“Life should be joy too. Singing and dancing and poetry and music and painting and all that is available in the world… education should prepare you to fall in tune with it, with the trees, with the birds, with the sky, with the sun and the moon. And education should prepare you to be yourself. Right now it prepares you to be an imitator; it teaches you how to be like others. This is miseducation. Right education will teach you how to be yourself, authentically yourself.” - an excerpt from the Book of Children by Osho.*
I believe that subject choice is one of the ways in which education can help you be authentically yourself. Choosing subjects to study in school is such an important decision and one that many teenagers struggle with. They can often feel pressured to do certain subjects that are considered to be crucial in order to secure a place at university; studying for a degree that parents or society might deem a “dependable” career option. This thinking comes from a place of fear or worry about the future, which I feel is the wrong motivation to be studying something. I have had numerous adults in my life talk to me about how they pursued a certain degree at university because they thought it would land them a job that paid well and was considered appropriate. Most of them did not enjoy it and ended up in a completely different field, not even using the degree they studied because it eventually did not align with who they became. In fact, my mother studied computer science at school and university because “technology was the future and a good thing to get into.” She waded through it and achieved good marks despite feeling no connection to it and still ended up doing something completely different, something she was actually passionate about: life coaching.
A few years ago, I had my heart set on studying Equine Science because I thought it was something that I wanted to do with my life. In order to achieve this, I needed to complete Physics up to the Cambridge IGCSE level and Biology up to the Cambridge A level as two of my subjects. Now it’s important to note that I absolutely hated physics with a passion and I didn't find Biology to be particularly interesting, but I decided to just suck it up in order to get the subjects I needed. Even though I slogged through Physics and struggled with it because I found absolutely no enjoyment in it, I am still grateful that I did it. It was critical for me to go through this journey of inner discovery where I learnt how essential it is to follow your passion and your joy. It opened my eyes to other possibilities, to what I really enjoyed learning about and what I could do with those subjects. I changed my mind about my subject choice and what I was going to study. When we learn about something that truly sparks joy, there is so much more motivation to get your work done because it almost doesn't feel like work anymore. It’s engaging and makes you eager to find out and explore more and it is all the more easier to excel at. I definitely found this to be true when I changed my three A level courses to English, Psychology and Sociology. Suddenly, I was doing work that captivated me and that I would be happy to explore more in my free time. On the other hand, my best friend absolutely loves Physics and can't stand English, which to her is a complete drag. When you are learning about something that pulls you in and you consider it exciting, it takes far less energy and effort to complete it. Rather than feeling drained, you feel invigorated.
Because everyone is so unique, to place such a strong emphasis on certain subjects being more valuable than others can prevent people from exploring what really resonates with them. I have a friend who was interested in the humanities and politics but never saw these as viable options. She believed that the sciences were more revered, so instead, she decided to become a veterinary surgeon. This was until she had an accident and got terrible whiplash and experienced brain trauma, which prevented her from reading and understanding the graphs that were a vital part of her science and math-based subjects. She had no choice but to switch her subjects in her last year of school. Today, she is so grateful to have been given the opportunity to see her options in a different light and is absolutely thriving, studying something that is more authentic to her and something she genuinely loves.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” *
This quote by Howard Thurman is a wonderful way to put things into perspective for yourself when choosing subjects that matter to you.
Osho. The book of Children. St Martin’s Griffin. St Martin’s Publishing Group, 16 July 2013.
Thurman, Howard, Harding, Vincent, Beckwith, Michael Bernard, Walker, Alice. The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time. Sounds True: 1 October 2010.
About the author:
I’m Tessa Schroenn, a 17-year-old girl from South Africa who has a passion for travelling and exploring the world, loves a good laugh, and can’t wait to curl up with a book and a blanket, especially on rainy days!