Aim and Ignite

It’s back to school! (But not for me. Thank god.)

When I was in undergrad, so much of my time was spent stressing about what my major would be. First I tried English, making the decision based on nothing other than the fact that I enjoyed reading and writing. But I eventually came to the conclusion that literature wasn’t the right course of study for me, and instead, I wanted my time and energy to be spent on a subject that interested me, challenged me, and invigorated me. Based on my years of crossing things off my list and exploring new topics in college, I finally chose to major in Gender Studies.

There are plenty of people who don’t even know what that means. Or if they do, their first thought is likely “what do you do with that?” But I had never intended to go to college for the sole purpose of establishing my career (sorry, Mom and Dad). I was always so intimidated by my peers who knew the exact job they wanted, even though they were only 18 years old. I didn’t even know which Taylor Swift era I identified with the most – how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do for approximately the rest of my life? So instead of stressing myself out by trying to figure it out, I was simply going to learn as much as I could. And in my opinion, Gender Studies was the perfect way to do that.

Basically, Gender Studies explores the ways that gender significantly affects the different aspects of our lives. Though the premise is simple, the actual experience was one of the most challenging and rewarding I could have ever asked for. My curriculum consisted of classes in all kinds of subjects, like communications, English, politics, and even science. If you think there’s no way to consider gender in some of these subjects…that’s where the challenge of my major came in. Sure, there were a lot of times when I had to make a stretch or two to make a connection, but for the most part, I was forced to really think. I was forced to figure out new ways to think about the world around me. I was forced to think about possible answers to difficult questions. I was constantly questioning the dynamics I had been so familiar with my entire life. It was a really cool experience, and I totally encourage everyone in college to take at least one gender studies class if you can. It will challenge you in ways you never thought you even wanted to be challenged in the first place.

But despite the long rant, this isn’t me preaching that my major was the best major in the world. I don’t necessarily think everyone should study something in undergrad that simply sounds interesting and you hope will eventually turn into something more profound. But I do think it’s ultimately important to study what interests you. I think this idea of freeform thinking and exploration of difficult questions can be argued for any major you choose in college. You’re exposed to all of these new experiences in such a short period of time. It’s natural to constantly be questioning things and changing the way you view the world.

My major taught me how to think, how to appreciate and recognize my privileges, and how to always keep things interesting. But that wasn’t just because there was a magic spell put on me once I discovered the wonders of Gender Studies. It’s because I was able to fully immerse myself in the subject that was interesting to me, that I was personally invested in, and that I truly felt would help me learn what was most important to me. And after taking ownership of that, I felt like I left undergrad with the ability to make decisions for myself that I could be genuinely proud of, and truly happy about. From putting in the work and exposing myself to experiences that both scared and invigorated me, I learned to trust myself more and give in to the excitement of learning for the sake of learning. So whether you’re actually still in undergrad or you just love me enough to read all of my blog posts, I hope you can take away the inspiration of doing what drives you to be your best self. And keep learning.

(Whoa….wait….this entire post was SO Ravenclaw of me…….BRB taking a new sorting test)

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Brand New Eyes

Being a Gender & Sexuality Studies major is definitely a unique experience. For one, you suddenly become Human Google for a lot of your friends and family. “Is queer an offensive word?” “What does genderfluid mean?” “What is the definition of feminism?” Apparently people think I have all of the answers to these questions, when the truth of the matter is that I barely have answer any of them. (Side note: Internet Google is your friend!!!) And for the people who I’m still getting to know, when they ask what I’m studying in college and I respond “Gender Studies”, there are two possible responses:

1) A head nod and fake smile. They either want to hide the fact that they are judging you or they have no idea what that means.

2) “What are you going to do with that?”

It’s a question I have been facing for years, even when I was an English major. My parents asked me this question when I changed my major. Strangers ask me this question. And for a long time, I asked myself this question. Every. Single. Day. And as most people were anticipating, I didn’t have any concrete answers. Mostly because I don’t have any concrete answers to most questions. The truth is, no matter what I decided to pick as my major, odds are I wouldn’t have known the answer to the question “What are you going to do with that?”

From the time we are kids, people ask us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That was always so stressful for me. While other kids were shooting back quick responses like teacher, doctor, and singer, I remember racking my brain and coming up empty. Eventually I started answering with professional softball player and other sports-related professions… because I was such a #sportyspice, and because that was something I knew I enjoyed in the moment. But the thought of doing that for the rest of my life was terrifying. The thought of doing anything for the rest of my life was (and still is) terrifying.

I am not the same person I was in high school. I’m not the same person I was last year. And I’m definitely not the same person I was yesterday – that Jessica didn’t have dirty hair. So if I’m constantly changing and growing and learning, how do I know that there’s one job fitting for me to do for years? I know people who have been in the same profession for 20 or 30 years. While there’s a part of me that thinks that’s awesome, because hey, you clearly rock at this job and you’re living your life and making it happen. Go you. But for me, I’ve never seen that as an option. Which is probably why I’ve had such a difficult time picking a ~career path~

In class recently, we were talking about how everyone in the trans community has a different experience transitioning. There is no answer to the question “When did they transition?” (This is another question people always ask me for some reason…even though…I’m cis!!!!! Please just let me continue to learn as much as I can while sitting in the backseat and eating pretzels, thank you.) While there are particular experiences that are unique for the trans community in terms of transitioning, my professor made a good point: isn’t everyone transitioning every single day?

I have two weeks left until I graduate college. That’s going to be a transition – one of the biggest transitions of my life, as I’ve been told for as long as I can remember. I’m going into the “real world” (which, for the record, is complete bullshit. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure the world I’m living in right now is 100% real – I’m not in Hogwarts, am I? My point exactly. Real sadness.) But with this new chapter of my life comes more growth, learning, and transitioning into whoever I will be when I have an undergraduate degree. Not to say I’ll ever stop pointing out every dog I see. But maybe I’ll start doing it in sign language. Who knows.

The biggest transitional moments in my life have been the most difficult for me so far. Starting my freshman year of college. Starting my sophomore year at a different college. Coming to terms with mental illness while trying to get through college. And working to overcome that in order to have an enjoyable senior year of college. If I hadn’t transitioned through all of these points in my life, where the hell would I be right now? Maybe I’d still be an English major. Maybe I would have actually worked to become a professional softball player. Maybe I would have decided to move somewhere other than NYC for college.

But if I’ve learned anything from the last few years of my life it’s that I don’t want to waste my time thinking about things that MAYBE could have happened. Now that I’m almost done with school, I have so many possibilities ahead of me. I know everyone is super scared about graduation, but as a surprise to absolutely nobody, I can’t say that I agree. I’m so fucking excited. I feel like I’ve been working so hard and for so long to get to this point and even though it’s still two weeks away, I feel ready. I reserve the right to revisit that statement once I’m an official college graduate, but for now, I’ll take it.