Wise words uttered by Paul Dano as a young, fat-suit-wearing Abigail Breslin’s older brother, Dwayne, in the 2006 critically acclaimed comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine.
Dwayne says this in response to the problem he has with beauty contests – not just the literal beauty contest that his younger sister is participating it, but also the “beauty contests” that we are forced to take part in every day. “You know, school, then college, then work. Fuck that,” says Dwayne. And despite the teenage boy’s recent discovery that he is color blind and will not be able to reach his dream of flying for the air force, he makes a commitment to himself to fly anyway – because that’s what he loves.
As a 19-year-old college student, I may not exactly relate to Dwayne’s dreams to fly for the air force, or his vow of silence taken throughout the majority of the film until he manages to do so. But I can relate to someone who is growing tired of these daily “beauty contests.” Someone who desperately wants to pursue something they love despite all the challenges that come their way.
Sitting at dinner with relatives when coming home for summer break can be a frustrating time for me. Not just because they’re my relatives, but because every question that comes out of their mouths relates to school and careers. Trying to explain to someone that I’m not 100% sure what direction I’m going with my career can be difficult. Trying to explain to someone what I want to do and what I’m passionate about despite most likely being judged can be even more difficult.
I’ve recently had the chance to spend time with a coworker, and we got to bond over the fact that we’re both journalism majors and both receive a lot of flack from people, from strangers to relatives to friends to peers, about our chosen area of study. In a world that is appreciative and respectful to those pursuing careers in science or math related fields, you have the harshly judged liberal arts majors. I’m the person that can feel the scoffs and eye rolls when I tell people I’ve decided to double major in journalism and English.
Discussing schooling and careers is just plain hard, and it hasn’t gotten easier for me. I started this blog as an outlet for my passion for writing and media. I hope to one day turn this passion into a career, whether it be well respected or not. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m trying to do something I love so that I don’t end up regretting a choice to pursue something that I don’t love years down the line.
At work tonight, I had a conversation with a coworker about school. We both decided to go away to school several hours away from home, but he’s studying engineering, and I’m studying journalism and English. I asked him why he wanted to pursue a degree in engineering (which is something that’s fairly easy to tell relatives and friends and such you’re studying). He explained to me how he loves computers and likes to piece together how things work – how he’s always been interested in science and math. I then got the dreaded question back: Why do I want to pursue a journalism degree, and what do I want to do with it?
After several seconds of thinking of what to say, I finally broke down and told him the truth. That I’d always loved English and that I’d always been more liberal arts minded. That I love movies and television and books, and that I’d hope to some day get a career writing about them. That I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing with school, and might need a little more guidance before I go off and enter the real world. And that I hated talking to people about school, because my passion “sounds stupid.”
What I heard back wasn’t exactly surprising, but I suppose it was a breath of fresh air from someone I don’t know too well. “That’s not stupid. If it’s what you really care about, then it’s not stupid,” he told me. “You’re only 19 years old. I’m only 19 years old. We can’t be expected to have everything figured out right now.”
These things are things that I know to be true, but with all the doubting, they’re fairly easy to forget until someone comes along and says them to you. And as I drove home from work tonight, these words stuck in my head. It’s surprising for them to have such an impact on me considering I hear them from people like my girlfriend and my family every so often, but I suppose it’s not until you hear them from someone you’re not so close with that they ring a little more true.
I will probably still go back and forth wondering if this is the right path for me. And I will probably still have those sleepless nights where I’m up at 3 AM wondering what I’m doing with my life. And I will probably still have conversations with my parents about how I’m still trying to figure all this out, and be somewhat upset that they can’t exactly steer me in the right direction.
But for now, I know that I’m pursuing what I love. And that’s what matters.