Written by Nellie Ellis '23

Our childhood role models often come from the movie or television screen. As an early 2000's kid, I found myself stuck between wanting to be Elle Woods from Legally Blonde or Sharpay Evans from High School Musical. (Didn't everyone want their hot pink wardrobes and small purse dogs?) The drama queen in me heavily rooted for Sharpay, but the overachiever in me won out, and I began looking up to Elle Woods. I got my first all-A trophy in kindergarten, and then I realized that Harvard Law School was just a matter of time. What, like it's hard? 

Over the years, I grew to dislike hot pink and to prefer cats over dogs; however, I continued to strive toward law school. I kept my all-As and added layers to the prestige as I got older. In middle school, I began to volunteer, and in high school, I started to lead clubs, work with non-profits, advocate in our state's capital, present at national conferences, and more. I would really like to say that all of this was done out of selfless intrinsic motivators and that I had an overly compassionate heart designed for service. But that would be a lie. I simply wanted to look well-rounded for law school. By the time I started college, I had a seven-year plan. I knew how many law internships I wanted, the study programs I would utilize for the LSAT, the law school I wanted to get into, the kind of law I wanted to study, and where I wanted to practice. Yes, I am that hardcore at planning things. Everything was going swimmingly, and I was on the fast track to wealth and admiration. You've probably realized by this point that I did not have a very open mindset and that I was slightly narcissistic. It's okay to say it; I have come to terms with it.

Luckily, one of the best parts about college is that it is a perfect time to find yourself. Elle Woods went to grad school and realized how smart, independent, and capable she was. Many people have similar experiences during undergrad, including me. I always thought that I was on the right path and doing all the right things for all the right reasons. I was proud of myself, maybe a little too prideful, and told everyone about my big plans. It wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I realized something was wrong. I began to feel the pressure of all my assignments, side jobs, clubs, and everyday life, and, for the first time in thirteen years of hustling, I felt burnt out. I had no motivation to do anything and was absolutely mentally and physically exhausted. The experience caused me to reevaluate everything I had been doing and come to two conclusions:

  1. I like to work hard.
  2. Hard work is unsustainable if nothing is intrinsically motivating it. 

After realizing this, I knew I had to make a change. The word “change” can be terrifying, especially in college. It feels like there's a lot of pressure to figure out precisely what major and future career you want as soon as you start your freshman year. Once you make that decision and announce it to your family and friends, you feel tied to it. Especially if you are like me and said you have wanted to be in a specific career since kindergarten and now have family invested in your education. But I understood that my pursuit of law school was unsustainable. I could not keep living my life working endlessly toward something that I was only pursuing out of a desire for wealth and prestige. So, I began seeking information about careers that would be more fulfilling for me. I rediscovered my love for writing and realized that a career focused on communications would be amazing.

Changing my mind was not just an easy, one-size-fits-all solution to my problems. Whoever said your college days are the best days of your life "was seriously disturbed” (to use another Elle Woods quote; I have plenty). Even after my change of major, my college classes today are just as intense as before, and it is still challenging to juggle schoolwork, my jobs, clubs, and relationships with family and friends. But it's easier to take on these challenges now because there's passion backing the hard work and because I am actually looking forward to the end result. Also, telling my family and friends that I had changed my mind was not easy. I felt like I needed to prepare my best saleswoman pitch to make my new direction seem extra appealing to ward off the indubitable shock and potential criticism. But I realized this was pointless because, at the end of the day, I – not them – am the one who will be working the job that I choose and the one who will live with the day-to-day consequences of whatever direction I go. Since it’s my life, my career is ultimately my choice. Frightening and freeing at the same time.

So, the whole point of this blog is to tell you that it is okay if you need to change your mind. I’ll say it again: if you need to change your mind, IT IS OKAY. If you need to switch your majors, minors, or career path, it doesn’t mean you messed up the first time, it may just mean that you now better understand yourself and your needs. It can be a scary leap, and not everyone will understand, but just remember what Elle Woods said to her graduating Harvard Law class: "It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”