Give Your Own Ambitions a Shot

Whenever I tell people that I’m interested in majoring in linguistics at college, I get funny looks. My family’s initial reaction when I first announced it was, “What would you do with that?”

Even people outside my family expect me to choose a pre-professional major because they don’t think I’ll find a stable job with a linguistics degree. This bothers me a lot. I have a solid idea of what I want to do after studying linguistics, so I’m tempted to shove my goals at them and prove them wrong.

But instead of rattling off my life plans, I tell people that everyone is called to do different things. I want them to understand that the “practical” and mainstream jobs of the time do not necessarily suit everyone. People see needs in the world that they want to fill, and that’s what leads them to certain jobs regardless of the paychecks or the reputations that come with them.

Unfortunately, society has the tendency to say, “Dream big! Pursue your dreams!” with the parenthetical addition of “but only if they’re going to get you money and success.” Taking the risk of pursuing a career that is not lucrative, even if it is meaningful, is often discouraged. Many young adults end up taking a safe route to financial stability and abandoning their original interests. Given that interests change and people need to face the world practically, this is not surprising. I understand that financial implications are important to consider before choosing a career. But there is an issue when people are discouraged from pursuing their aspirations even before they have the chance to try.

This past spring, I traveled to the Northeast to visit some colleges and to see my cousins living in New York. After I told my aunt and uncle about wanting to study linguistics, my uncle advised my dad to show me the annual average incomes of linguists. He thought this might help to change my mind about studying linguistics. I believe he was genuinely worried about my future financial stability, and I truly appreciate his concern. But a number on a paycheck is not enough to convince me to take a path that I know I will not enjoy.

I want to study linguistics in order to become a missionary linguist who develops a written language for tribes that do not have an alphabet, then translates the Bible into that language. I see a need to help people groups preserve their own language and know God through their native tongue. Of course, my interests may change along the way, but as of right now, this is the need I desire to fill.

It’s okay to do something unconventional. The world can’t be made up entirely of people with the same four or five jobs. Even if people around you tell you to “do this, not that,” give your own ambitions a shot first and be appreciative of the obscure goals and dreams that people have.