Why I Chose to be an English Major

I can still hear the groan of disappointment when I told my grandfather I had decided to major in English.

My mother thought it was a great idea, but my grandfather, who is the more practical one in the family, looked like I had just announced that I was quitting college and planning to marry rich.

I think he had visions of me standing in welfare lines in my coffee shop uniform. Which would be okay, except I was paying HOW MUCH to get an education?

I wasn’t oblivious to the facts. I knew that if you majored in English, did not plan to teach, and had no real interest in pursuing even higher education, your options were severely limited.

So why did I insist of joining the ranks of the *gasp* liberal arts majors?

I’m so glad you asked.

  1. I love the English language. I love all the stupid rules and exceptions to the rules. I love the intricacies, and the double meanings, and the way it can be broken down to its simplest form and built back up into an astounding piece of literature that transcends time and technology and still remains relevant. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. I love literature. Ahhh….literature. One of the main reasons I wanted to be an English major was because I wanted an excuse to READ ALL THE BOOKS. I used to spend hours reading as a kid, and still find it as one of my favorite ways to challenge my thinking, extend my vocabulary, and simply escape the day-to-day humdrum that is life sometimes. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through those horribly awkward teenage years if I didn’t have the opportunity to immerse myself in places where it didn’t matter if you were a part of the “in” crowd or not (I wasn’t…in case you hadn’t gathered that).
  3. I realized the value of an English major. No, you don’t come out with a set career path or a guaranteed steady income. In fact, I looked for almost two years for a decent paying job after I graduated. But even though I didn’t gain a specific skill set that matched a certain job requirement, I did gain skills that apply to almost any job requirement out there. Companies value good communication skills, problem solving skills, and comprehension skills, all of which I developed  while earning my degree.

So, I’m sorry, Poppa, that I didn’t go into the medical field. I know I’ve caused you more stress than you bargained for and made you have nightmares of supporting me while I did nothing but read books and scribble.

But, really, you don’t have to worry about me. I’ve gained so much more during this process, and even if I don’t make six figures and am still paying student loans when I’m 80, at least I’ll talk purty. 🙂

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TBT to That Time I Channeled Wordsworth

As a former English major who’s spent more time with fictional characters than most normal people, I often have difficulty with reality. So when presented with an assignment during my sophomore year in college to create a “Wordsworthian moment” and find something beautiful in something ordinary, I wasn’t worried at all. I did this on a daily basis to keep my idealistic worldview intact, so I was confident I could breeze through this.

Rebel against reality. Read more books.

This was my plan: have my friend meet me before classes at a pretty spot on campus to eat homemade muffins, drink coffee, and watch the sunrise. I already had my response written in my head; that’s how confident I was that this would be the quintessential Wordsworthian moment.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that a healthy dose of reality is often necessary to create such an ideal situation. For example:

  • If you forget to make muffins the night before, you will oversleep and have to ask your friend to stop at McDonald’s on her way to campus.
  • If you fail to check the weather forecast, chances are it will be gloomy and gray, and you won’t be able to see any sunshine at all, much less the sunrise.
  • And, if the sun rises in the east, it’s a good idea to make sure you aren’t facing the opposite direction. #fail

Instead of having the perfectly crafted Wordsworthian moment, my friend and I ended up laughing hysterically while eating our greasy fast food breakfasts on a damp, cloudy morning. And we had a blast. So much so that we recreated it the morning before graduation.

Wordsworth

Top: Sophomore Year ; Bottom: Graduation Day!  (please forgive the old cellphone picture quality!)

I learned something that day that I’ve never forgotten, even five years later (kudos to you Dr. Thomas).

I learned that ideal conditions aren’t necessary for an ideal moment. Looking back, some of my favorite memories come from times when reality was just plain ugly, but we found ways to create our own joy.

And that’s what this space is all about: taking time to enjoy all of the western sunrises on all of our cloudy days.

~Red~