Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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September 27th, 2013

Why Your Major Doesn’t Matter


college-majorWhile I am far removed from my college days, I still have not found that niche of what I’m going to do with my life. I’ve held different jobs every couple years and while I’ve loved most of my jobs, life circumstances have required something or other that has not been compatible with them.

Sometimes I find myself getting anxious about what I’m going to do with my life. I have so many grand ideas in my head. I want to open a store on Etsy and throw myself into that. I want to open up a coffee shop. I want to open a baby store. I want to be a doula. I want to run a community center that focuses on parents. I want to run cooking camps for teens. I have a million ideas, but what should I actually do? What should I stick with?

I think about my major in college and I cringe slightly for not “putting it to use.” Then I quickly shake myself out of this as I remember a girl I met my freshman year of college. I told her I wanted to major in sociology to be a social worker. She shot back, “Ugh, my mom would kill me if she paid for my education here just so I could do that.” As if the amount of money you put into college should be equally reciprocated in your paycheck after college.

In hindsight, the idea that you need to find a job that “uses” your major is somewhat pointless. I ended up with a major in Theology and a minor in Peace Studies and a second minor in the Sociology of Education. I’ll pause so you can make the same crack I always get about my employability. But what I’ve come to realize is that the classes I took in college shaped the kind of adult I became. Every class made me feel like I was becoming more of myself. Every class helped me discover what truly made me feel fulfilled.

College is a very formative time. It’s where we learn how to be adults. It’s where we are really tested. Where our understanding of right and wrong is constantly being pelted with rocks by the outside world. For the first time we have to make decisions that really will impact the rest of our lives. So in college it is important to surround ourselves with people and classes that are going to make us the best of ourselves. At the same time, though, usually what we think will become the rest of our lives does not end up happening. Usually what most fulfills us in life is something that maybe we didn’t even know existed in college.

Geoffrey Keating is no stranger to a complete change in career direction. He was at Notre Dame working on his Ph.D. in Theology for almost a decade. Then he made the life-changing decision to become a carpenter. He had a natural gift for it and when he was working on his coursework all he could think of was going back home to work on the piece he was making at the time.

Some people might say that his schooling was a total waste of time. But all that schooling made him the kind of person he is today. I’m sure if you asked him he would say that what he studied all those years is completely relevant to what he is doing today. All that he learned up until he made the decision taught him to reflect and be open to his soul pulling him in another direction. Without all that schooling, the world would probably be missing out on an absolutely amazing artist.

I also think about the Hortons whose lives changed after many years of working in academia when they gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with Down syndrome. This led them to start Down Home Ranch, a truly inspiring place where people with Down syndrome can live meaningful and fruitful adult lives.

At the end of the day, I have to calm myself down. I’m doing what I think I should be doing. Brandon and I talk about where we’re headed in life and consistently refocus ourselves. We have an idea of what our path should be but we’re always open to God changing it, which happens often. Maybe I’m not directly “using” my major but I am leading a life that I didn’t know to hope for in college.

The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and five daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • A reader

    I don’t think the author is saying to just have fun and be irresponsible in college; she is saying don’t major in something only for the money. whatever your passion and talents bring you to, will ultimately bring you to what God’s plan is for you, whether that is business or english. And yes, it will pay the bills. God always takes care of us!!

  • Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft

    Life is just too short to do something long term that isn’t fulfilling.
    Sure we have to meet our responsibilities and pay the bills. But with
    creativity, sacrifice, and definitely with some risk involved, I think it is
    possible to figure out where the gifts that God gave us and fulfill us
    intersect with a career. And I think we have a responsibility to do so
    whether it is well paying or not.

  • zebbart

    With respect I think this is terrible advice for any young person in college or considering college. It’s totally true that personal development is a a huge benefit of the university experience – that’s been the biggest benefit I have received. But would you really tell a teenager with no assets, no income, and very little earning potential to take out a $50,000+ loan for the sake of personal development? When a religious sect or charismatic leader asks someone to do that we recognize it as a scam that exploits the naive. It’s one thing to tell people to chill out about their professional future, but telling them to not rationally, economically analyze a huge life mortgaging financial decision is irresponsible. Because you can get that personal development experience without paying huge tuition bills. Move to a city, work part time and get involved in various intellectual and artistic communities. Read a lot. Audit college courses free online (MIT and Harvard). Spend a couple years doing live-in volunteer programs. Or, get a major that will get you paid straight out of college and minor or double major in something that’s just interesting. But this is like telling someone, “Don’t think about how long it will take you to pay off that BMW on your minimum wage paycheck, just think about how fun it will be to drive around.”

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