When you come to the fork in the road, what do you do? Well, I feel like I might be at that fork in the road, and honestly, I have no clue what to do. It seems like I’ve had my whole life planned out since I was a little kid, and so far it has gone mostly according to plan. I’m not really sure that I know what to do if I step outside that plan.

I always saw myself graduating from high school, getting a scholarship, and going to a good college, getting my degree and then going on and getting a job in whatever field I chose to get my degree in. Well, I’ve done half of those. I graduated, got my scholarship, and I’m going to a good school.

I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do when I started college. I thought about becoming a teacher, mainly because it is what my grandparents both did, and what I had always wanted to do since I was little. I also thought about event planning and various other things but I really wasn’t sure. I had always really wanted to do something art related, because I’ve always loved art and creativity, but I didn’t know what art related jobs were out there. It wasn’t until my first semester of college that one of my classes went on a little field trip to this tiny little bookbinding shop, where this graphic designer was showing some of her work that she had done in the layout of this new book that they were doing about New Orleans. I fell in love from the start. I remember looking at the book that she was working on and thinking that her art looked so cool and it had a practical purpose and that was what I wanted to do too.

Here’s the catch. Tulane doesn’t have a program for graphic design. I have a scholarship to go to Tulane. I moved to New Orleans to go to Tulane. Drew moved to New Orleans and transferred to UNO so I could go to Tulane.

I thought about it for the next semester, wondering how I could make it work. I looked into the programs that Tulane offered, hoping that surely in the degree listings that I had missed it somewhere. I met with my academic advisor. She couldn’t have been less helpful. She told me that I was at an esteemed research university. Not a trade school. If I wanted to study graphic design then I should have gone to a trade school. Not to Tulane.

I left confused. I’m still confused and its a year later. I decided to stick it out. Study English since that’s what I’d already started in. I added an Art Studio minor, thinking that if I wanted to go to art school for graphic design later that it would help. I got an internship last summer with a graphic design company to get some real experience and see what I would really do as a designer. I loved it.

But it is so hard for me to stay focused on school when I don’t really understand why I’m here. I want to get a degree and here someone is paying for me to get one, so that’s why I’m here. But I can’t study what I want to. But what is the point of school if I’m not studying what I want to do. I’m in the teacher certification program and my major is English, but I don’t want to teach. I want to have my own graphic design business (which Drew and I already have started) and I want to eventually have my own little boutique where I sell handmade things.

That doesn’t relate to English or Teacher Certification at all. I’m not saying that I haven’t learned anything by being here. I’ve learned a lot. I appreciate everything that Tulane has given me. But I don’t know what to do now. I feel stuck. I hate school. I’ve always loved school my whole life. But I hate school now. I have so much to do and I’m so stressed all the time, sometimes I’m up all night long finishing my work, and why? To get a degree that I’m not even going to use because its not in what I want to do?

I feel stretched too thin. My classes take up all my energy and wear me out. But at the same time, I can’t focus on them. I’m not motivated. I don’t have enough time to get all my work done. I work my butt off and sometimes I still can’t make the grades I want to make. It was really bad last semester of last year. This year it has gotten a little better because of the art classes, which I enjoy. But I’m getting worn out of school altogether and I still have two years left.

I can’t stand college. I don’t like the structure of it. I don’t like the stereotypes. I don’t understand the reasoning behind the stress and the pressure and the insanity. I can’t stand teachers that give inhuman amounts of work and expect you to get it all done, thinking that their class is the only one that you have. What about the other five that are also demanding your attention? I find myself getting distracted with wanting to work on designing things, working on ideas for our business, I want to be creative. I sit in class trying to figure out what I’m going to cook for dinner. I’m searching for structure, for stability.

I hate living in a dorm room, not having a real home. I just don’t fit in. I don’t drink. I don’t party. I don’t think that my career is the absolute number one most important thing in my life. I don’t have any friends here. People look at me like I’m crazy for coming from a small town, for having values, for thinking that family is important, for being in a serious relationship, for wanting to get married, for being domestic, for wanting to be a designer.

I was at this same place a year ago. I wanted to study design, but resigned myself to staying here and sticking with what I started. But is that really the best thing to do? I don’t want to be stupid and give up my full-ride scholarship. But it only applies to certain schools. Research universities. Not art schools and trade schools. I have a whole life in New Orleans now. Drew has a whole life in New Orleans now. He has school and two jobs. I like our life here. I just don’t like what I’m studying and I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’m sick of school, but I want a degree. I thought about studying graphic design after graduating from Tulane, but I don’t know that I’ll have the energy for any more school after I make it through here. Plus if I’m going to pay to do it later, why not just pay to do it now?

Trust me, I’ve thought this through for the past year about every way I possibly could. But I still don’t know what to do. I’m not a big risk-taker. I’m not the one to leave the path. I probably will stick it out and finish my degree here because its what I should do. I don’t know what else to do. Where do I go from here?

