- I had to choose between four universities scattered across the country, and decided on Notre Dame based on a “feeling” I’d had when visiting its campus a year earlier.
- I changed my major from Economics to History two days after starting college.
- I added a Russian major a semester after language classes.
- I applied to graduate schools, despite professors’ many warnings that the chances of being accepted anywhere were slim.
- I accepted admission to Harvard for a Master’s in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, even though I’d applied to the History PhD program. The director of the Russian program wrote to me and asked if he could consider my app for the M.A. program since the PhD spots were already taken.
- I turned down a Fulbright Research Award to the Republic of Georgia to start at Harvard immediately. One of my favorite professors told me, “As a scholar, I should be telling you to take the Fulbright. As a father of a girl close to your age, I hope you stay in the US and go to Harvard.” Six months later Russia invaded Georgia and I wouldn’t have been able to complete the Fulbright that year anyway.
- I decided to leave my PhD program with only my dissertation left to complete. Many times people remark, “But you are so close? Why don’t you just finish it?” Because, I want to explain, you have no idea the time, money, and energy that go into “just” finishing a PhD. And for me, the means stopped justifying the end, since I lost interest in becoming a scholar of Russian History.
- I knew I wanted to work as a teacher in some capacity, but not necessarily in a classroom setting.
- I felt ready to launch my business a few weeks after leaving academia.
- I believed I could, and can, juggle being a new parent and continuing to do the work that I love.
Why do I share this?
Because I want you to know, whether you’re a high school student or slogging your way through grad school, that your instincts are good. Honor your gut feelings.
If you’re motivated to do something, define your goal and get working on it.
If you change your mind, understand what’s changed for you, and what’s your next move.
If you start to redefine what constitutes happiness or success for you, don’t be afraid to make some small (or major) adjustments to your personal and professional goals.