Going back to school can be a tough decision. Going back through distance education can be even tougher. Questions haunt you: will I have the dedication to see this through? do I really know what I am getting myself into? I don’t want to waste my money, what if I try a course and it doesn’t work out? All these questions filtered through my mind as I made the choice, several years ago, to go back to school. I also made the decision to major in English. Luckily, I followed my heart on that choice and did not poke around the internet too much, or, really, talk to many people about this decision. The first thing I have learned is that, even if you do not proceed and finish a program, there is no education that is a waste of money. Well, mostly none, there has been the odd course that I probably didn’t need, but, I have taken something away from each, so I am going to stick with the idea that none of them have been a waste of money. The other thing I have discovered is that English majors have a bad reputation! Which, yes, I did know going into it, but certainly not to the degree that it is.
Having several years under my belt now, I have found that, now and then, I will need a little pick me up, some study motivation, I will search for “English Major” in Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube ? looking for just something mindless to let my brain rest and maybe rejuvenate me enough to run through yet another edit on a paper. What I have found on there is typically less than motivational. Though, it has got my blood boiling enough to get motivated and back to my studies, so, I guess you could say it worked?
If you are an English major, you have, without a doubt, faced scrutiny. Unless you live on the moon or never ever tell anyone what your major is. The one question I get asked, every time, without fail, before anything else, when I tell someone I am majoring in English is, “So, you want to be a teacher?” Alas, no. No I do not. This is generally followed by, “but, isn’t that, like, the ONLY thing you can do?” At which I have to roll my eyes.
The myth that teaching is your only option makes people think they are suddenly experts on your job prospects, and therefore they have the right to tell you what you should do instead of going to school. I saw a YouTube video months ago where a student felt like it was his responsibility to dictate to the world how to go about becoming a writer: first, never go to school to become a writer as that is lame, who needs school to learn how to write? He advised that the prospective student get a part time job at a coffee shop and just write. Well, yes, you do need to write to get better at writing, and maybe some people do not really need to go to school to find what they want to write about, or learn how to write. You certainly do not require a degree to write. However, I find it laughable that this person believes they know what is best for everyone. Personally, I would not be where I am without my English major. I would not be writing articles for The Voice Magazine. I would not have the confidence in my writing that I am obtaining through my thousands of essays. What would I be doing? Probably still writing, writing that no one would see, that I would never share with anyone, and that I could never hope to make a career out of.
I have learnt to take it all in stride, the mockery, the laughing, the jokes that always come after I say I am an English major with zero intention of teaching. The smirks and looks I get suggesting I have lost my mind and will be back working a minimum wage, dead end job once I have finished my degree. Which, you never know, maybe I will be. But that will not be all I am doing. And, I know I am not alone, a vast majority of people who have received their English degrees, or are in the progress of receiving them, will tell you how incredibly worthwhile the journey is, or was. I have been congratulated on following my passion and not letting the pressures of society steer me another direction. In all reality, perusing a degree which you love, regardless of what it is in, will open up many career opportunities. English degrees open up so many job options, it is a little scarier because you are not being molded into that one perfect job, and you will not walk away from school and directly into a career. After school is complete you will continue to learn and grow and find your place in the world, while others may be working at their job. But, what sense would it be to take a fast track to a career that you do not love? What would be the point of going to school for years only to wind up with a job you do not like? I guess it would probably pay well, but money is not everything. You need to enjoy your life.
There are many wonderful things about being an English major. Of course there is, or else no one would pursue it. For myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed the courses I have taken, and actually really like to watch my book collection grow. Even if it means always being in need of bookshelves. I am introduced to genres that I likely would not have picked up on my own. I have learned lots about history and writing styles. Through the process I have really discovered a lot about myself, each course has taught me something about who I am and who I want to be.
There are many misconceptions about English majors, one being every single English major is a punctuation nut! While I am really hoping this will turn out to be true by the time I am done my degree?the struggle is real. I have a love-hate relationship with commas and really wish it could just be a love relationship. English majors are believed to be condescending when correcting people’s word usage on the internet. Now, I can only speak for myself on this one, but I actually refuse to correct people on social media, because, well, I don’t want people to think I am being condescending. But, when I am tempted to correct someone’s usage of “there, they’re, or their”, “to, too, or two” or the dreaded “your, and You’re” I am tempted to do so because I want to help. I want to teach you the difference. Unfortunately, I have pretty well come to the conclusion that no one really cares, as much as it saddens me, and restrict myself to correcting business emails when asked (mostly, ok, sometimes when I am not asked.) I firmly believe that English majors are not grammar Nazis, it is just an attempt to share knowledge. No one else gets ridiculed for sharing their knowledge with the social world.
The thing with being an English major is you are not alone. The world is full of successful English majors. They clearly did not waste their time by going to school. While you may find the odd one who will tell you not to bother following in their path, there are many more who benefited from the experience. The experience is your own and it is what you make it. If you follow your heart and your passion I don’t think you can go wrong.
So, here is to the English majors, and all the other majors that have a bad reputation, take pride in following your own path and learn to laugh at the smirks, mockery, and overall disgust for your degree. Know that by following your passion you are doing something significant. As Taylor Swift would say, haters gunna hate, you just have to shake it off (shake it off).
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature