Usually when we have a discussion about “following your dreams,” or living a happy and successful life, we look to public figures, famous people, and wealthy people to speak on their experiences. We hear their stories in hindsight, only after they’ve already gained prestige and notoriety. This model of inspiration is useful for creating a side by side image of “then” and “now,” who they were and who they eventually became, to show the great distances, to show the vast improvements, and the stark contrast between starting from the bottom and ending up at “the top.” But this model also glosses over the actual process of “becoming” because we meet these people only when they are already “successful” and “accomplished.” While this model offers a vision for us to think, “If they can get there, so can I,” I think it is important to recognize the process as it is actually happening. I think it offers genuine perspective and a sort of companionship when we see the people around us who are on that journey to where they aspire to go right now in this moment. And so for this interview series, I picked 3 people who I believe exemplify a fresh model of inspiration, a kind that invites us to watch the path as it unfolds, a kind that shows us there is no magic teleportation that takes us from point A to point B. These are real people who aspire to accomplish “big” things and who truly hope to inspire others along the way.
What is your major and why did you choose it?
I am a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality (WGS) studies major. There are a lot of reasons why I chose this major but mostly a sequence of confusion and then clarity led me here. When I got to college I didn’t have a clue what to major in AT ALL. Fun fact: I took a WGS course my first semester of my freshman year and hated it because I was confused by feminist ideology and had somehow led myself to believe that feminism was pointless. I wish I could say that these thoughts didn’t persist for a long time but, that wouldn’t be true. Like
many college students, I wanted to major in something that would “mean” something. I thought about the ‘typical’ majors like Business and Biology but since STEM has never been my strong suit I eventually decided to major in Sociology, which at the time seemed safe and interesting. Even though I ended up changing my mind, the concepts I learned in Sociology became especially useful to me when I finally chose the WGS major.
I was confused for a long time but then came my big moment of clarity. One day, I attended a screening of the film, “Miss Representation,” and while I had recently been experiencing mini feminist awakenings or, “click moments” as we like to call them, this was the first time I began to think deeper about what feminism meant to me and its importance and necessity in my life. Two semesters later, I decided to take an Introduction to Feminisms class and it completely changed my life. The class environment, the content, everything about it just felt right. At the end of that semester I knew that my heart had made a decision for me and because of that, I declared myself a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies major.
Click Here to see why other students chose Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies as their major.
How do people react when you tell them what your major is?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that people react negatively but people don’t react positively either. The most common reaction I get is confusion. People often don’t understand what I could possibly be learning in my classes or they seem extremely concerned for my future which I think is pretty funny because considering the job market, everyone should be a little concerned, not just me and not just because of my major.
What do people perceive is the most popular or “well-known” career for your major?
I’m not sure that people perceive that any career is attributed to my major because a lot of people don’t view WGS as a legitimate field. However, if I were to choose one, I would say being an activist is definitely the most popular career for my major.
What do you think of the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I think of this question, I think about childhood dreams and possibility. It makes me think of the endless wonder of life that children have and how even though we grow up, our potential never dwindles. We are all capable of achieving our dreams and the possibilities are endless when it comes to pursuing our goals.
How have your experiences in college influenced your plans for the future?
For the most part, I was living in a pretty safe bubble growing up. My parents and my sisters paved much of the way for me. When I got to college, I realized that not everything is going to be tailored to me and if I want something, I have to put the wheels in motion to obtain it. I think that college, especially majoring in WGS, has made me realize that I determine my own destiny. While the college experience is fun and insightful, it doesn’t make or break your future. You are the keeper of your own destiny and as long as you have an open mind and an open heart, you can’t really fail. WGS is inherently entrepreneurial so it inspires me to be this way as well.
What is one of your aspirations that others may perceive as “unrealistic”? Why do you believe it is possible to accomplish this?
I have a lot of aspirations, a lot of which I share with my best friend, but one of my biggest aspirations is to make feminism accessible to urban communities. Growing up in a community that people perceived as being “ghetto,” feminist principles weren’t really discussed on a daily basis and I think that feminism could be beneficial to these communities. Personally, I think that for my community members to understand social inequality and social justice could be the key to their liberation and could serve as the motivation to begin questioning their surroundings and the social forces that oppress them. I believe that it is possible to achieve this because of social media. Social media is an incredibly large part of society and once you begin connecting your ideas with people, it becomes more real.
Who or what else do you credit with influencing your perceptions of what is “possible”?
I definitely credit my mother because she has always encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy, and not what others think I should be doing. I also credit my best friend, Tiffany, for being a dreamer in the same way that I am. She’s incredible because she constantly affirms that my dreams are possible and is always there for support, exchanging ideas and constructive criticism.
Have you made any plans to achieve your goals and aspirations? What does your plan look like?
As a WGS major you are required to take a senior research seminar and for my final project, I created a website under the name of Urban Feminist. While I haven’t touched the website since last semester because I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in, now I plan to build my website, my brand and introduce my ideas to more people. This is the concept of feminism I am developing to be more accessible to urban communities like the one I grew up in.
How did you answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” when you were little?
When I was little my biggest dream was to be a famous singer. I love to sing and when I was younger I thought fame and fortune would make my life perfect but, I’ve lived 21 years and I’d say that my life has not been that awful, considering that I’m still not a famous singer.
How were your childhood dreams nurtured?
I am really lucky because my family made nurturing my childhood dreams a priority. My oldest sister played the flute growing up so she’d let me listen to her practice. Later on, when I was 10, I began playing the Clarinet and my family supported me by going to every performance and making sure that I was practicing adequately. Also, because singing was my first passion, everyone would sit down and watch me perform mini “concerts” in the living room. My mother especially indulged in my love for singing by teaching me and singing songs in Spanish when I was little.
Do you have any fears about pursuing your path?
Of course. I fear that I’ll fail and end up working a 9-5 job that I hate my entire life but I choose to take my fears and convert them into motivation.
What motivates you?
That fear I mentioned before motivates me. Being incredibly scared of being unhappy motivates me to create the kind of life that makes me happy in the way that I want to be.
Do you have a daily regimen to keep you focused? A mantra?
I don’t have a daily regimen that keeps me focused yet, but I think it’s important to take time to breathe everyday. When things become overwhelming, breathe. When you feel unmotivated, breathe and give yourself space to find motivation. It’s important to listen to your body and take a step back when things become too difficult. Those small moments of reflection can help to put things in perspective.
What do you want to tell new students trying to pursue their goals?
I would tell new students to take risks, and because college is meant for exploration, it’s the perfect time to take risks. Don’t get stuck doing what everyone else is doing because you think it’s a foolproof way to succeed. Follow your heart and let your passions speak for you.
Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories and their voices.
About the Author:
Tiffany A. Class of 2016 Major: English (Honors) Minor: Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Blog Theme: Dreams Deferred
Tiffany is also the editor of Eat the Cake Blog. Check it out!