I Think My English Major Might Be Worthless And I'm Scared, Y'all

I decided to major in English because I thoroughly enjoy discussing fine literature with gay men and old people, and because really, what could be better than explaining why "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is about a brothel as a homework assignment? Nothing. Nothing is better.

Nov 9, 2012 at 6:00pm | Leave a comment

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This is from my summer abroad. Will my real degree mean any more?

Full disclosure: I started writing this piece before Kate Conway’s article went up last week. I had a FULL ON panic attack when I saw it because, um, I’m about to be exactly that annoying twenty-something. Oops. #Internproblems.

I’m graduating this coming May and the world is scary out there, y’all. (I like to say "y’all" when I’m trying to be approachable and friendly, and this is CLEARLY one of those times.) I don’t want to graduate. The idea of leaving my comfortable little college bubble scares the shit out of me -- quite literally, I’m constipated.

Although I go to a school that’s in the middle of a major city (holla, Boston!) that offers us opportunities to take six months off of academia to work in the “real world,” I am not fooled. Mommy and Daddy still pay for my apartment and I go home at night to three roommates I’ve known since I was living off dining hall food. I go to bars where I know essentially every person there -- and if I don’t know you, you’re probably visiting or lost or something. That world is comfortable. The real world is anything but.

Despite my never-ending efforts to push these fears from my mind, people insist on bringing them back up. People I don’t even know! It may be my fault for picking such an ambiguous major, but if I have one more person ask me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I’m going to scream. AS IF YOU DON’T KNOW I’M GROWN UP ALREADY, YOU ASSHAT.

I’m an English major (cue the dramatic music). I decided to major in English because I thoroughly enjoy discussing fine literature with gay men and old people and because, really, what could be better than explaining why "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is about a brothel as a homework assignment? Nothing. Nothing is better.

I spent the first half of my freshman year as a Cultural Anthropology major with the misguided idea that I was going to change the world and spend all day writing ethnographies. Instead I was in two-hundred-person lectures learning about economics (ew) and watching sheltered students gawk at other cultures. Not my cup of tea. But the world of English Literature is all about the tea! We have ‘English Major Teas’ where we sip Earl Grey and reminisce about the day we realized Emily Dickinson wasn't a role model -- she was a crazy agoraphobe! How could I not want to be a part of this?

But being an English major has certain unfortunate connotations. My college peers think I am some kind of feminist who sews her own clothes and reads Jane Austen on Friday nights. This is not totally unfounded: I can honestly say there are several of these crafty ladies in my classes. However, I almost failed Home Ec. because I couldn’t embroider a pillow. I generally enjoy wild drunken weekends and, although I’m a huge fan of stifled Victorian women and their writing, for me there is no YA novel too whiny or mystery series too trashy.     

The real issue here is what adults think. Adults think I am doomed and wholly unemployable, and they are not afraid to voice their concerns. The conversation usually goes like this:

Adult: “And what are you studying?” 

Me: English Literature.

Adult: Oh. And what do you plan to do with that?

My standard response has become something about marketing jobs and freelance writing, but it has finally reached a point where I decided I would turn my life’s studies and passion into a joke -- because obviously that’s how other people see it. “I’m studying English. And by that I mean unemployment,” I deadpan. Usually this causes their fit of uncomfortable laughter, not noticing I'm still standing there, totally not feeling the hilarity of my future. But even then there’s always the overly inquisitive friend of the family or career-minded dude at the bar (THE BAR!) who just has to know, “What do you plan to do with that?” I plan to shove it up your ass, that’s what I plan to do.

So with the end of higher education looming over my head, I have found myself -- more than ever -- haunted by this question. I really have no idea what I plan to do with my English major. The thought of applying to jobs where employers might assume that I’m underqualified for any type of money making literally makes me nauseous. I know that I’m obviously not alone in this, that every graduating collegiate fears the future, but my real issue is that I wonder if I screwed myself over. Did choosing to major in something I love, instead of something with a clear path and practical application, set me up for disaster? 

So xoJane readers, I have to know: what should I do? Shall I flee the country? Hide out in grad school? Become a dog walker? Guide me with your wisdom or just tell me I'm screwed!