The State of the English Major
We are happy to introduce our new blogger: Fatima Ahmed
Source: Zoitz: a capricious webcomic (http://www.zoitz.com/archives/38)
We’ve all heard the jokes and we’ve all seen the memes. English majors can’t do anything but work at McDonald’s or Starbucks for a living. We are a group of the most uselessly educated students and a dispensable resource. Our thoughts, ideas and input is so extremely worthless that we will all be inevitably unsuccessful. Well, that makes me feel swell. No, it makes me really angry. I don’t like the way people squish their eyebrows in disappointment at me when I tell them what I study. I don’t like how all I hear is that I have no right to complain about my workload because I’m an English student. I don’t like how people say “Really? You’re just studying English?” Just.
I will admit, I was quite prejudiced towards English Literature as a legitimate field of scholarly study when I was in high school. Books were and always have been a hobby of mine. But I was never expected to take them seriously. Come to think of it, maybe I didn’t take them seriously when I was in high school. It was reiterated to me multiple times that the humanities were a joke, something to think about and indulge in from time to time but never to take too seriously. At my school, sciences were such a major component of what we studied that anything else was met with curious and disapproving glances. Of course, my eyes were at fault for committing the same mistakes. Hobbies aren’t supposed to be serious work. My mother always said “Your work isn’t supposed to be fun. You do it and get it over with.” This seemed to imply that fun was inherently unproductive and easy to do. Conversely, work was nothing to be enjoyed and certainly not fun because, of course, fun was the opposite of productive. I had believed that to be true my entire life and maybe still do on some level. It’s difficult to break past beliefs you’ve had for a long time. This is the baggage I carry with me into the English Majors Program at UBC. This is the decision I made. This is the risk I took.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I will admit to questioning myself multiple times as to the practicality of my decision. I will acknowledge that I by no means have any idea of what I’m doing with my life. I don’t even really know how this degree will translate into a successful life for me. What I can say is that when I walk to class, not in the crisp autumn air, but in an unrelenting downpour of water and I look at the world that has been built around me, it is now different than it was before. This is such a cliché, but I see everything in a different light. I genuinely care about what I study. I’m discovering the depths and breadths of what it means to be a person, and by extension, what it means to be me. I see why certain things are as ridiculous as they are; I question that which is accepted passively; I understand what it means to be a certain way which is different than other ways; I know how things can come to matter to some people and not others and I know how different stories can come to diverge and converge. I’ve learned what it means to be critical, analytical, doubtful, accepting, assuming, thoughtful, passionate, loved, confused, tormented, communicative, mute, silent, hurt, upset and blank. I’ve learned about emotions and narratives which are both buried deep in the past and currently emerging this very second. I’ve stood where people think they’re too worthy to stand and I’ve peeked into life.
I can’t tell you why this degree is a good idea. I couldn’t make that case. What I can say is that I’m meeting people who think like I do and experience the same amount of self-satisfaction I do when I read a good book. What I can say is that I am fascinated with all the words that have come into my life and how they mould me in a very substantial way. This isn’t a story about how I did what my heart said and how everything turned out well. I won’t tell you to not care about success or money and to do what you love. There is no happy ending; no ending at all in fact. Just a continued story of what I do now that I am officially an English major.