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  • Writer's pictureClaire Schweitzer and Tarini Krishna

Are You Really Passionate About Your Major?


By Claire Schweitzer

As I enter the hazy panopticon of Zoom, particles shimmer in the swollen pink cloud inside my head and shoot outward to the swirly pulses of matter swiveling through my atmosphere—I am ready to crush my creative writing final.

(1) /u | /| u / | | u / u | /

My pre-final buzz only augments

/u u | / u u / u | / u u / | u u /

as I meditate on Wordsworth, metonymies,

/ u u / | u u/u | /u u / | u u / | u /

and the utterly unique yet impossibly classic

/ u | /u | / u u | / u | / u | / u

creative essay that I will soon submit and

/| u / | u / u | / | u / | u u /

(5) ultimately regale all my classmates with

during our peer review session. Typically,

in moments of intense prosodic thought, my

focus remains entirely on the task at hand,

hardly wavering beyond the glimmering vision

(10) of life that I project upon the page. Yet, for a brief

moment this fateful exam week, I considered

the perspectives of my fellow classmates, regrettably

not privy to this floating mental vista

(15) that I have just described.

Those rigid Stem-major cogs strengthen the capitalist regime by attacking zeros and ones, beating digits into strict order to comport with a linear model of ether—one with no room for wavering colors or subtle nuance. These people generally blame others for their mountainous workload, but are, in fact, their own special oppressors. They torment themselves out of


Exhausted by c-



desire, or both, lusting for monotony, normalcy, and the comfort of a hierarchy that never demands anything greater than support of the system itself.

These archetypal losers stomp all over my rainbow-bedecked campus with their “p-sets” and their LinkedIn requests and their devastatingly obvious lack of sex (Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 69). They entrap all the rest of us striving to live in urbane and free-spirited worldliness amidst their stress, fatigue, and anger, bombarding us with the emotional orchestra they think is cute to call “stress culture” (Joyce, 420). They unfurl like all matter emerging from the big bang, not spreading into space but believing they contain all of space themselves—that the entire universe survives and worships through them.

When we humanities majors induct others into our worldview, we do it through our words and our colors and our beliefs—not by poisoning the social water with toxicity that infects whatever touches it. We are not parasites that attack their hosts without compromise or response. We rather trade in delicate ideas that morph even as they spread. Ours is a game of telephone that is won, not lost, by its audacious transformations.


[seek]... inspiration from others,

not from (..)

chemistry textbooks and the... [occasional]rogue post on r/algotrading (Sappho, 3).

This helps us comprehend that we are not loftier than anyone else—that we rely on each other to form the webs of meaning we call culture and laughter and sharing. We judge based on the quality of the content, not by the Fortune ranking of whatever business deigns to accept one’s unpaid labor for a summer. We have no dream job because we believe in the proverb that no one should dream of labor. After all,

we believe in the (5 syllables)

proverb that no one should dream (7 syllables)

of labor. After all, (5 syllables)

our ideas are wide-reaching and profound enough to nourish us.


Scene 1, Verona.

Mercutio: This is not to say that our schedules are not grueling, nor our work unimportant. Neither is it to say that we don’t value the opinions of others.

Benvolio: We strive and still have goals and aspirations—if anything, they are more meaningful because we can never fully conceptualize their location and form in the material world.

Mercutio draws. Stabs corporate hack.

Mercutio: The shape of our dreams will never be defined; our visions will never be limited by the mercenary interests of the machine. I have poems to draft, collaborators to entice, classes to excel in! And though my path is winding in the three dimensional arena, in the 2D plan it is still filled with requirements. The joys of essay writing beckon as the pinkish haze of inspiration settles around me.

A pinkish haze of inspiration settles around him.

So, yes, I really like my major. It consistently opens new doors, directs me down new paths of adventure and exploration, provides new visions of what life might be. Just last week I secured a summer sojourn using a combination of institutional clout, virtue signalling, and oblique references to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” I had logged onto Handshake in order to criticize the platform’s gross egoism, when I stumbled upon a surprisingly decent internship at Goldman Sachs. I applied, got an interview, and evidently my radical mindset shocked them into respect, because they called me with an offer the next day.

This essay was also submitted to Columbia 4x4, Quarto, and The Paris Review. Only the latter responded.

Illustration by Aeja Rosette


By Tarini Krishna

I woke up one gloomy morning last week to my alarm blaring and was seized by a wave of annoyance. I had just gone to bed. Did one of my humanities major suitemates, dilly-dallying in the midst of reading Dickens, decide to play a prank on me by setting my alarm too early? Did I forget to schedule daylight savings time into my Google Calendar? Alas, no. The stochastic systems textbook sprawled open at the end of my bed and the coffee cup stains patterning my problem set reminded me unpleasantly of last night’s lonely vigil. My unrelenting alarm blasted a hypnotic tune, jogging my memory of the sun’s first crack of orange light breaking through the night sky’s hazy gray dawn on my retreat from Butler at approximately 4 a.m. last night. Through dried-out contacts, I had stared at the majestic sky over Low, thinking about how many hours of sleep I would get when I returned to my dorm. After doing the math just now, I realize why I am so exhausted: I only slept for three and a half hours.

