“What is your major?”
“I’m studying English and Creative Writing.”
“I’m sorry. Are you going to be a teacher?”
“Then what are you going to do with it?”
Unfortunately, this is how most of my conversations go when people ask how I spend my time at my university. Rather than being excited or intrigued when someone, such as myself, is studying an abstract subject, people tend to seem confused as though it is highly improbable I will ever find a career in this area of study. It is as though just because I do not receive training in a medical, scientific, or engineering field, I will resort to failure, and then succumb to working a menial job without benefits or a salary.
Well, this is where the latter point differs from the stereotypical idea of the English major. You see, even though my major is not designed for specific careers, I possess the ability to completely mold my future career.
Let’s create a physical model so you know exactly what I mean. Place your palms and fingertips together as though they are in a praying motion. Now, interlock your fingers. In almost every other major, this is how content area and careers align. In classes, you specifically learn how to do what you will eventually accomplish in your future places of employment.
Now, let’s move on to the English major: Place your hands in the same praying motion. Now, rotate your left hand slightly forward and your right hand slightly back. Do you see how you can longer intertwine your fingers? The goal of the English major is to shift them back to their original position so the fingers can interlock. We learn an array of what we call “soft skills.” They are the skills we learn in order to become successful writers, communicators, thinkers, and people. We learn the different ideologies the great thinkers of the past taught us, and we learn how to apply them to our everyday lives.
We can become innate teachers, professors, writers, journalists, lawyers, philosophers, speakers, explorers, thinkers, and doers. We are the people who took the “You can become anything you want” lesson literally when we were mere five-year-olds. We threw aside the stereotypical college career path, and we decided to mold our own because we realized the system could not alone help us. We realized we needed to become our own people, saviors, and believers because we did not want to be another product of the system.
Those who do choose to pursue majors in which they receive specific training chose those paths in the same way we chose ours. They enjoy the methodical and explained approach, while we realized we would not benefit in those fields. In the same way, those souls venturing into the world of well-crafted careers specific for their majors would not benefit from pursuing our chosen area of study.
Within my major, I have met people from all walks of life, and we tend to understand each other and our different backgrounds. Some people grew up with loving families, while others did not. Some people have known since they were in elementary school they wanted to be writers, and others are simply just now realizing this fact because they tried too long to ignore the burn within their chest taking them to the alter to declare a lifelong responsibility to hone their crafts.
We struggle with commitment to career choices because, really, we all love the written word. We possess the ability to create. We understand we need to transform our desires into physical beings held softly within our hands. Words possess the power to transform sadness into belonging, and we all want to be an aid to resolving the conflict others may feel.
English majors want to do more than write in our notebooks. We want to teach everyone words do have the power to heal and comfort. While we write to understand situations, others take words in order to make sense of situations happening they may not understand. Addiction may confiscate their lives or happiness may try to hide, but by reading even a simple sentence, they might be able to change their world. Wars are waging around the world, but words may be the only magic strong enough to heal.
Next time you doubt the future of a current English major, stop yourself. What are you doing for the world with your career path? Our tool belts may be just as equipped as yours.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.