When I was in high school I was tempted by the idea of pursuing an English major. I liked the idea of my homework being comprised of reading and writing. But, I didn’t like the idea of writing research papers (the worst genre of essay in my firm opinion) or having a lack of job prospects after I graduated.
I was told that English was a worthless major; mostly because I was told that English was a worthless major. I remember listening to a kid in high school who was making fun of some of the college decisions that my peers made. He talked about how stupid it was that people chose “liberal majors” in terms of liberal arts and liberal-leaning classes. I was younger back then and a lot more insecure. I internalized what he and countless others have said and decided to leave my English major dreams behind. Instead, I pursued writing and promised to take on another major that would lead me to apply to law school.
It didn’t last long.
I thought about doing philosophy for a second. Philosophy majors did exceptionally well in the LSAT. Then, I thought about Political Science--perhaps I’d learn more about the political system. After a few classes, I realized that I didn’t feel eager to learn. I realized that a life of law was not in the future for me. Still eager to find a solid career I decided to pursue journalism. But, this too lost its luster. Although I still work within journalistic endeavors (hi Her Campus!), I realized that journalism wasn’t the love of my life.
I love words. I love reading about things that didn’t happen and will probably never happen. For most of my life, I’ve been too embarrassed to say that I’m a romance writer. But, there comes a time in life where you get tired of pretending. I decided to pursue an English major because I knew I would love it. There was no other reason. I just wanted to.
It was one of the best decisions of my life.
One of the strangest parts of my major is the fact that I’ve learned to look at a piece of writing and be able to navigate a plethora of ways to examine it. For one class I remember we had to look at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and write a series of essays surrounding different topics including race, class, gender, examining punitive structures, and countless subjects. It sounds so geeky but I love when I would get into a groove in an essay and I found myself crafting a convincing argument. It’s such a gratifying experience.
I’ve also learned how to write quickly and effectively. One of the worst things is when you turn an assignment in and you see all of the red ink. One of the things you learn as an English major is that your best work could always be better. Looking back on assignments that I turned in even a semester ago I can see the growth that I’ve made.
During my junior year, I decided that I wanted to pursue a Writing MFA. There were a few people who were sure to tell me that the degree would be a waste of my time. My experience as an English major made me realize that some people won’t “get” my ambitions. But, that’s okay because I do. Next year I’ll be working towards achieving an MFA at Columbia University and I couldn’t have done it without pursuing my English major.
Not to sound dramatic but my English major has completely changed the way I look and experience the world. I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself that I should trust my instincts. It took me and will continue to take me far.