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‘Chin up, charge the mountain’

A photo of a sunset and pink blooming tree.
Courtesy of Andrea O'Brien

By Andrea O’Brien 

Staff Writer

As you approach your senior year of high school, the questions begin.

“So what are your plans after high school? What do you want to do with your life?”

These were always the conversations I dreaded more than anything - the reason why holiday parties with family went from my favorite times as a child, to a source of anxiety and fear, knowing that I would inevitably have to face this conversation. 

And what would my answer to these questions be? The answers I gave and the answers in my head were not the same.

My default answer to family often was, “I’ll probably major in communications” - hoping to throw out a random major and end the conversation. 

However, in my head, it was, “I have no idea what I want to do with my life. All I know is I want nothing to do with the medical field.” 

Sure, I had plenty of things that I was interested in - writing, fashion, designing, social media. I just never thought that I had the confidence to pursue any of these fields wholeheartedly. 

What if I can’t find a job doing this? That field won’t make me any money. I’d struggle too much doing this for a living. I’m not cut out for that. 

I entered college in the fall of 2020 as an undeclared major. Despite the many other students I met in my classes over Zoom who were also undeclared, I still felt like a failure because I had zero plans for my future academic career. 

Did I have those thoughts about anyone else who said their major was undeclared? No. But when it came to me, I was failing before I even started college. 

I went to advising meeting after advising meeting during my freshman and sophomore years that felt like they were going nowhere - some meetings to try to withdraw from a course I had no confidence I’d be able to succeed in, and some just desperate for advice on how to move forward. 

Regardless, I ended each Zoom meeting close to tears of discouragement. 

Whenever I am faced with feelings of discouragement, I think back to my favorite movie quote that has been tucked away in my mind since the age of 7 - “Chin up! Charge the mountain!” 

“Cheaper by the Dozen 2” has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember. I turn to it when I want to laugh, be comforted, reminisce about my childhood, and even find motivation for the future. So much so that “Chin up! Charge the mountain!” was my yearbook quote my senior year of high school. 

Although I could recite the entire movie line for line or give an in-depth synopsis, the general theme of the movie is growing up, finding purpose, and appreciating life in the moment while also looking forward to the future - something I was desperately trying to do in my college career. 

As the end of my sophomore year rolled around, I knew I had to declare a major soon. My advisor threw out the idea of having a major in liberal studies. 

During my college search, I had always heard of a “liberal arts college,” but for some reason, a major in liberal studies never crossed my mind. 

As I did more research on the major, I grew more and more intrigued by the idea of a broad-based major that would allow me to take classes in many different academic areas. I felt I had finally found something that would work for me. 

Entering my junior year as a declared liberal studies major was the first time I felt content with my path for my college career. Instead of feeling lost sitting in a marketing class or dozing off in the back of a gen ed math class, I was able to explore classes that I had genuine interest in, something I had never quite experienced before. 

From analyzing fashion trends and learning about the history of fashion to finding inspiration on campus for articles in my feature and news writing classes, I was able to build a curriculum that was fully tailored to me – an idea that I would have never imagined when I entered college. 

Now, as a senior preparing to graduate in less than a month, I can look back at my time in college with no regrets. My experience was certainly not linear, with countless setbacks and obstacles during my four years. However, without those difficulties, I would never have been able to thrive and allow myself to better understand who I am and what I want for my future and my career. 

While I am anxious, yet excited, about the future, as long as I keep my chin up, I can charge the mountain. 


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