Every time I am asked my major, I wait for the inevitable, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” This is usually accompanied with a look of pity or even distaste. Some even throw out the ever original “Would you like fries with that?” comment. Well, I can tell you what I won’t do with a degree in English: be unhappy in a dead-end job that I loathe.
In a world embroiled with thoughts of monetary success rather than spiritual, it is not uncommon to choose a major based on a myriad of reasons unrelated to genuine passion. I have asked many people why they chose to be their specific major. Almost every single one responds, “It pays well.” I’m not saying factoring in the job market or earning potential when deciding on a major is wrong; in fact, it is necessary in the world we live in today. But to pick a major based solely on monetary gain? I couldn’t do it. I want to have a career that brings me happiness. Some may think that is unrealistic, but it is what I have always strived for. We need to stop thinking that money is equivalent to happiness and success. It isn’t.
If I did base my major on money, I sure as hell wouldn’t have picked English. Believe it or not, I began my college career as a psychology major. Pretty much everyone, including myself, seems to forget this because my entire being screams, “ENGLISH MAJOR.” I won’t lie; I picked psychology mainly for the high salary I knew I’d receive by eventually becoming a clinical psychologist. Of course, I was interested in the subject as well, but I can’t say that I was driven solely by love of psychology as a discipline.
As I entered my sophomore year of college , I began to waver. I didn’t have some awe-inspiring epiphany that made me see the light of English. I just knew psychology wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t my passion, and I wasn’t happy pursuing it. I listened to my gut and decided to see what else was out there. When faced with unhappiness, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. So I did.
English was staring me plain in the face the entire time. All my life I was the girl with her nose in a book. Rather than grounding me from television or playing with my friends, my parents would take away my book for the day. I had towering stacks of books piled haphazardly around my room year-round. I went on to take every English class offered at my high school. Teachers would jokingly say I was trying to steal their jobs. I won English Student of the Year my senior year. Everyone knew I would end up being an English major except me.
So why didn’t I choose English from the get-go? Simple: I didn’t want to do what was expected of me. Our generation is so weighted down by expectations, whether it is from our family, friends, teachers, or the media. It is natural to want to rebel… but rebellion isn’t always right. Sometimes the expectations others hold for you, annoyingly, are exactly the ones you should hold for yourself.
Once I decided on English during my sophomore year, everything else fell into place. Everything I was learning became suddenly interesting. I actually looked forward to doing my reading assignments and going to class every day. I found kindred spirits not only in my peers but my professors. I was finally embracing my genuine self, and it felt good. I knew this was how college should feel: exploring a subject you are passionate about and learning about not only the material at hand but yourself. This kind of happiness and self-acceptance was something I always strived for but never truly obtained. I can only hope my future career brings me as much joy as my major has brought me over these years.
I will graduate this December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Am I one-hundred percent certain of what I want to do in five years? No. Am I one-hundred percent certain of my decision to pursue an English degree? Yes. I genuinely hope every college student can say the same about their major. Don’t get caught up in the money, expectations, and fear. Go with your gut and do what you love. Everything else will follow.