November 29, 2014

Being: An English Major

If you've read any of those articles about 'the best college majors', English (as well as Arts and Humanities) majors are never on the list. It's always some kind of Engineer, Science, or Computer related major. This post isn't about what it's like to be an English major per se, but about my evolution as a student, what I've learned and why I am thankful to be an English major, even if it's not one of those lucrative majors, what I've gained has no price tag. 

When I first started college, I had my heart set on becoming a Psychiatrist. People told me I was a good listener, and I had helped many people sort through their issues with a dose of common sense and offbeat humor that no one understood. I took a Psychology course in high school where there was one big project: plan your life. We were paired with the opposite sex (aka 'hubby') given a budget and told to plan our lives. Keep in mind this was a D rated public school. I thought if this is Psychology I can do this in my sleep! So, I did some research and in order to be a Psychiatrist you need a Baccalaureate Science degree plus 3-4 years of med school. Math and science (aka numbers and satan) are my absolute worst subjects. I don't do numbers and science is illogical. But I said 'I got dissss' and became a Biology major. 

Biology is actually the easiest of the sciences. It makes more real world sense to me than the other sciences. John Mayer and the band Earth, Wind, and Fire said it best "[Our] bodies are a [boogie] wonderland". When you're a Biology major you don't just do biology that would be much too easy! There's Chemistry (Inorganic or Organic), Physics, Trigonometry, Microbiology, Pathology, etc. but I said 'I got disss' and kept pushing. First semester I took 6 classes which was one of the hardest semesters of my college career. After 2 years of tears, tantrums, and test tubes I traded my lab coat for a badge in humanities. 

I never thought I'd be one of those students that changed their major more than once, because they couldn't decide what they wanted to be (those losers), but turns out that was me. I was a loser. First I changed my major to Psychology...Boy (or girl..Heyyy feminists) was I in for a rude awakening. So you mean Psychology is not as easy as common sense and has nothing to do with creating faux marriages and making dope powerpoints with over stretched pixelized pictures from Google about my dream life?! Ok, I was not that naive, I knew what Psychology was but I thought it would be easy nonetheless. I remember going to my academic advisor and she asked me why I wanted to be a Psych major. If there had been an audience I would've won an Oscar for my performance. True, I wanted to become a Psychiatrist but mostly because of what other people said and because of the huge paycheck it would bring but I truly didn't know why I wanted to a Psychiatrist. What did I want? I remember saying something in my speech to my advisor about mental health, Prozac Nation, and Dr. Phil. To give it a flair of American patriotism I went on a tangent about Apple Pie, Lady Liberty, and NASCAR. I even had a twinkle in my eye.

I cannot imagine what went through my advisor's head when I switched my major 6 months later to English. What happened to the Schizophrenic lady in green carrying an apple pie in the middle of a NASCAR race that inspired me to major in Psych? Somewhere in Prozac Nation watching Dr. Phil scream at guests about their mental health I suppose. (See what I did there?)

Before I could read I was a reader. I remember receiving this book about Snow White from my mom when I was about 3 years old. I couldn't read but I looked at the pictures and made up my own story. I even got a pen and 'wrote' my story in the book (they were actually just squiggly lines, therefore, I was writing in script at 3...Fancy). I wish I could find that book so someone could sell it on eBay for 30,000,000 to one of my future rich (and crazed) fanatics. Because truth be told I wouldn't even spend that kind of money on my own damn self. 

Even though I had my speech ready my advisor didn't ask me why I wanted to become an English major, she was probably still in shock due to my first 'performance'. People have always told me that I have writing talent. I don't think I'm that great but I've always enjoyed writing and reading. However, I didn't want to be put in a situation where I was following a career based on what other people thought. Why did I want to major in English? Why couldn't I just drag myself through Biology stuff? Science degrees will always triumph over humanities/liberal studies degrees in terms of pay and job availability so the choice should've been obvious right?

I took a semester of liberal arts classes and I fell in love. I'm about to give a speech here but this one is honest and from the heart, unlike my 'why I want to be a Psychiatrist' speech that I contrived in front of my advisor. 

As with Biology, when you major in English you don't only study literature and writing but also Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Religion, Foreign Language(s), etc. For the first time in a really, really long time I was excited to learn. I wanted to absorb everything, I researched, I thought critically, I asked questions, and the best part is that I became so empathetic. Learning about various cultures, societal norms/issues, and even studying the bible and Jesus in an academic way changed me. Sidenote: I attend a private, Catholic college. I just loved learning about the human experience something that's so amazing yet we take it for granted. We do the human experience everyday yet we're all moving so fast we don't take the time to analyze it, ask questions, and a good bit of people don't even care about their fellow man. I've always had good values instilled in me from my parents but studying English has made me a better person and self-development is priceless. *Cue Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' This may be ironic but self-development can actually make you more selfless, at least that's how it happened for me. I really feel like a hippie, all I want is a world full of peace understanding and compassion. As MJ said "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change".  

So back to majoring in English...Yes, there's a lot of reading and writing but most of all it's a lot of critical thinking, and all the answers are never blatantly there but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I feel so blessed to be able to see things from different perspectives and I know how to care even without fully understanding. Priceless. I still don't know exactly what I want to be, but I just know that I want to spread what I have learned by serving people. I either want to be a writer, librarian, or teacher. If I'm lucky, maybe all of them simultaneously.

So, anyone out there want to pay off my massive student loans? They ar
en't quite priceless...

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