Henderson: Don’t Hesitate to Pursue Your Passions


Andrea Oltra

Ashley Henderson, copy editor for he Daily Utah Chronicle, poses outside of the J. Willard Marriott Library on the University of Utah campus on March 23, 2023. (Photo by Andrea Oltra | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ashley Henderson


When I first started at the University of Utah in 2018, I thought I had everything figured out: I would get my B.S. in astrophysics, gain extensive experience doing undergraduate research and secure a high-paying job straight out of college. To the shock of 18-year-old me, however, that is not quite how things went.

Contrary to my initial plan, I majored in materials science & engineering, spent more time working as a tutor than doing undergraduate research and eventually switched career paths to technical writing. Even though I haven’t done exactly what younger me had envisioned, I’m proud I had the courage to pursue my genuine interests.

The path I took to get to where I am today was messy. During my sophomore year, I switched from astrophysics to psychology to strategic communication to, finally, materials science & engineering. At the time, I believed the pros of getting an engineering degree outweighed the cons. So, for the next two years I buckled down and put my all into it — even though deep down I knew it wasn’t the right fit. 

This worked well for me, until it didn’t. Eventually, I became burnt out. I realized that I could no longer brute force my way through a major I didn’t enjoy, and I no longer wanted a career I wasn’t passionate about.

While it was a relief to accept these truths, I couldn’t have chosen worse timing, as it was the beginning of my final year at the U. Having already spent four years in college, I knew I didn’t have the funds to start over with another major. I decided I would finish the last year of my degree while I figured out what I really wanted to do.

I had already known for some time that I was interested in technical communication. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I learned through my major that I also value taking complicated technical concepts and making them accessible to others. I’d never pursued it before because I didn’t think I’d be able to make a financially stable career with it. I was also afraid of the uncertainty that came with switching careers, and I didn’t know if it would be worth leaving the comfort of engineering, no matter how unhappy it made me. However, by this point my perspective had irreversibly shifted and I was ready for the change.

Determined to get as much experience as possible with writing and editing before graduating, I signed up for two writing classes and joined the Chronicle as a copy editor in my last semester at the U. The writing classes have been interesting, but working for the Chronicle has been invaluable. 

The Chronicle has allowed me to meet new people and form a stronger connection with the campus community, both of which have been difficult to do since COVID hit. The Chronicle has also allowed me to gain vital editing experience by working on tens of articles each week, something I definitely need to become a successful technical editor. I believe that the interpersonal and editing skills I’ve developed at the Chronicle will greatly help me land a technical writer or editor position post-graduation.

The only regret I have is that I hadn’t changed course sooner. If I had pursued writing the moment I suspected I disliked my major, my college experience would have been so much more fulfilling. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that you can’t wait to pursue your interests. Try things out, and even if they don’t work out, you’ll be living your life with no regrets.


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