How it happened...

So Denise asked this over at Fast Times at Home School High.
How did YOU decide what you wanted to be when you "grew up"? How did you choose YOUR major?

Umm am I really grown up? Cause I don't feel it. Especially at the moment when I have a CD of a bootleg Moist concert blaring on my stereo. That so puts me back in university...

I went to try to explain how I choose my major and realized that was way to long to put in a comment. And it's even more confusing if you know what I do today which is completely and totally unrelated...except perhaps my ability to ask big questions that often open a can of worms and make me feel like a pain in the ass but apparently make me a valuable employee (something to do with risk management or some such thing).

But to the major...I didn't know what I wanted to do in high school other than get INTO a university. Preferably one that would give me money to attend their lovely institution. So in high school I took a mishmash of academic courses. I graduated with 4 12th grade science classes - a rarity - and possibly only possible because I begged my way out of taking a generic science class in 10th grade that was boring me to tears. So in 10th grade I took 11th grade bio. Then in 11th grade I took 12th grade bio and 11th grade chemistry and physics. In 12th grade I took 12th grade physics, chemistry and oceanography (I lived on an island - it made sense, we even took field trips). Et voila - 4 12th grade science creits. At the same time I was taking english, history, french, accounting, economics, etc. And of course math (with one accelerated class in 10th grade which unfortunately was not continued in other years because it was the best math class I ever took). But I opted not to take calculus thinking that I wouldn't likely be going into science in university and I knew I could take it there if need be.

That's right - I took all those science classes knowing that I likely wouldn't go for a science degree. Why did I do it??? Cause I knew it would look damned good on a college application that's why. Plus if the whole arts degree didn't work out I had options in science. I've been accused of being pragmatic. I have no idea what you are talking about.

So when I got into university (with monies - yay! - even if they didn't last so long...) I found that my first year was very much designed for me. McGill had (has?) this thing where first year BA students had to take x number of credits from different areas. So I had to take x number of credits in humanities and social sciences and then I also had to take at least one course in either science or language. So my first year at McGill I took anthropology, sociology, philosophy, English, history (I think history...I could be wrong about that...), classics (Greek mythology) and Italian. Was this useful? Yes. I had originally thought that I would pursue a degree in sociology. Turns out I after two classes I was seriously sick of Marxism (truthfully I was sick of Marxism after one course). Go figure. Meanwhile I was totally loving my anthro classes. Anthro it was!

But then McGill changed it's requirements for a BA. You used to have to take a lot of credits in one department to get your major and then plan very carefully for a minor. With a major and a minor you really didn't have room for any "electives".  McGill decided that it wanted to produce more well-rounded BAs and opted for something that gave students a lot more choice. They reduced the number of credits it took for a major and a minor. So now I could take a major, a major and a minor, a major and two minors, or two majors. I had originally only decided to take a major in anthro but I then discovered I was taking history courses as my electives so I made it into a second major. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My second year of university I bowed to pressure from pretty much everyone around me and tried my hand at science. It was a disaster. I hated every second of it.  Also - science courses are much less friendly to poor students who have to wait about two weeks to buy their books because that's how long it takes to get their student loan money. By that time in science classes you are already starting labs and you tend to make a shitty lab partner. So you end up having to do a bit of catch up.  Anyway, I hated science as much as I thought I would and it was a good lesson in following my instincts (and I was appropriately punished with a hit in my GPA - ouch!).

So second semester of my second year I was back on track with my BA in anthropology and history. But now I had to narrow it down. Within anthropology I had three choices - social/cultural anthropology, medical anthropology (coincidentally McGill has one of the best medical anthro programs in North America) and archaeology. Archaeology won hands down. I found it had a more practical and somewhat scientific edge to it (yeah that part where I said I hated science - I really don't hate it - I'm just not designed to be a pure science person). I could find something and work on it to a fairly practical conclusion. You could give me a pile of bones and I could tell you how many people the catch could feed for how long (or at least give it a damn good guess and back it up with reasoning). I can also look at slides of seals teeth and give you an approximate age of the seal. I have skills that you never knew don't I?

I had a similar decision to make in history as well. With history there was no end to the choices of your stream of study. You could do it by geographic location, era, or a theme.  But at the same time you had to meet certain requirements within the department in terms of x credits pre-1800, post-1800, in different geographical areas etc.  I ended up choosing the theme "War and Society" which I really did enjoy.  And history and archaeology were a good combo.

I still did manage to take a few courses out of the history/anthro combo but they were often related. I took a kineseology course in structural anatomy but part of that was studying human bones - tie in to anthro. I took a Canadian Studies course but it was military history - tie in to history.

So for me it was trial and error.  How did I end up getting to do what I'm doing today? That's a story that's almost as long so I'll share that another day.