When I was amidst my senior year of high school and deciding what I wanted to major in in college, I spread out my options and looked at all the things that interested me most. I’ve never been a science kid, nor mathematics; and while I have great respect and appreciation for the subjects, I just knew that they weren’t for me. English seemed to be calling my name… it was always one of my favorite classes throughout school, one of my strongest, too— so, dreaming of a career in writing, I chose to major in English Language and Literature.
I’d felt drawn to this major since I’d started thinking about what I wanted to do. And when I was asked about what I wanted to do, the countless amount of times that you naturally are, I was nervous to say that I wanted to major in English. I was afraid of what people would say; if they would judge me, belittle my choice, make me feel foolish for wanting to pursue writing as a career… then on top of that, give me that look that tells me if they were in my position, they’d go a different route and advise that maybe I should too. Let me down easy. A lot of the time, this fear was the reality.
As important as money is—and it is undeniably very important—loving what you do is equally, if not more important. If you love what you do: it doesn’t feel like a job, you’re motivated to do it, you want to go to work, you produce your best work when it’s on something you’re interested in, and since occupation is crucial to life, to live a happy one, doing what you love and what you’re passionate about plays a huge role in making that happen. Wanting to go into a career in writing with a degree in English is a tough industry, full of innumerable competition, and won’t make the most money. But it doesn’t matter.
A lot of this comes down to a matter of opinion and what you are interested in of course, and I know there’s people out there who could care less about the subject. I have friends of mine who can’t fathom having to take even one more English course; let alone pursuing it as a major. But, for a senior in high school or an undecided college student who’s debating on majoring in English, I stand alongside you. Here’s why.
A misconception about the major is that it consists of reading a million books and writing a million essays, just to read and write them. While it sometimes feels like this is indeed what we do, there’s much more to it. When I say that everything has a reason behind it, I intend to be real with you. Sometimes, the blue curtains are blue in a poem not because they symbolize sadness, but because blue was the first color that popped into the author’s head. I get it. And I’m with you, sometimes. (P.S., a lot of the times the blue curtains represent sadness.) But even in situations like this, the fact remains that there is meaning behind everything.
There are countless novels, short stories, poems, narratives, etc. that cover so many different things and tell so many different stories. All of those genres and various mediums of writing give us as readers— of any area of study or leisure—insight into the meaning behind the piece we’re working with. And more times than not, there’s this relatable quality to them that we resonate with. What has kept writing and all of its forms alive, is storytelling, and the way it makes us feel something.
We humans enjoy feeling something, especially the good things. Studying English Language and Literature has taught me the importance of valuing psychology above all else because a good story appeals to people’s emotions, desires, interests, passions, imaginations and perceptions. Yes, it’s really that serious. There are multiple aspects falling under the umbrella of what studying English actually entails. You’re always calling on your knowledge from other subjects— history, science, social sciences (to name a few), when analyzing a story, putting all of these pieces together to make a nice big puzzle of meaning.
As unnecessarily deep as you might think all of this, being an English major has taught me an array of lessons. It’s taught me how to value emotion, experience, storytelling and humanity. It’s taught me how to find meaning, even behind the things that feel too hard to find meaning behind. It’s taught me how to take a step back from a situation and figure out what I’m actually seeing in front of me, it’s taught me how to hear people, listen to them and engage with them. All of which, and more, are lessons that I’ve learned from my major that are worth having in life.
No, this wasn’t meant to make you go and enroll as an English major. And no, this wasn’t to make you read just to read. I ask that you pursue what you dream of pursuing; what you love to do; without fear of what anyone will say. If it happens to be English, so be it— and welcome to the club. If it doesn’t, I wish you the most success in achieving your dream; and valuing everyone else’s while you’re at it. We all have a story to tell, and one to write. Prioritize making yours a happy one.