As an English major, or really any liberal arts major, you often hear, “So what are you going to do with your degree?”, or even worse, “Good luck finding a job with that”. Emphasis on the “that”. It’s like some kind of atrocity that I’ve chosen to study the written English language and the centuries of literature it has produced. Because for some people, the fact that my major will not lead me down a specific path to a predetermined profession makes it somewhat less valid than others. My family, for example, seems to fall into this category. When I told my parents I was changing my major (from nursing to English of all things), their only response was, “But why??” They couldn’t possibly fathom why I would want to give up my chance at a ‘real’, well-paying profession “just to read”. My sister’s response? “You’re wasting your intelligence”.
I spoke to my grandmother on the phone the other day. After the obligatory “How are you?’s, she steered the subject towards my upcoming graduation – and I knew what was coming: “So what are your plans for after graduation? Where are you applying to grad school? Will you have a job lined up for you?” I had to break it to her that “No, Grandma, I’m not going to grad school”. She was so disappointed. She doesn’t think I could possibly get a good job with my degree, regardless of the countless hours I’ve put into my schoolwork. To be fair, she did give me some credit for my communication skills, but I know she’s thinking how that’s not nearly enough to support me. What’s worse, I made the mistake of telling her I’ve considered law school if everything else fails. It was only to placate her, but I could feel her excitement through the phone. It was completely disappointing to hear that change in her voice—for her to be disappointed when I’m doing something that I absolutely love, but then for her to be over the moon about something purely for the fact that I “would have a real profession”. But what she doesn’t realize is that it’s not about money. Or prestige. Or a position of power or whatever else it is that she values. It’s about doing what I love and feeling like what I’m studying is actually worthwhile. I’ve learned to be more empathetic, more understanding. I’ve learned to be more open minded and to respect others’ opinions. I’ve just learned to be a better person in general. That means so much more to me than making money. So I hate to break it to you, Grandma, but I’m not going to be a lawyer.