By Jordan McNeil
When I started undergrad, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I had to. I was on top of applying to colleges, taking the tests, writing essays and finding scholarships. When I made the decision to attend Youngstown State University, I thought I knew what I wanted, what I should do.
I entered my first semester as an accounting major. The choice was made because I enjoyed the high school accounting class I took and had done well with it. Also, it seemed the practical thing to do — accounting has jobs, right? Because my dad was laid off during my high school career and was unemployed for a while, unable to find a job that could pay the bills, practicality and job prospects were a key point in my thinking process — probably far more than they should’ve been.
Less than halfway through that fall semester, I realized I had made a mistake. An accounting major was definitely not for me. I was stressing out over my classwork, didn’t enjoy my courses and did not want to do it anymore. Despite ending up with good grades at the end, it was probably one of my worst semesters.
I ended up in the English department, meeting with the director of the professional writing and editing — now professional and technical writing — at the time. I’ve been writing on my own since the 5th grade and going into a writing or English degree seemed like the next logical step. I’d figure out practicality and job prospects later.
Honestly, the switch was one of the best decisions I could’ve made in my life so far. I enjoyed my classes, I was actually good with the coursework and could understand it, and even though my first semester in the new major was a larger course load than before, it was still a better semester than my first.
My decision was even more solidified in my first creative writing course, when the instructor after class one day just wanted to let me know that I did a great job with the comments and critiques I gave my classmates. This was well into the semester, when I had begun considering that maybe an editing job in publishing is what I wanted from my degree, and his comment made my heart soar. Any residual doubt I had about changing majors melted away.
This feeling continued to find me after joining the staff of Jenny Magazine, after being a copyeditor at The Jambar, after being co-editor of Penguin Review and Yo Magazine, after every publication of Jenny and Penguin Review I have been a part of so far. And currently, I’m in the middle of another Jenny issue and this warm-hearted feeling of “yes” is creeping slowly in. I have found what I was meant to do; I have found where I belong.
There’s something to say for knowing what you want to do from the start, for sure. But there’s also something to say for figuring it out as you go, allowing yourself to discover it, to try things out and see how they work for you, instead of keeping yourself glued to the plan you started with even though it’s no longer as great as you thought it was. You don’t always have to know what you’re doing.