On a rainy Sunday afternoon, months after my acceptance as a fall English major at UCLA, I got bored and flipped through the UCLA Catalog of Courses. It changed the course of my life.
That afternoon, in a burst of clarity, I realized that simply by switching my major to Film (College of Fine Arts as opposed to Bachelor Arts), I could jettison every single math and science class – for the rest of my life! And that was just the beginning, once I viewed college like an academic Chutes and Ladders. I didn’t have to land on boring chutes like Shakespeare (I confess, not a fan) and Milton – I could climb crazy ladders instead. In addition to a smorgasbord of fantastic film courses all I needed to win a degree was a few English department creative writing courses and my choice of esoteric lit classes.
First thing Monday morning, I was on the phone with the UCLA registrar to change my major from English (already sounding dreary) to Film Writing (until now, who knew that anybody actually wrote films? Not me, but it sounded more entertaining than Chaucer in the original Middle English.)
Disclaimer: Don’t bother making the same request today. For starters, you must be a junior to apply. Once a year, the Film Department admits 15 juniors from disciplines within UCLA and 15 juniors from outside institutions. To compete, you must submit a creative portfolio, envelopes stuffed with cash (that’s a JOKE) and pray. Sixty out of thousands of applicants are selected for an in-person on-campus interview. Thirty of them move on to become next year’s film majors.
To be sure, it was not exactly a cake walk in 1969. The registrar said, “Here’s the thing, Miss Knutsen. You can do it if you start this summer instead of in the fall.”
This might have given me pause had I not been paralyzed by self-diagnosed severe clinical depression. With no rainbows on my horizon, what could I lose by sacrificing a final Santa Clara summer for a new start in LA?
So I said YES and it changed my life. Plunging into college that summer opened the door to a perfect career (for me) in a field I literally did not know existed until I noticed the difference in basic course requirements between English and Film. Was it serendipity, fate, luck or the hand of God? It depends on your point of view, I guess. All I know for sure is I wasn’t searching for my purpose or a path – but it was waiting for me to say yes and leap.