Getting lost in a city is the best way to find yourself. If you have no idea where you are going, you will gravitate towards the things that intrigue you. For example, I ventured to Prague over fall break. While it is a truly gorgeous city, I ran out of things to do a couple days into the trip. Naturally, I googled “Prague Attractions”, hoping to find something that would be an exciting cultural experience. The typical things were advertised: museums, galleries, monuments, shops, etc. It was my reliable friend, TripAdvisor, that recommended the Prague Zoo. It’s about an hour away on public transport and I only had four hours before it closed, but I was determined. Going to the state zoo had been my favorite place to go back home. So cut to three hours later and I was breathing heavily as I walked the last leg of the adventure towards the exit. According to the Apple Health app, I had walked ten miles. But it was so worth it.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone gets excited to go to the zoo. Perhaps, the excitement diminishes at a certain age for most people, but I never experienced this. As a college student, I am overwhelmed with significant amounts of stress, anxiety, and homesickness. To find a place that makes me feel unburdened and content on a spiritual level is a truly rare thing to uncover. The Prague Zoo was not the first place I felt this way; through school excursions to the English countryside, I have experienced a similar sensation being surrounded by the raw beauty of the natural world. The Prague Zoo trip was significant because it was the moment I started to realize this pattern. In a foreign country, surrounded by an immense wealth of tourist attractions, the first place I want to go to is wherever the animals are.
So after this trip, I underwent the process of reflecting on memories to uncover the things that made me happy as a child. I “returned to my roots”, so to speak. Ironically, there was an interview I did for a local newspaper when I was eight years old and in that article I said I wanted to be a herpetologist, someone who works with reptiles. Other memories jumped out at me: constructing terrariums, nursing stray cats, never leaving a reptile show without at least two new pet snakes.
Suddenly, it seemed like for the first time in my academic career all of the stars aligned and I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a zoologist.
Now for anyone who knows me, this was a shock at first. I had applied to university as an English major and now I was ready to devote myself to the field of science. But once I looked at the all the signs, at my happiest memories and the way my mother raised me, my path couldn’t be unseen. I think it’s appropriate to place emphasis on my raising because my younger sister now also wants to become a zoologist, so there must be something about our childhood influencing our career choices. That is too much of a coincidence to be a happenstance.
Reflecting on the process of choosing my major, there are three important things that I needed to do to reach my decision. The first is to look at the world around me. What type of atmosphere would make me happy? The best way to determine this was to think about the places that make me happy in my daily life or my favorite pastimes. The second thing was to reflect on my memories. The younger version of ourselves made career decisions solely based on personal interests without all of the burdens that we carry now, such as financial concerns or technicalities of achieving our goals. If we take these naïve, innocent aspirations and combine them with our now more mature, intellectual reasoning, we can create an feasible goal for our future selves.
The last thing that assisted me in making this decision was instinct. I’ve spent my entire academic career making decisions solely based on what logic dictated was the best way to achieve my goals, pushing emotion aside, if necessary. But this decision I made because it felt right, and I think that’s the barrier that a lot of people my age have issues overcoming. We make so many decisions for our futures based on the subject we’re best at in school or the job that will ensure our security. Rational decisions are the mark of an educated soul, but sometimes you have to go with what you feel. If you want to try something “uncharacteristic”, go for it! You’re not one-dimensional. Becoming familiar with and exploring every aspect of your identity is the best way to discovering the major that’s right for you.