On multiple occasions, the English major (usually during holidays, family get-togethers, and awkward introductions) is subject to the ever daunting “Now, what are you going to do with that?” question that seems to plague the mind of every adult that encounters a young person going into the humanities.
In my case, The Big Question is usually met with some sort of evasive, uncomfortable fake-laugh that quickly switches into a favorable change of subject.
English majors aren’t the only ones who face this sort of skepticism from others—I’ve known plenty of philosophy, art, and history students who can smile and relate to The Big Question when I bring it up—but they’re some of the most common. When you decide to study the humanities, English is almost your safest bet, as it can lead you in any number of different directions. However, people don’t realize that this applies to almost any degree that one can earn after college.
What, after all, is the point of a degree anyways?
I’m aware that not everyone is going to grow up and become the next Steven Spielberg (English), Conan O’Brien (History & American Literature), or Ted Turner (Classics), but I’ve decided that money is a lousy way to measure your success in life anyway. But the real question is: is your career a measure of your success? Maybe—if you define success that way—but I think your career also is a measure of your happiness. What you decide to major in while attending college is which direction you choose to take in a yellow wood; the road less-traveled makes all the difference.
However, Robert Frost didn’t mention that the road less traveled could dump you back onto the main path that you started on in the first place. It could taper off early and you might have to beat your way through the trees in order to find a cleaning. It could diverge again, and then what do you do? You may start off with engineering and then discover art—only to change your mind again when theatre and music are introduced. Yes, there may be bumps along the way, insecurities, doubts, and unexpectancies that cause you to stumble—but why should that deter you from trying?