Stay Out of the Comments

I enjoy aspects of social media; it is a great place to meet like-minded people, to create your brand, to find opportunities, but social media has a dark side.  Commonly referred to as the comment section.  If I see a post I find inspiring I don’t (usually) let myself read any of the comments beneath it.  But every now and then I forget why I don’t let myself and make the mistake to click in.

Recently I saw a post about people hating on arts students, but then going to movies, enjoying fashion, and reading books.  The post itself made me smile.  Then I clicked on the comments and reminded myself why I never do because I went from feeling inspired to defensive and angry.

There is a tendency to compare ourselves to others, to try to make ourselves feel better by putting someone else down.  One degree is not better, nor worse, than another degree.  I’ve discussed the stereotypes around an English Major before, and I won’t get into how worthwhile pursuing this degree is or has been for me.  But instead, there was another comment in this section that I found could be harmful.  They said that anyone who goes into school (especially arts) with no set plan is wasting their time and energy and can’t complain when they work as a barista.  First, if you’re pursuing the education you love and are passionate about and work as a barista, there is nothing wrong with that.  What I took issue with is the idea that you need a solid plan before even starting.

When I started my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it in the end.  I loved writing and I loved books, but what I wanted to turn that into, I wasn’t sure.  And I was okay with that.  I let myself grow in each and every course.  I followed my interests as I learned, and they evolved in ways that I didn’t expect.  I let the undergraduate experience be organic.  Sometimes people start their degree with a definite end goal, and that is good.  But sometimes people start by following a passion and seeing what opportunities surface because of it.

Everyone’s experience in University is going to be different.  I am thankful that I let myself evolve in the process of my courses.  Because of that, I was able to find my passion, the one thing that I know I want most in the world to commit my time and energy to.  When I started my undergraduate degree I was only vaguely aware of the publishing world, I didn’t know the positions available within it, and I certainly didn’t think there was any way to work in that industry without moving to Toronto or New York.  As I finished my degree and plunged into the world of creative writing I learned more and more about what was possible.

Now, starting my graduate degree, I have a definite end goal.  And throughout this process, I will be working toward it.  But I have also spent many years learning what I wanted, what I was good at, and where I felt I would succeed and be happy.  Having a graduate degree will not guarantee a position, but it will help.  And if I had gone into my undergraduate program with a set of ideas I would never have allowed myself the time to find these opportunities.

So, whether you know exactly what you want to do at the end of your degree or are just following the things you are most passionate about, it doesn’t matter.  You’re working hard toward a goal and, in the years it takes to finish your degree, things could change.  You learn and grow, and maybe you do not need all the answers—even by the end of the degree.