Whenever I hang out with college-types, one of the first questions they ask me is “what was your major?”

I understand that this is partly out of a lack of better ideas for conversation, but the question reveals a horribly simplistic view of people. It assumes that a category selected by a naive 18-year-old can define someone for the rest of their life.

My undergraduate major was Linguistics. I chose it because it sounded exciting, because I was good at speaking foreign languages, and because I thought it would help me become a translator. My obsession with the subject faded after two years of insipid classes, but I kept going till the end because I assumed that I was supposed to stick with what I had started.

I later realized that I could have learned everything those courses taught me from ready Noam Chomsky’s books. I could have spent my time much more productively studying something more practical. I could have even dropped out of college and I’d be just fine.

After completing Praxis and working real jobs for a year and a half, I’ve decided to pursue a career in digital marketing. I’ve learned all of the skills I need either on the job or in my spare time. By experimenting with different activities, I’ve gained much more perspective on what I want to do with my life than I ever could sitting in a classroom.

Do I regret studying Linguistics? Yes. But it doesn’t upset me too much, because I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m failing forward. I’m taking the useful parts, discarding the rest, and changing course—and I’m not ashamed. Because now I’m doing my best to cultivate the skills that will enable me to do fulfilling work. There’s nothing shameful about admitting you were wrong and moving on.

People change. Don’t make assumptions. When I meet people, I’d rather ask them what they’re passionate about, or just a simple “tell me about yourself.”

One thought on “Linguistics”

  1. Once you get 5 years out of college, people will stop asking you what you majored in and ask what you do (or if you’re a mom, they might not even ask you that).

    I love the idea of asking someone what they’re passionate about, or the “tell me about yourself” line. What a great conversation opener/convention smasher. I would be delighted if someone genuinely asked me that question.

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