Image thanks to Jane Rahman
I have a small issue that I've been dealing with for about 6 months now, that has just been ruining my life. I recently discovered that I selected the wrong major, but I'm almost done only a year to go and my biggest fear in life is failure, it is the ultimate guidance to everything I do and don't do.
I want to switch majors but it would be to photography, I'm currently studying advertising. In many ways I chose that major because my parents thought it was the right one for me, they’re really big on academics and they’re paying for my school. The entire issue has even led me to be depressed. Sometimes I don't even want to get out of bed.
I could switch majors this late in the game but am scared that in the future I won’t be able to make enough money off of photography. Or I can stay in the major I am currently in until I finish. People who know me say that I'm just scared of failing at advertising and that I should be fine. But I'm so completely unhappy that it's affecting everything including my school work. Please help me.
Thank you. A devoted reader,
Firstly, Jacqueline, you can’t let this ruin your life; that’s exactly the kind of pressure that confuses and pushes us into making the wrong choices. Education, however expensive, however vital to our careers, is always only part of any life. If it isn’t, if everything rides on it, then even a small hiccup can throw you off course.
Think of your entire life as a wheel, with each element of it as one spoke; the longer the spoke, the more satisfied you are in that area, the less happy you are, the shorter the spoke. Now, if some of your spokes are really short and only some are long – well, your wheel just will not spin, and, if it does, it will be one heck of a bumpy ride. Complete happiness relies on balance, that’s why they say money won’t bring you happiness, because you can’t be happy based on just one fact of life alone.
For you, it seems like you’ve put so much effort into making your career spoke the longest, strongest spoke, you’ve sort of missed the point altogether. It’s unfortunate that you were pushed into a major that you don’t necessarily think is right for you, but with just a year to go, I wouldn’t make any rash decisions.
My guess is that, if you look at the bigger picture, there are other factors causing you to feel unhappy. Your friends might be right; could it be a question of not really believing in yourself? I’m worried about your ideas of failure and success and what that means to you. Could you have placed so much on career and academic success because, perhaps, you are emotionally unfulfilled? Why does academic success guide you so strongly? These are questions you need to answer.
If you’re feeling pressured by your parents, then you must tell them how this is negatively affecting you. I’m sure that, deep down, them pushing you academically is only because they want the best for you. Talk frankly with them as an adult, tell them you appreciate that they have paid for your studies but you are having doubts; they were young and undecided once, and I'm sure no parent would want to contribute to the kind of depression you're describing.
Photography is a fantastic choice of career, and you should look at the positives – it is not a career that requires a college degree, it simply requires raw talent. I think, though, that you might be seeing photography as somewhat of an escape – it’s a hobby you love and so you’re idealising it into a dream career and a dream ‘you’. It could be your dream career, but it might not be. What you might find is that you opt for the photography major and you’re just as unhappy.
You’re right that it will probably be far harder to make a lucrative career from photography than it will with advertising, but the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. What if you kept going with the advertising and started to build your photography skills alongside it? Advertising can then be your back-up whilst you put your heart into photography.
Equally, however, don’t be afraid to follow your heart; we need more heart-followers in the world. If you truly want to be a photographer above everything else, and you know you have a genuine talent for it, I’d say there’s more risk in ‘playing it safe’ with the advertising, because you simply will never be happy doing it.
I’ve tried to give you some questions to think about here rather than prescribe a solution, the ultimate decision is one that, unfortunately, you have to make, and it seems to be a classic head/heart divide. My parting advice is a classic: sit in a quiet, comfortable space alone with a pad and pen, and mark out the pros and cons of each choice. Think about life five years down the line; think about life thirty years down the line; think about if the decision wasn’t to affect your parents, or be judged by your friends; think if money weren’t an option. Redefine your idea of failure and success as genuine, complete happiness or unhappiness, and focus on how all areas of your life will be influenced by your choice, rather than just one.
Has anyone else suffered a similar issue? Does anyone have any advice to share?