  1. As I tell your sister,”Welcome to Motherhood!!” Sometimes it’s a bitch! Nine months of pregnancy is a pain, but at the end you birth a beautiful baby so precious that you forget you were in labor All Weekend! Everything worth having is worth the pain to birth it! That is why women have more than one child-because it is worth going through all the pain! Because, “This too will pass!” and then it will be a new step to conquer! Yes, right now you are not sure what you are doing but just plug on! You are almost half way through! So what if your degree isn’t what you think it should be right now, it is just a preparation for the next big step! There are no jobs that we just fall into and love always! Its all just the piece of paper! When you go through the graduation line and get that piece of paper that says you stuck it out, you applied yourself and stretched yourself, accomplished something that was a three year struggle when you wanted to go out for ice cream-then you will know that no matter what comes in the future, You Can Make It! God weaves our lives in such a way that we never see the beautiful tapestry until we are far past the place we are looking-when we can look back with amazement and say, “WOW!’
    And, “Who cares what other people think anyway!” You know in your heart that God has woven strength in there that NO One else knows! Why are you listening to them anyway! What makes you think they are so smart! Just smile at them and go on! Do your best and plug along! It will be over before you know it!
    I Love you more than you will ever know!
    mom

  2. I LOVE when I get to give advice. When I know the answer – even better. I am a human resources manager and a vocational counselor — both are bossy!.. I am in my glory.

    Your instincts are telling you to stick it out and get a degree. GOOD instincts. To walk away from a full-ride scholarship at Tulane — you WOULD regret it. You can make this time pay. You already are doing things right: You have added the Art Studio minor that will support your goal of a graphic design business / handmade items boutique. Getting the internship in the Graphic design business was a great move. Both of these decisions are creating credentials that will convince prospective customers that you are serious and qualified to take on their business. You also have made industry contacts and have learned some of the language of that business. Future Business Tip — Keep in touch with those people, e.g. LinkedIn, here-is-what-I-am-doing emails, keeping-in-touch phone calls, etc.

    You say, “I don’t understand the reasoning behind the stress and the pressure and the insanity…” Dear young one, there IS reasoning behind it. The discipline and experience of earning a college education — is in itself part of the value / education. You are learning how to handle the stress, pressure, and insanity of LIFE.

    Something else happening that is critically important is that you are living away from home, making your own decisions, living by the consequences, figuring out how to get things done, and what to do next. Dorm life may not be a dream situation, but it is the chance to learn how to get along with a wide assortment of very diverse individuals. Some you are going to like, some you will not. These are business skills; embrace this time of learning for what it is and make the most of it. These people are your future customers. Don’t miss this chance. Talk to people, learn about them. OK, they are different — Where are they coming from? What is important to them? Start learning how to think like a business person who wants to widen their circle of contacts. What can I DO for this person?

    Attending college is a very productive way of spending this time as you move into adulthood. I apologize for pointing out your youth, and I don’t want to offend you. Something I am certain of – from having gone through it – attaining the age of 21 doesn’t make a person an adult. I respect you tremendously for your thinking, your writing, your stretching yourself, that you are asking these question NOW that will allow you to make the very best use of the education you are getting, rather than just going with the flow and later wishing you had done something differently after attending four years of college. You are exhibiting another business skill: regularly reviewing your goals, making adjustments so that your plans take you to the future you envision.

    Reflecting some of your words back to you: “I have so much to do and I’m so stressed all the time…Sometimes I’m up all night long finishing my work…I feel stretched too thin…My classes take up all my energy and wear me out…I can’t focus… I’m not motivated… I don’t have enough time to get all my work done…I’m getting worn out…I can’t stand teachers that give inhuman amounts of work and expect you to get it all done, thinking that their class is the only one that you have…”

    You are going to be OK — I am not trying to scare you here…. I am smiling, because I have been there. But, if you exchange the word “class” for “job” or “assignment,” and use “customer” or “manager” instead of “teacher,” you could be speaking for employed adults all over the world.

    The good news is that as you persevere, you start “getting it” — you get a handle on how to prioritize your assignments, and to break projects into manageable bites that you keep moving through. You harden up to stress. When life gets overwhelming — you are learning that you CAN take it. These are invaluable life skills. These are business skills.

    Part of the answer you seek is included in your question or, rather, in your statement of what you want, “…my own graphic design business…to work on designing things, working on ideas for our business, I want to be creative…. have my own little boutique where I sell handmade things…I’m searching for structure, for stability…”

    What about including business classes in your curriculum? Being a good business person doesn’t just happen. Many people, and we all know them (think about doctors, dentists, chiropractors) spend a tremendous amount of time in school learning their professions. They finish school — and they are business owners. There is SO much to know. How do you create a business plan to get a bank loan? How do you get sufficient customers soon enough to cover your expenditures of office, equipment, inventory, etc.? How do you plan strategically for the future, budget, and build your business without over-extending? How do you keep your books? How do you hire, supervise, and lead staff — legally? How do you run your office, purchase supplies wisely, manage cash flow, negotiate contracts, manage your accounts payable/receivable, and payroll? How do you decide how much you can afford to pay yourself? How do you manage the information critical to 9our business? How do you decide how to price your goods and services? How do you go about marketing your business?

    What about advertising classes? Marketing? Psychology? Demographics?

    I won’t knock your original choice of education as a solid preparation for many future career steps. Teachers learn to communicate clearly, to tailor a message to an audience, and to consider an individual’s needs. Teachers are leaders. Teachers know how to persuade, how to write. Teachers are sales people. These all are critical business skills.

    If it is time to make a course correction – then do it. I commend you for asking advice. You can use LinkedIn to get some valuable advice from people who are working successfully in the field(s) that interest you. You can search on Groups to find people who have similar interests. You could post a version of your question to the group(s). Members will enthusiastically befriend one another and answer and discuss such questions and topics. You can look at the profiles of people in the field and see what their backgrounds are, read about their businesses.

    Whatever degree you decide to go after — hang in there and get it. SO many employers care more that you HAVE a degree that about what it is… You have this awesome chance — DO IT.

    I hope all of this shows that I care what happens to you and want you to enjoy and make the most of this time. Don’t rush — soak in the details of your life. It is ALL important.

    I love you.

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