Rollins changed. This isn’t a bromide about the transformative power of great professors and lifelong friends so much as it’s just the truth. Sometimes, students are changed for the better, sometimes for the worst, sometimes neither—but, invariably, they’re changed. This is the way a liberal arts education is designed; this is, in many ways, its great utility: Students, through being exposed to different disciplines, come consider different possibilities for their careers.

College is a place students are sent to learn how to transform the things that make them happy into the things that make them money. College is a place students learn that the transformation will be damn hard to make. So college is a place students find something new that makes them happy. Or kind of happy, anyway.

 

As a child, Alison Eitner ’15 wanted to grow up to be a horse trainer. She loved horses and it was, to here, just that simple. “Of course,” she says, “this was a career choice that did not entail receiving a college degree, so my dad did not approve.” Years later, when Eitner entered college, it was to pursue a degree in International Business—a somewhat more practical field of study than horse-training. Soon, though, she found herself switching majors, and working toward a degree in International Relations.

“That,” she says, was after I realized I couldn’t finish the International Business Major in time to graduate.” It was a pragmatic decision: “Not only can I complete this major in time for graduation, but I will also be able to find a lucrative career. Making money,” Eitner continues, “will make everyone happy.” Still, she hopes to get more from her degree than fiscal stability:

“A degree will give me insight into exactly what I like to do.”

 

Sade Sims, ’16, doesn’t hope pursuing a major in Elementary Education will give her insight. Instead, she picked her major because of an insight—an insight about herself: According to Sims, “Teaching has always been something I’ve wanted to do.” And, despite being a first year, Sims doesn’t entertain the notion of pursuing a different course of study in the future. “I’m not willing to change it,” she says, referring to her major. “I’m committed to it, despite the lack of financial security.”

Despite her parents’ attempts to dissuade her from pursuing an Elementary Education major—“They’ve suggested I major in psychology, so I can better understand kids, or minor in Spanish,”—Sims remains firm in her determination to receive a degree in the field from Rollins, and has some idea what she would like to do with it: “I might stay here for a few years, and then move back to Atlanta,” she says. “I also want to do Teach for America.” Whatever she does, she won’t end up regretting her decision:

“It’s definitely smart to pursue your passion because. If you’re passionate about something, you will put more effort into it. You’ll create better-quality work.” Still, she says, “You should try to mesh passion and practicality.”

No easy task. But not impossible.

 

Lauren Tierney is a sophomore. She is a double major in Marine Biology and Theatre. She has found some manner of reconciliation.

“My grandmother got me into theatre,” Tierney says. “She took me to New York all the time for shows.” Tierney remember going to see the Radio City Hall Christmas Spectacular with her—she remembers getting to miss school for these outings. It was at school, in sixth grade, that Tierney was told by her homeroom teacher, that an acting career was off-limits—too impractical. She was encouraged to consider a new aspiration for adulthood.

“I’d always liked fish,” Tierney says. “Because my family went to the beach all the time.”

Eight years have passed since Lauren Tierney first told someone she wanted, someday, to be a marine biologist. More have passed since she decided one day to be an actress. Today, asked what she wants to do when she grows up, Tierney asks, “Who says I can’t end up working in a science lab or an aquarium before I act full time?”

No one, yet.

 

Yes, students leave Rollins changed. But that isn’t to say Rollins changes students. All it does is forces them to make, or not to make, certain concessions. Oftentimes, these concessions are made in the name of ‘practicality’—are made because they will make it easier, in the end, for you to get what you want. It isn’t that simple, though. What changes isn’t what you want to be when you grow up. What changes is what you want.

About Ben Zitsman

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