Junior year of college is the time when (hopefully) things start to come together. Plans get solidified, more and more advanced summer opportunities are up for grabs, lists of potential graduate programs are made. For a lot of people, junior year is when ish gets real in a good way. Ish got real for me too, this year, but it wasn't so clear cut and it wasn't always good.
Last summer, I came to the realization that I don't want to be a veterinarian after several years of making moves to put myself in that field. I took all the science classes I could and did plenty of summer programs in high school, declared a biology major in my freshman year, and worked with animals for my first two summers. I was on the right track and with continued hard work, I think I would've gotten into veterinary school. But it just wasn't for me. When I tripled up in sciences my sophomore year, all I could think about was how much fun I had in my humanities and arts classes. I loved handling and working with animals but the treatment aspect made me so nervous. I kept thinking to myself "Can't I just blog for the rest of my life instead?" This isn't my only goal now, but I knew that I wanted to make a career out of writing somehow.
My parents watch the news every day and night without fail. CNN is always playing in the background of our dinners and usually drives some of our conversations. Before the show ended, my mom watched Oprah every single day. I made a fuss about it plenty of times at first, but I loved watching it with her and I'm fairly sure that when I bought my mom a six-disc DVD set of Oprah's 20th anniversary (or something like that) for her birthday, I watched it way more than she did. People would tell me and my parents all the time that they could see me on TV, but as a little kid my dreams of being a doctor overpowered any desire I had to be a journalist. Even after working at the broadcast news station in middle school as an anchor and camera operator, I held onto my veterinary dreams firmly.
Fast forward to last summer. I sat my parents down and told them I want to pursue journalism. They were surprised and confused, not because I wanted to do it, but because I waited so long to make that choice. "I've always thought you would make a good journalist," my mom said. "I used to tell you all the time." I think that would be my first piece of advice to anyone in my shoes: when the universe gives you repeated signs of what your calling is, at least consider it. Don't worry about how other people may react to it or what it all entails at first. Just entertain the idea in your own mind and see if it's something you're comfortable with and passionate about before you move forward with it.
My parents were, as always, extremely supportive of my choice, but they were firm about one thing: I had to have a plan. At first we considered transferring to another school so I could become a journalism major (my school doesn't have the program anymore), and then I thought about being an English major. Soon I settled on creative writing, and then we mapped out exactly what classes I would take and how to go about declaring the major in the fall. That's tip #2: Plan it all out. For the rest of the summer, I looked up internships and scholarships whenever I wasn't working at my current job.
Fall finally arrived. My triple science load was replaced with a creative writing workshop, a Spanish linguistics class, dance, sociology, and literature classes. Still challenging classes, but I enjoyed getting to use other parts of my brain. When I wasn't studying or singing, I was glued to my laptop searching for spring and summer internships. I landed one for spring during my final exams and to this day, I have never been more nervous in an interview. This semester has been a complex game of balance: school, work, internship, a cappella, magazine, and searching for more internships. Oh, and blogging. I considered getting my laptop surgically attached to my thighs, but then I thought, "Mmm, maybe not."
One of the best things about my current internship is that it has surrounded me with ambitious journalists. I treasure the connections I've made, but there were and still are times when I do feel small next to others in my field. Journalists with years in the field and plenty of internships under their belt, who are editors-in-chief and CNN interns, who have bylines almost every week, who never flinch when it's time to conduct an interview. Journalists who just get it. I look at my resume every day thinking "What more can I do, and how can I make it happen?" I've learned that it is normal and okay to feel nervous. What's not okay is to take this feeling and internalize it as inadequacy. Instead of worrying about what skills they have that I don't, I push myself to get the skills and experience that I know will help me. I learn from them, but I'm also confident in what I bring to the table. That's another thing; confidence is key. Not just in journalism, but in every field.
It hasn't been easy. The classes I take, aside from dance, are all 300-level and some people told me that I shouldn't get discouraged if I didn't make all A's and B's. But I did it, and I'm doing it. I've been told that it'll be hard, close to impossible, to get a summer internship. But after submitting 100+ applications, I did it. They told me that it'll be hard to get bylines. But I'm doing it. I guess what I'm saying is, one, don't listen to they (thanks DJ Khaled). It is possible. Whatever you want to do and achieve, it is within your reach as long as you work hard.
Now, get out there and do what you love, whatever that may be.