We all heard it a million times growing up, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I remember my response to the question every time, an excited yell of an answer, “I WANNA BE A FASHION DESIGNER!” I had always loved clothes; I loved the individuality and how the clothes become the wearer. I religiously watched Project Runway with my mom every Thursday night, thinking that I could one day be standing before Heidi, Michael Kors, and Nina.
Throughout high school, I did what most people do when they grow up; I changed my mind. Fashion magazines turned to articles on space and physics, clothing projects on my small, pink sewing machine turned to working calculus problems in a For Dummies workbook just for fun. When I applied to Virginia Tech, I was a chemistry major. I switched to applied discrete mathematics (math with a concentration in computer science) before classes began; I quickly realized I didn’t belong. The other students were understanding the material at a much quicker pace and they seemed to enjoy learning it. Math had always been my favorite subject and I had been a whiz at it, so why couldn’t I understand it, too? This thing I had once loved had became monotonous and boring. I saw my adviser about switching my major. I considered everything, literally, from food science, biochemistry, horticulture, to geography, you name it, I tried it. Pretty soon, I found myself halfway finished with my sophomore year of college and had no idea which direction to take.
I was up late one night in my dorm looking at all the different majors Virginia Tech offered and stumbled upon a fashion major, something I had no idea Tech offered. Thinking this must be fate, finding out my school offered a degree in my childhood dream during my time of need, I walked into the office the next morning and changed my major, for the third time.
For the most part, I enjoyed my classes the first year. I was learning what different tribes in remote villages wore, how to distinguish one fabric from the next, how to draw and design flat sketches, etc. My second year in fashion was different. I learned the exact same things I learned the year before, fall and spring semesters. It became boring and almost useless information to me. Worst of all, I found out I absolutely hated sewing. I felt like I had wasted three years and spent over $20,000 to learn absolutely nothing.
The summer before senior year, I received an internship working for an independent company in Washington D.C. as a stylist. I had to attend brand launch parties filled with the fashionable elite of D.C. with my boss, but my boss always stood me up. I would stand awkwardly alone in the corner of the events sipping a drink counting the minutes until the party was over. One woman wearing a Marchesa gown approached me and asked me where I got my dress; “Forever 21,” I said smiling, knowing she wouldn’t like the answer. She scowled at me and promptly walked away. Was this really the world I wanted to become involved in? I felt so small and nameless. These people, including my boss, were so shallow and cruel. Were all people in this business like this?
I am now about to start my final semester of undergrad at Virginia Tech, and I hate my major; but it’s just a major. Majoring in a field does not limit your potential or opportunities. Having a degree is limitless and there are a lot of jobs out there that haven’t even been created yet. The classes you find yourself in are not anything like the real world; you learn a job by doing a job. If you find yourself surrounded by people in your field who are unkind, learn from that and strive to go higher and be better instead of backing away. Understand that you oversee how far you go and staying positive and kind is key. Most importantly, understand most people in college don’t have it all figured out like you think they might. We all go through this from time to time, it’s normal. If you think you’re alone, I promise, you’re not.
I am a Fashion Merchandising and Design major and I dislike my classes, but I’ll find my niche in this big world of ours. It’s easy to second guess yourself when you’re so close to the world you can almost reach out and grasp it; I know this well. Stay true to who you are and work hard, and I promise it will all come together. And remember, college is only a temporary time in your life, once you’re out and can experience the world for itself, you will also find yourself.
I hear it a million times now, “What do you want to do now that you’re graduating college?” I always shrug my shoulders, “I don’t know.” I can’t tell you where I’ll end up, but I know I’m going somewhere big and I know I’m going to go far.