Happy 2020! I hope you’re all having a great start to this new year. This week I decided to reflect on my college education and talk about why I ended up being more partial toward my minor.
It was 2015 when I started going to college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study just yet, but I was there taking the basics, which meant I had about two years to decide what I wanted to dedicate my life to. That was so intimidating – how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do when I was only eighteen?
I had a hunch that I would major in English. When I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up, and I still sort of felt that way as a college freshman. My ambition to write had waned at that point, but writing was the only thing I had ever been passionate about that I could study in college. (If I could’ve gotten a BA in Yarn Arts, I would’ve headed to grad school afterward!)
During the two years of taking basic college courses, my father tried to coax me into majoring in technical communication. He said I could easily find work and make a decent amount of money with it. It sounded promising, but I didn’t quite understand what it was, even when I looked it up. I wasn’t too confident about majoring in something that I didn’t understand. What if I ended up hating it when I finally understood what technical communication was after declaring it as my major? I didn’t want to have to change majors and spend more time and money than I had to while I was in school. But, on the other hand, I had grown to hate reading because of the numerous readings I was being assigned. The English major didn’t sound too promising at that point, either.
When it was time to declare my major, I chose English. I threw my dad a bone by choosing technical communication as my minor. My understanding of it was still fuzzy, but it seemed like a stable career path, which I knew I needed since I was beginning to understand just how unstable a creative writing job can be in the beginning. Since I hated reading at this point and wasn’t sure if technical communication was the right path, I was feeling nervous about it. But I told myself that technical communication would be my temporary career. I could quit once I write a book.
In the Fall 2017 semester, I took the introductory technical communication course. The first portion of the semester was spent working on resumes and LinkedIn profiles (which, admittedly, did not make a great first impression on me). Once we got to the second segment in the course, however, I got a taste of what technical writing is all about. I had to choose a text and find its reading level, and then rewrite it to fit an 8th-grade reading level. I also had to pair this with a memo explaining the changes I made.
Something you need to know about me: I have always loved “sounding official.” I’ve mentioned it before on my website and blog about how I’d always write up different documents when I was a kid. Well, writing a memo falls into the category of things I enjoyed doing!
The third segment of the semester became even more fun for me because, in a group, we had to make a training manual for a hotel (all fake, of course). I genuinely enjoyed that assignment. Writing several pages of instructions was fun for me. I did that several times as a kid, but now, I was learning how to do it for real.
It was during this assignment that I had my “epiphany,” if you will, that creative writing had not been my only passion. I had been passionate about technical writing, too. I just didn’t know it had a name or that I was doing it.
I really needed that epiphany. I was so worried about whether I was taking the right direction. I wasn’t enjoying my English classes as much as I had hoped I would, so to find out that I would enjoy my minor was a huge weight off my shoulders. Now, let it be known that during this semester, I was also taking a creative writing class for the first time, which I was also loving, as well. This ended up being one of my favorite semesters.
My upper-level classes became a bit redundant. I would have a couple of literature classes, a creative writing class here or there, and some technical communication classes. I once loved reading but didn’t anymore (I blame social media, and I might detour and blog about this topic eventually), so I always looked forward to my technical writing classes. My Professional Report Writing class was my favorite. I wrote many memos, a business plan, a job posting, and even a letter firing a hypothetical employee. How fun is that?
After the Professional Report Writing class, I began to regret not choosing technical communication as my major. I wanted to switch my major and minor around, but I was so ready to be finished with college that I didn’t want to end up adding an extra semester in case I had too many literature classes that wouldn’t have filled the technical communication requirements.
The Three reasons
I enjoyed my minor more than my major for three reasons. The first being that it was never redundant. My English major proved to be predictable: I’d settle for a literature class I was only partially interested in because my course plan didn’t allow me to have many creative writing classes. The technical writing classes, however, always had something different. I had no idea if I would be in a group or by myself. One of my classes was about design, and we got to use colored pencils and notebooks. I got to illustrate my favorite TED Talk, and I really enjoyed doing that!
The second reason I loved my minor more than my major is that I was passionate about it. I like to write. When I chose English as my major, I had to pick a concentration. I chose creative writing because that was the very reason I was choosing English in the first place. Unfortunately, I only took three, maybe four, creative writing classes and way more literature classes than I thought I would take. It makes sense that studying English involves so much reading, but I thought it would be different since I was supposedly concentrating on creative writing.
My minor allowed me to write. No, it wasn’t creative in the whimsical sense, but it was creative in terms of how I wanted to present the information. I learned that technical writing isn’t just about writing; how that information is presented to the audience is almost more important than the information itself.
Finally, the third and probably the most important reason I enjoyed my minor more than my major was that it forced me to get uncomfortable. Spending hours in books and writing essays about said books was comfortable for me. It didn’t involve anyone but me. My minor, however, required collaboration. I had several group projects and peer reviews and presentations and all of it gave me so much anxiety. But in the end, I’m glad I had to do it. I’m a very introverted person who’s self-diagnosed with social anxiety, so I tend to stay in my comfort zone because it’s easy. But this minor forced me to set up a LinkedIn profile and a website, work with several classmates I didn’t know that well, go to said classmate’s houses, and change up my schedule. I admire a set-in-stone schedule, but many days were thrown off course because so-and-so couldn’t meet until three and the other so-and-so was only available on the third Thursday of the month if the date ended with a three and if it was sunny but raining outside. Okay, it was never that ridiculous, but to my plan-ahead self, it sure seemed like it!
My minor–well, college in general–grew me as a person. It forced me to deal with my anxiety and to take things as they come. I learned that not everything can fit neatly in a calendar and that I can’t freak out every time I have to change plans last minute.
Let me clarify that I didn’t hate my major. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be, but it also taught me valuable lessons, as well. The lesson I value the most is that I learned I really can accomplish something if I put my mind to it. There were several occasions when I had to stay up late to finish reading something even if I really didn’t want to. My phone was often a distraction, but if I locked it up with an app like Forest, put it on silent mode, and threw it across the room, I could work for a lengthy period of time without getting distracted. Every time I said, “I can’t,” I ended up proving myself wrong.
Ultimately, I loved my minor because I thought the assignments were enjoyable, and I looked forward to most of them. But I think the self-improvement side of it is what makes me look at it more fondly now that it’s all behind me. It allowed me to grow as a person, and it served as a source of hope during a time of uncertainty.