For context, I’m an Operations Research major concentrating in Financial Engineering. In other words, I’m spending my four years at Columbia earning a golden ticket to Wall Street. As the only SEAS student in my suite, my roommates constantly try to make me feel bad for not majoring in something I am genuinely passionate about. It’s true, if money grew on trees and Manhattan was less expensive, I would be studying Classics. But here we are. Some of my peers may say I lead an unhealthy lifestyle because I regularly study from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. and my only source of sustenance is the burnt coffee from Butler Cafe and JJs fries consumed frantically during my daily seven-minute 2 a.m. study break. Little do my friends know that this lifestyle is preparing me for my future first-year analyst position at Goldman Sachs where I will work ninety-five hours per week.

Import java.util.iAmMiserable#include <I AM MISERABLE>

#define LAST 10

public class Depression{

int static void main(String args[])


int i, sum = 0;

Cry = HELP_ME;

for ( i = 1; i <= HELP_ ME ; i++ ) {

sum += i;


break; /*-for-*/

System.ot.printlnprintf("sum = %d\n" +, sum + “Lost will to live”);

return 0;}

Now, I will ask you a question I pose frequently to my roommates: What is the monetary value of passion? As much as I enjoyed electing to take Lit Hum during my first year to develop my cocktail and/or networking event small-talk material, I fail to see how pursuing a major in English or Classics would bring me the professional satisfaction that a career in finance will. What, even, does a humanities major do after graduating? After spending $280,000 on my education, why should I spend four years studying a subject I love only to earn $45,000 post-grad? By electing to major in Operations Research, I will be prepared with the quantitative and analytical skills required to succeed in the pressure cooker that is Wall Street. As a bonus, my study schedule at Columbia is providing me with the mental strength I’ll need to face the verbal abuse that may be inflicted upon me during my first years in finance.

One might ask: You attend Columbia University, won’t you get a job no matter what you major in? The answer is simple: I envision college as a time of preparation for the real world. Studying Operations Research with a concentration in Financial Engineering is all about delayed gratification. I may spend these four exhausting years completing hieroglyphic problem sets at 3 a.m., and five to ten more as another cog in the financial machine, and the following fifteen as remorseless and soulless as the very corporate higher-ups that abused me in my twenties. But at least I’ll be compensated with a six- (dare I say, seven?) figure salary and a juicy new year’s bonus.

#include<THIS IS A CRY>


int main(){FOR HELP

int num,r,sum,temp;



sum = 0

Donning my grey Brooks Brothers suit that fateful morning, I mustered the energy needed to compete in the next round of summer internship interviews at Goldman Sachs. I thought about how smart I was for majoring in Operations Research instead of English or Classics. The curriculum I follow directly relates to the financial world, and all of my skills seamlessly transfer over to the Investment Banking division at Goldman. Although I cannot explain exactly what a financial analyst does (something about modeling and optimizing the random motion of the stock market—apparently, it’s also the same way one models the spread of particles of air in a room), I am confident that I will be able to earn the firm an astoundingly high ROI. That should be the reason that I am selected for an internship.

When I arrived at the interview, I recognized one of my classmates from my Lit Hum class. I remembered her being very passionate about creative writing—her eyes would light up when we did close readings in class. I simply could not imagine how she would be able to trick these Goldman employees into thinking that she had the skills to be awarded this prestigious internship. How on earth would she connect literary criticism and Jane Austen to financial modeling? How does lyrical poetry have any relevance to the stock market? Anyway, I would not worry about these humanities majors trying to steal my spot. She’s probably only here for some anthropological study on our behavior, or she lost a bet, I assured myself.

for(I SECRETLY LOVE=0;space<rows-i;++space)

cout<<"THE AENEID";


cout<<"* ";


cout<<"* ";



A few days later, minutes before I expected to hear back from Goldman about the status of my interview, I looked in the mirror of the Butler third floor bathroom, standing in a superman pose to increase my testosterone levels. I reminded myself that in a few years, I would have a six-figure salary, an apartment in a high-rise with floor-to-ceiling windows in Murray Hill, and maybe even a work-life balance—all thanks to my major in Operations Research with a concentration in Financial Engineering.

My inbox dinged with the sound of an incoming email. I did not receive the internship.

Is it too late to switch my major? I really do love Classics.



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