Author: Rachel Mills

Easier said than done. Ever since I even started looking at colleges, the question “what do you want to do?” has always been an integral part of all my conversations. From family members, to my guidance counselor, to new friends at school, the question always eventually comes up. And while extremely repetitive, the question can also be equally terrifying.

“What do you want to do?” What does that even mean? Do people mean tomorrow, this week, this month, this year? For the rest of my life? I always struggled with picking a major that would define my next four years of studies, but more importantly guide me towards what I would end up doing for the rest of my life. I used to live in fear that I would pick the wrong major, go down the wrong path, and mess up my career. I just wanted to do something that made me happy, but I had no idea what that was.

When I got to the University of Washington, I was a declared direct admission business major. So many people told me how lucky I was that I decided to check that business major box on my college application when I was senior in high school. I had no idea what I was doing or what being in the business school even meant, so instead of feeling fortunate for my major, I felt an overwhelming sense of being trapped. Even my orientation was separate from non-business major students; I was told I already had my major, so I needn’t look elsewhere. My options felt slim for even trying to discover what else was there for me at UW.

In an attempt to feel like my business career was going somewhere, I attached myself to the thought that I could really like Investment Banking and the grind that it requires. I picked a career that, although extremely difficult (especially for women in the workplace), I felt would make my business degree worth all the trouble. I learned about their 90 hour work weeks, the career’s competitive nature, what a Superday was, and pretended to like the thought of triple-leveraging an ETF although volatile could be exciting and profitable (huh?). I declared my concentration in the business school as Finance and convinced myself that all of it’s technical tools and analytical concepts would help me in the long run.

And I’m still not wrong. Finance has valuable technical tools and it can be very exciting. I remember sitting in a UW Finance Association meeting believing that one day I would get as excited as some of the officers and members about financial breakthroughs and news (and maybe one day I would actually understand what they were talking about too). I wondered if it would just take time for me to understand why they all like it so much, why they got excited, and why I didn’t. I thought it was something I could fix.

I got so caught up in what I thought I should like and should want, that I kept putting something I really got excited about on the back burner. I always found myself looking forward to my drama and dance classes, although they were just supposed to be fulfilling my general education requirements. Because, how can you make money as an actor? Not everyone makes it. Not everyone can make it work either.

So I started asking myself, if I really don’t want to let theatre go, how can I make this work? I started looking at options: what is a realistic career in theatre with the things I am learning now? How can I do what I want? And that’s where my business major, the one I had felt so trapped in at the beginning of my Freshman year, suddenly gave me so many opportunities. Why not combine the two? I can use the things I spent my last two years learning in the business school and work for a theatre company that I care about.

And that’s a big reason why I work with Plus One Foundation. Ever since this realization in the middle of my sophomore year, I have learned so much about the power of non-profit companies. I believe in their mission and the work they do, while asking for so little in return. But also!! I learned to finally do what I want, not what everyone else tells me makes the most money, is the ‘best’ option, or what ‘might’ work for me. I learned to choose a career for myself, and make a choice that best fits what I want to pursue for the rest of my life. It can be scary to do what you want, but I’d much rather say I tried than wonder what my life would look like if I had actually gone for what I wanted.