MELISSA: So it’s the first day of my summer internship after sophomore year. I’m sitting in the conference room with my manager. And he asked me, what do you want to get out of this internship? And I kind of freeze because I’ve never had to actually think about this before.

Like, I can’t even decide what major I want. Up to this point, I’ve switched majors three times because I was hoping that, somehow, I’d magically come upon a major I’d want to pursue. And I’m also taking these classes, like 6.00, which is programming, and 18.600, which is the math version of probability.

And I had no idea what was going on. My professor was talking about Poisson variables and a bunch of other variables that I honestly don’t remember right now. And I was just scribbling madly in my notebook because I figured, if I don’t know what’s happening, at least I can copy what the professor is writing so I can look at it later, even though I actually don’t really know what I’m writing.

And class ends. I’m walking down the steps and out of the lecture hall with my friends who are talking about the next pset problem. Well, I actually have not even looked at the next pset even though it’s due in like two days. And it’s not because I don’t really have time. It’s just, whenever I think about the class, I just want to like not think about it and run away.

But this really reflects in my grades that semester because I get all Cs in my classes except for my humanities class. And I’m also just feeling like really burnt out. And I’ve been sick like three times that semester as well, which is not normal for me.

So, going into my internship, I’m feeling pretty dejected and just like directionless overall because I still have not figured out really what I want to do. And I don’t really have an idea of that either. And I respond to my manager, his question that he asked earlier, that I just wanted it to be like a really big learning experience because it’s my first time actually working at a real company. So I figure it should be a pretty meaningful experience.

And it does turn out to be a really good experience because, for the first time ever, I’m actually really excited to get out of bed and go to work, which I’ve heard people talk about a lot, but I never actually felt myself. And I actually feel like I have an impact as well because I’m working at a startup that helps match people to the right therapist for them, which is a really meaningful problem that I feel is important. And I also feel just a lot of satisfaction out of being able to help clients successfully find a therapist that they actually are satisfied with.

I also feel just like a lot of energy every day when I’m actually able to talk to my coworkers or even just random people around me about the problems that their startups are trying to solve or what I’m trying to work on that day. So I realized that, for me, what gives me energy is not just like sitting at a desk every day, but it’s actually being able to talk to people and hear their story and see how I can help them achieve what they want.

But still, even though this internship is going pretty well, I don’t really know what I want to do with my major. I remember, when I first came on campus during CPW, I had attended the Sloan open house lunch to just learn more about the major. I heard the faculty present about their work, and I thought it was really interesting. And I also talked to the current students in the major, and I thought they seemed like really cool people. And I want to be like them after I graduate MIT.

But I also heard my CPW host saying to her friend, oh, why would you take the Course 15 version of this game theory class when there’s like a Course 14 economics version you can take. And that really stuck with me, even after I started in MIT. And I just kept hearing this message that maybe Course 15 is like not as valid as other more technical majors, like Course 6. So I figured I should just keep doing what other people are doing and just do like Course 6. Maybe I’ll try to be a software engineer or something, even though I really hate programming.

And so, at this point, I finally decide to call my mom. I had held off calling her because I’ve been feeling really ashamed of the fact that I don’t really know what I want to do or even what major I want to declare. And everybody else around me seems to know exactly what they want.

When I call her, I remember her telling me exactly the sentence, why are you doing all these things that you don’t actually like doing? And, when I heard that, I thought, wow, this is really– like it seems really obvious, right? But I never actually considered that that was what I was doing all along.

When I had switched majors, I knew deep down I didn’t really want to pursue those long term. And, when I was taking all these classes, I always knew that I didn’t like them. I just kept making myself do them because I thought this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

And so, after calling her and hearing an outside perspective, I finally got the courage to just declare Course 15 because it was major that had originally piqued my interest and that I felt was a good fit for me. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made here because of just all the support the department has given me in finding my own path.

So what I realized from this whole experience is just that what I like doing is just as valid as what other people like doing. And it’s totally OK that it’s different from what the person next to me likes doing because what gives me energy is just as valid as what gives somebody else energy. And that’s what makes things exciting when other people have different skill sets. And I think that, just as long as you’re doing something that really makes you satisfied and that you actually enjoy doing and want to do, then I think that makes it 100% valid.