If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me “What are you going to do with that major?” I could end this whole charade right now.
I would have enough dollars to retire at the ripe old age of 20. I could probably afford to buy my parents a little vacation home in the south of France, too.
Half the work of hacking it as an English major is memorizing the prepared statements you must have on tap in order to survive family parties, social events and almost any other interpersonal interactions with sentient beings in higher education. On any given day, you must prepare for questions like, “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” or the ever-popular, “The job market is pretty rough. So…like…what are you going to do after you graduate?”
English is a major that doesn’t come with a designated career path. When you major in accounting, chances are you have at least some interest in finance or being an accountant. When you major in engineering, you probably expect to pursue some form of career as an engineer. When you major in English, the end game is a little more flexible — and unpredictable.
Some days, I wake up and I want to make movies or write novels. Other days, the first thing I think about in the morning is how much I want to become a Disney Imagineer. Every day, I wake up with thousands of possibilities, and every day my interest in those possibilities shifts focus. I know I’m not the only one among us who feels this way.
My talents have always lied in the arts and humanities. Where books and films have been my close and cherished companions, math and science have been the awkward acquaintances I am obligated to exchange pleasantries with for general education’s sake.
My affinity for the beauty of literature should not come with a clause that allows for the third-degree from anyone whose education did not stem from the broad umbrella of liberal arts.
I cannot discount the importance of math, science, and technology education. They are irrevocably and vitally important. That being said, I refuse to take a back seat to my fellow students who are better at solving a proof than proofreading. I’ve spent my fair share of time editing my left-brained companions’ lab reports at their request, only to then be mocked for my “easy” major.
That’s not going to fly.
Professor Philip Davis of Liverpool University helped to conduct a study on the effects of sophisticated literature on the brain’s activity, and results showed that, “Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain. The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike.”
An English literature-powered rocket-booster to the brain? Maybe there’s some common ground for us yet, left-brains.
The most beautiful part of our human existence is the inherent fact that we are all incredibly different from one another. Whether math minded or artistically able, each of us has a skill set that can contribute to our society, community, and world.
The beauty of being a twenty-something college student is that you still have that freedom to wonder what in the world it is that you want to do with your life.
As cartoon heroine Daria Morgendorffer once put it, “My goal is not to wake up at forty with the bitter realization that I’ve wasted my life in a job I hate because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens.” That’s not such a bad goal to have.
I can’t say what it is I will be when I grow up. The mere fact that I still use the expression “when I grow up” at age 20 is an obvious indicator that I am a firm believer that true adulthood has yet to claim me for its own. I love to read and write, and so I am pursuing an education in the things that I love.
I implore my fellow students to do the same.
You don’t owe your education to anyone but yourself. Though your parents, your mentors, and your friends may try to sway you into a degree program that they feel is best for you, the true test is in choosing to study what it is that you want to learn. At the end of the road, when you look back on your education and the subsequent path on which it has taken you, you’ll want to know that you did everything you could to make yourself the best person you could be while fulfilling your responsibility to pursue your own happiness.
If studying chemistry, physics, computer science, or engineering makes you happy, keep up the good work. If studying art history, journalism, sculpture or film makes you happy, stick with it.
Studying English makes me happy — almost as happy as the times when I tell someone I’m an English major and they say, “That’s so cool!” Yes. Yes it is.
Katie Murt is a junior majoring in English and is The Daily Collegian’s Tuesday columnist. Email her at email@example.com.