Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Keeping an Open Mind

Wilson Alexander
April 2, 2015

I was one of the few kids in high school who knew what I wanted to major in well before I even applied for college. I was positive I would be an English major, there was nothing anyone could do to change that, and I was incredibly defiant when people challenged that, telling me, “You might want to keep an open mind.”

Overwhelmingly, the biggest piece of advice that kept getting drilled into me senior year was, “Don’t get too set on a major; just have fun and experiment, take classes you’ve never tried before, and do what interests you most.” 

“Psh, obviously,” I thought, convinced that this advice didn’t apply to me, since I was sure of my English-major trajectory. But, even though my English classes have been amazing, I was wrong in my thinking that experimentation would not be necessary and that I would not need to try other classes.

In high school, I took pride in my writing, and I felt it was the only thing at which I was talented enough to pursue a career. In a way, this trapped me. I put immense pressure on myself to make a life out of writing, a task that is very difficult to accomplish, and I never once stopped to ask myself if it was something that really made me happy, or if it was something I was doing just because other people told me I was good at it. Not stopping to question myself, I have now learned, was a mistake.

At the beginning of this year, I took an English class, an econ class, a drama class and a psych class. Get my distribution and QR requirements out of the way, I thought. My mother is a therapist, so I thought psychology would give me an edge in conversation with her. Now I could use jargon and therapeutic buzzwords to impress her. Very cool, very hip.

As the semester progressed, while my English class was fantastic (I did love that class, one of the best English classes I’ve ever taken), I found that the class in which I was really thriving was, in fact, psych. I was engaged in the material and would stay up late reading ahead in the textbook and researching outside of it. I was passionately interested in the subject, yet I was still in that restrictive mindset of “You must major in what you came here to major in.”

After a while, I began to realize that psych really was the subject that piqued my interest and curiosity, even more than English. It was the subject that most inspired and excited me, and it made my mom and I much closer, as I’d call her every other day to discuss some new principle I had read about and to get her take on it.

So, as I near the end of my first year, I can semi-confidently say that I am pursuing a psych major, possibly double-majoring with English (because I do still love it, and Kenyon is unbeatable for it). But one thing I do know is that I’m not going to be too set on any trajectory before trying more classes, making sure this is what I enjoy. So if you’re a senior in high school reading this, or even someone here at Kenyon who’s undeclared and wondering what to do, take the advice that I ignored and don’t pressure yourself to do what people say you should do, or what they say you’re good at, but find what you really enjoy, and keep an open mind to subjects you might never have dreamed of pursuing.