I read a lot of articles about why English majors are awesome. I read about people who have successfully received jobs after graduating with an English degree. I talk to my graduate friends and encourage the heck out of them. I tell them they have special skills. I tell them they will succeed. I hope that they will, but I’m not sure. It has nothing to do with them. They are talented, they have good work experiences and they deserve jobs. Do I think someone will hire them? I don’t know. Mostly I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get a job.
As an English major, there has been no shortage of reality checks. Every day professors are warning us. In attempts to prepare us for that proverbial “real world’ I’ve been genuinely scared out of my mind. It’s not possible for us to do enough. We have to have good internships which can cost a lot of money and are very hard to get. I am always being encouraged but in a tempered way. My fiancé is a pharmacy student. He will have a job when he graduates and passes his boards. I will have an English degree from a liberal arts university and a lot of debt. No one will stop telling me that. You might be very successful, they imply, but you also might fall flat on your face. Don’t take it personally. “If all else fails, marry rich.”
I take it personally. No matter how many articles I read about the merits of an English degree and the value of humanities, I don’t expect to be hired. I have a perfect GPA, internship experience and a ton leadership experience in extra curriculars but so does everyone else. I know the merits of what I study. Since entering college, I think more deeply and critically than I could have imagined. My writing has grown immensely. I can handle stress and multitask sufficiently. I love what I do. I don’t want to think about making a living someday, because I know what passion feels like and I’m desperately afraid that I won’t find it in the workplace. What if I am perpetually bored? That seems impossible to stomach, and yet I feel selfish to consider such pleasantries. A job is a job.
Not only that, but every successful English major I’ve ever met or read about has followed quite the convoluted path. Some degrees and careers are pretty well outlined. You have to do A, B and C to get hired at D. English majors almost never end up where they intended. Is that an exaggeration, maybe, but it feels real. There seems to be no sufficient amount of preparation that leads to the end you want, if you have an end goal in mind. It seems like trying to come up with a plan is fruitless, but the non English majors are confused that much. They ask “what do you want to do” as if it is that easy. As if what I want is possible.
I wasn’t going to be that girl. I knew that I was choosing a hard path when I chose it. I had a plan. I worked hard and put in the extra effort to follow the plan. It seemed like a good one. Now it seems more and more futile as time passes.
I understand that this is whiny and indulgent. I had to write this, though, because I know I am not alone. No matter how many people I know or read about who are in the exact same place I am, I feel like I’m the only one. It’s ok to be afraid. We all are. It’s time we stop pretending that we aren’t. We need to accept the place we are is a part of what we’ve chosen. We need to talk about it. We need to so we can kick the fear in the face. It won’t go away, but it will have less power. I don’t know what’ll happen next. I don’t have to.