Author's note: This was originally published as an article in the Southern Accent on April 2015.
After so many meet-and-greets at Southern Adventist University, the answer has become ingrained into my brain. In any new social group, it becomes the easiest of get-to-know-each-other questions: tell us your name, your major, and your class standing.
My name is Bryant Rodriguez.
I am a theology major with a film minor.
I am a Junior.
I like to add the Film minor bit because I always feel obligated to justify why I am such an odd theology major. For nearly two school years now, I have felt like an awkward fit inside the School of Religion. Most of my social group lies outside the religion department; rarely do I jump into biblical languages study groups, and I have missed so many “required” School of Religion events that it might actually affect my ability to get hired. I joke with friends that I am the worst theology major because I do not like going to church, do not have patience for questions on doctrine, and do not have an interest in pastoring.
Wait, so what do you want to do?
It is a good question, and it is the kind of question liberal arts and humanities students wrestle with in a way students of pre-professional tracks do not. But whatever you might be studying, I think that before the what-will-you-do can be answered, the who-am-I needs to be established.
I remember some weeks ago texting my friend and telling her that I did not feel like a theology major. Her response was simple and liberating: the reason why you feel that way is because you are not a theology major. You are not your major. When I read her text, I immediately processed the truth of her words; I am not my major. My identity has never been about a theology major. Needless to say, it helped explain why some said I was a cool theology major because they could cuss around me.
You are not your major.
The stereotypes and generalizations that supposedly allow people to identify theology, nursing, pre-med, psych, art, or education majors may hold some truth, but nobody is their major. A major is an emphasis. A focused discipline offered by a university. A major is an activity—it is a what, but it is not a who.
If you identify by what you do, then you are setting yourself up for a mental breakdown because what you are capable of doing can easily change, and then what is left? And then who is left when your work has changed, transformed, or ended?
I used to think I needed to be a certain way. I used to think students came in neat little majors. Now, I know nobody is their major. There are artistic science majors and there are mathematical art students. There are shy business students and entrepreneuring nursing students who make clever Vine videos that get played at Student Association events. The School of Religion does not have a monopoly on ministers. We are all much more than what can be contained in the name, major, class standing introduction.
Perhaps some of us may be unable to answer with certainty what we will do, but we can begin to answer who we are. We are more than our majors, and because we are more than our majors we are free to do much more than what our majors might imply.