I was the young girl who wrote stories in her bedroom to share with my teachers during recess while all the other kids ran around on the playground. I was the young girl who received Barnes & Noble gift cards and book series box sets for Christmas (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, and Twilight). I had known through all of my high school years that I was going to be an English major in college. It was my favorite subject simply because it required the two things that I loved to do: reading and writing. In my sophomore year when I was preparing to take the English regents I would cry at the impossibility of writing 4 WHOLE PARAGRAPHS in one night and my teacher would laugh at me and say that I could do it, but that moment of suffering was a small price to pay so that I wouldn’t have to pretend that I like math or science. The reason I say “pretend” is because usually people believe that any kind of major involving math or science, such as Business or Biology, will be more rewarding after graduation than something artsy like English. I almost fell victim to this pressure my freshman year of college. I was worried about committing to the English major because people were psyching me out with that age-old question, “What are you going to do with that?” It seemed like the standard line of questioning for anyone who was an English major. “So, you want to be a teacher?” “But isn’t English the language you already speak?” (That’s the hardest one to answer for my Puerto Rican family members).
People have given me funny looks and have even discouraged me from pursuing a degree in English, politely explaining to me that if I do something like business instead, I might actually get a job. So one day, I told my advisor, Kristen Swaney, that I was having doubts about being an English major. I worried about wasting 4 years (and thousands of dollars) on something that would yield no reward. Thankfully, she didn’t jump to change my major without imparting some guidance. She brought in another advisor who told me about all of his friends who majored in English and were currently working cool and interesting jobs that weren’t just teaching an English class (which is totally cool if that’s what you want to do!) I decided to trust my own feelings and stick with my major.
My sophomore year, I tried doing a double major in English and Business because the doubts were still nagging at me but I didn’t want to give up the major I truly wanted (English). I took Financial Accounting, Microeconomics and a psychology course, in addition to my English courses. I did a lot better than I expected, receiving a B in my business courses. But I wasn’t happy. So I finally accepted that even if the job offerings might be more plentiful in the business sector (which isn’t necessarily true), it wouldn’t matter to me because I wouldn’t be doing what I really wanted to do.
The truth is that your major is not a cage. There is a whole world of opportunities; a whole world of careers that maybe haven’t even been created yet and you could be the one who makes it a reality. I know a person who majors in Art and wants to build a career in art therapy. When I first heard this from her, I didn’t know what art therapy was and she seemed weary of explaining it to me (most likely because as an art major, she probably experiences the same dubious expressions from other people that I do). But I encouraged her to tell me more and she was more excited about the prospect of her aspirations. Art Therapy is a relatively new field that is easier to understand when you think about how music therapy (a field people may be more familiar with) works. But instead of music, the therapist employs art activities to work through someone’s emotions or challenges. When my friend graduates and enters the work force, she may be one of the first people forging a new path for people who major in art. She will be building a foundation for others to stand on in the future. It may seem intimidating to pursue a career that isn’t fully formed yet or that most people have no clue about but it’s also really exciting to be part of something new and innovative.
Do not feel weighed down by your major. Be inspired by it. When people ask me what I want to do with my English major, I feel genuinely confused because I do not feel defined (or confined) by my major. I can do anything I want to do. I could even one day decide that I want to go into business! I have used majors in the humanities as examples of who gets the most slack but all of this applies to any major. As a business major, you might think that maybe you’ll get trapped working an office job for the next 10 years before you make any headway into something more lucrative. I encourage you to consider becoming an entrepreneur. Build your own brand, your own company, your own business. It can be anything you want it to be! You might have to start off working in somebody’s office but you don’t have to stay there if you don’t want to. Most of us have more than one dream that follows one solid path and you’d be surprised how you can accomplish all of them by making them blend in together! To most people, I might be just a silly English major who is going to end up teaching an English class somewhere, but to me, I’m the future president and owner of my own media empire, a publisher of empowering novels, the director of influential films and television shows, the editor-in-chief of a powerful women’s magazine, anything and everything that I want to be. My personal mantra is this: Live the life you have imagined for yourself, not the one that others have set out for you.