Undeclared or confused about your major? It gets better


Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

I came to Chico State as a criminal justice major. That’s right, America, another white guy ready to join the ranks of the police. It’s a particularly controversial time to be affiliated with law enforcement, but I think I speak for all the declarees here when I say our first aim is to help people.

The department is packed with revolutionaries and fresh perspectives on justice or Constitutional interpretation.

You might expect the political science department to be the most straight-edge, ascetic of the bunch, but in the era of Rob Fordian-crack smoking and cops advocating for marijuana decriminalization, maybe it’s not surprising to discover the exact same prevalence of recreational drug use.

When I got my first minor in possession charge last year, I was worried I’d be instantly disqualified from a career in law enforcement. This fear was way over the top, but useful, in helping me reevaluate my priorities and options.

When the rug is pulled from beneath your feet, and you think your entire future career is in jeopardy, it’s like getting shot. Or stabbed, a sensation I’m more familiar with.

Everything rolls over. For years I thought my role was that of a police officer: It was what I was put on the planet to be. Now, that route seems like a mundane existence. But when the concept was first taken from me, it began a long period of confusion and anguish, finally culminating with a fierce wave of belonging and balance.

My “aha” moment punched me in the throat and burned to my heart. I was half-naked, typing an essay on metaphysics in a seedy, one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, 2 a.m. The very last drop of my own money had evaporated a few days prior.

The guy next to me had probably slept 10 hours in the last three days, and from the middle of his self-concerned activity began, “Yo Bill, how you doing?”

“Beastmode,” I replied, “I’m beastmoding.” He got up and returned with two fingers of rum. I didn’t have a say in whether I was going to drink this one, and I knew I definitely wouldn’t have a say in whether we were going to take more.

We cheered, talked about toothpaste for a second and then resumed our pressing activities. The whole thing was rather brief but I realized it was exactly what I wanted to be doing – it was how I felt best: broke, shirtless, sleep-deprived and sitting with a fiery burning sensation (in my esophagus from alcohol and in my fingers from passion).

I’ve dished a lot of criticism on college in the past. The contention around the union strike, for example, is only the tip of the iceberg in educational reform that must begin. Soon.

But college, I steadily discover, actually is the beginning of the rest of your life, and it’s time to embrace all the possibilities. I came here a criminal justice major, ready to work patrol the next 20 years of my life; now, I study the difference between a “grain” of rice and a “heap” of rice in the philosophy department.

But life is fun now. You never know what is next, and sometimes you need an “aha” moment to propel you there. It can’t be anticipated or coaxed out: It must take you by storm. Mine began with a police detention and ended with alcohol; usually, good stories go in reverse order. Bukowski was only partially correct: You must let what you love find you, and then let it kill you.

So freshmen and seniors alike, worry not about your undeclared status, or the coercive unfulfilled passions of your parents or the career a large mechanistic society told you was essential for success and wealth. One day, a piece of eternity will brush against you, and you will say “aha,” and you’ll get drunk on it. And before the final overdose that will climax your serendipitous existence, you’ll face the toilet bowl of the Earth and vomit out a completely human masterpiece.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.