Falling in love with your major

Graohic by Fani Hsieh

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Though I haven’t been very vocal about it, over the summer I worked on the set of a History Channel documentary called Black Watch Snipers, highlighting the men of the Royal Highland Regiment during World War Two. 

At the time, I knew that the story we were telling was an incredible one, but I didn’t know the magnitude of the narrative I was suddenly becoming a part of.

I decided to take on the Black Watch as the topic of my Canadian External Relations paper this semester and, despite the trouble I had finding sources, I don’t regret it for a moment.

As students do when they’re writing papers, I was looking through my sources the night before it was due, extremely stressed and near a panic.

A very simple line grounded me and left me a crying mess on the floor of my apartment, rather than worrying about hitting that 2500 words.

“Not a single man escaped [Dieppe] from the Black Watch; all were either killed or taken prisoner.”

That’s the line that got me, from John Mellor’s Dieppe; Canada’s Forgotten Heroes.

All around, Dieppe is seen as a bloody battle. It’s considered the practice for D-Day gone wrong. I knew that way before reading that line; I’ve known that since grade 10 Canadian history class.

But this experience reminded me of why I decided to study history. These stories, these experiences of people in the past, make me feel a strong emotion.

This story is more than my issues of filling a page. It goes far beyond any statistic I could ever write in an academic paper.

As a student, especially a student of history, it’s easy to forget the humanity behind our studies. We learn about far off places from centuries ago.

In a lot of ways, historical figures are like celebrities. They’re people we can hear about, analyze and even admire, but they’re inaccessible in our everyday lives.

It’s hard to imagine the people of the past as simply human.

History is like a good book. Historical events can bring me to tears, impassion me and inspire me.

It’s even better than my favourite novels because I know that these things actually happened and they’re possible for a mortal to do. There needs to be no magic involved; a real person did these things and, like them, I can do anything I set my mind to.

When I study history, I can be the 301st Spartan led by Leonidas at the battle of Thermopylae. I can experience the courts of the Tudors, visit far off places and have various adventures. I can even know the men of the Second World War.

These stories remind me why the world is so interesting and so worth living in. These experiences stand the test of time and that inspires me to be as great as I can be.

I think that’s what all of us should be doing in university; we should be studying something that makes us feel something at the end of the day.

These are (at least) four years of your life that you’re never going to get back.

Maybe that feeling is accomplishment after solving a complex physics problem. Perhaps it’s the pathos that comes from finishing a good novel. Maybe it’s as simple as looking at your New Venture project and knowing that you managed to pull it off.

If all your degree does is stress you out, it’s just not worth it.

Leave a Reply