Coming into college I had a clear view of what I wanted to do in life. I started as an English and journalism major with a minor in theater – I still have it. It was great. I was loving life. I completed more than 40 credit hours my first year of college from bringing in AP credits, dual credit from a community college course I took my senior year of high school, and an awesome study abroad trip after my freshman year of college, and it changed my perspective on life as I entered my sophomore year.
The more I progressed into my college career, the more odd questions I received when I’d talk about what I wanted to do.
“Oh, but you’ll teach eventually, right?”
“Good luck in the future – you’re not going to be making any money.”
“Aw, that’s really cool. I wish I could do something that would make me happy. Are your parents okay with your degree choice?”
I mean, Geez Louise, I hadn’t quite experienced or really understood what microaggressions were until it came to talking about my degree. There is such a stereotype associated with liberal arts majors, particularly those that involve writing or performing of any sort.
Flash-forward two years, and I am a junior who is quickly approaching real-life adulthood. Or “adulting,” as many people call it. And I am so not ready. Yet oddly, I kind of feel like I am.
We have had a few reading assignments in this course, Liberal Arts at Work, and the most helpful and least lecture-like was “You Majored in WHAT?” by Katharine Brooks. The title itself is a bit daunting, but opening the book was like seeing a friendship blossom – the text was my favorite kind: conversational. The very first chapter, “A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings and You Find a Job: Chaos and Your Career Plans,” spoke to my soul, as if the author wrote it specifically to me.
It reads: “Has it happened yet? Have you been asked THE QUESTION? You know the one: it’s the question that cuts to the core of your existence, the question that haunts you pretty much from the time you decide to be a college student to months, even years, after you graduate. It starts so innocently. Someone asks you what your major is, so you tell them. There’s a slight pause. Then comes THE QUESTION: ‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT?’ OK, think fast… And that’s how the lie begins…” (Brooks 1).
It was an interesting moment to be reading a book silently, and then loudly exclaim, “YES! You understand!” A couple pages later I came across a chart that had degrees matched up with sensible careers, and the next page showed the real chart – some of the jobs people had started after college really did not have anything to do with their degree at all.
So what is happening to my planned out life? My academic four-year plan has been edited time and time again, and what about my plan for once I graduate? There are so many options. Instead of being that travelling journalist I dreamed of being, I’m actually considering moving to Los Angeles or Chicago after graduation to pursue professional comedy (what a funny paradox, huh). I’m even considering going into student affairs, mentoring and guiding students like me (and some not-so like me) into finding what makes them truly happy as well.
I came across an article a couple days ago from Business Insider that was a response to a blog post written by a former Yelp/Eat24 employee named Talia Jane to her CEO about her compensation, which ended up getting her fired. She complains about the amount of money she makes and brings up how graduating with a degree in English literature inspired her to go into media, but she isn’t living how she dreamed she would. The response to the post, written by another millennial named Stefanie Williams, addresses the concerns but also explains the world of work ethics. Reading the original post, I empathized with the author, thinking “Down with Yelp! English majors are so much more than what you think!” (especially after a couple negative experiences I had at a college-sponsored career fair where English majors were pretty much frowned upon). But Williams’ post educated me and also reassured me that my major is not in the wrong, and I have the power to be anything I want to be, whether that’s a journalist for Buzzfeed, a hall director involved with student affairs or even a professional improv comedian.
A part that really spoke to me in this post is as follows: “Being an English major isn’t the problem … turning this girl’s inability to work for what she wants into a conversation about poverty (Poverty! She lives in the Bay Area alone and has a corporate job and can afford fancy bourbon! Not exactly the picture of a third world crisis!) and wage issues, it’s utter b——-. This is about this girl’s personal responsibility to be an adult and find a job, or two (God forbid she have to give up a weekend day to be a waitress), an an affordable living situation and an affordable city in which to work…” It really does not matter in the long run – what matters is what you do with and for yourself to become successful. My liberal arts degree is not just a certificate telling employers I know how to read and analyze literature (although that is a part of it). It is so much more – I am flexible. And so far in my career exploration, I’ve realized this: Once you realize life is not everything you have written down in a four-year plan, you can start living and simply, grow up.