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Yes, I’m an English Major. No, I Will Not Be Working At McDonald’s. Yes, I Want You To Leave Me Alone.

August 14, 2013

When I was 5, I wrote my first book. Sure, it had a grand total of 4 words (the first two being my name and the last two being “The End”) and the stick figure illustrations could have been more detailed, but it was the first step I had ever taken in the writing industry, an industry that I would aspire to call my home.

Now let me preface this by saying that I am not your typical writing fanatic. I don’t bring my laptop into Starbucks, put in my headphones and “release my creative energies” for 5 hours at a time because first of all, I believe writing is a personal practice and second, as a native New Englander, my loyalty lies with Dunkin Donuts. But this is besides the point, of course, because I’m not creating this post to discuss coffee preferences (just to put them out there so I can learn who my enemies are). Rather, I’m writing this post to address the seemingly daily conversation that arises every time I am cornered into admitting I’m an English major. The conversation, and its potential variations, are as follows:

Relative 1: What are you majoring in?

Me: English.

Relative 1: Oh… so you’re planning on living at home for awhile, then?

OR

Relative 1: That’s tough. You can easily work your way up to a better job eventually, though. You’re pairing your major with something else, right?

OR

Relative 1: Oh really? What school district will you be teaching in?

OR

Relative 1: It’s so great that you don’t care about making money.

Listen. I’m not concentrating in Medieval Studies of Soldiers on Horseback or Word Choice in Robert Frost’s Poetry. My coursework is not entirely defined by reading books (though that is a perk). I do not intend to work as a waitress until I can get a “real job,” signifying something in business or politics or any other area of study that makes me want to crawl under a rock and forswear all earthly activities for the rest of my life. I can be a publisher. I can be a journalist. I can be a research assistant. I can be a speechwriter. I can work with magazines. I can be a movie critic. I can review books. I can be a copywriter. I can be a news reporter. I can manage social media. I can be a lobbyist. I can be an editor. I can write for television or radio or movies. I can be a travel writer. I can work in advertising. I can do anything I want to do.

I’ve read the newspapers and the online Yahoo! articles. English majors top the list of Most Useless Degrees next to Art History and obscure things like “Painting With Your Nose” and I honestly haven’t figured out why. The skills that you develop through writing and reading (such as critical thinking), the skills that come with an English degree, are used in every single day of your entire life. Need a resume? Write one. Want to end a fight with your significant other? Write an apology letter (but limit it to a couple of pages so you don’t end up in that Ross/Rachel debacle). Need to contact a friend? Text them (which is a form of writing, even when it sometimes may not look like it).

Not to mention there is success in the writing business. Just look in any bookstore. Every novel that you see sitting on those shelves were toiled over by some perfectionist writer, who probably spent anywhere between 1 to 20 hours deleting and undeleting (I make up words, so what? I’m an English major, for goodness sake) the comma in line 13 of page 402. And think about your favorite TV show. As cool as it would be for the character descriptions to magically appear on a blank piece of paper, with dialogue and idiosyncracies already built in, that is not how life works. A writer had to create that character, that plot, that dialogue. Everything starts with writing.

But in case you needed more proof, here is a list of famous people who were English majors:

Joan Cusack
Chevy Chase
David Duchovny
Jodie Foster
James Franco
Tommy Lee Jones (and from Harvard, no less)
Stephen King (shocker)
Conan O Brien
Sigourney Weaver
Reese Witherspoon (but didn’t graduate)
Steven Spielburg
Ken Jennings (Jeopardy all time champ who has a surprisingly hilarious Twitter feed)

Granted, many of these people did not rise to success immediately after stripping their cap and gown but then again, who does? With the economy looking more and more like a Kindergartener’s chopped up paper snowflake of a system, I’d be impressed at anyone who can get a decent job upon entering the real world.

I’ve done my research, ladies and gentlemen. You could major in Biochemical Engineering or Public Administration with a Concentration in Economics or something equally as technical sounding and mind numbing and that still would not guarantee a place for you in the job sphere unless you have experience to go along with it. An English major with no internships or writing experience will receive just as much consideration in the real world as a science major with nothing to their name but a diploma and proof of occasional trips to the science building in college. Jobs don’t come from the title of your major. They come from the experience that you latch onto it. The major you choose is only useless if you let it be useless.

So call me a failure, a future deadbeat office worker, a pompous artist, whatever. I’m taking the path less traveled by and I’m going to like it, whether or not you choose to do the same.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2013 5:53 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly, I completed my undergrad degree in Humanities, eventually I got tired of explaining what that was and just shrugged *meh*

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      August 14, 2013 6:24 pm

      Haha I see where you’re coming from. I’m double majoring in English and another major called New Media, which I’ve completely given up trying to describe.

  2. Pete permalink
    August 14, 2013 6:07 pm

    Friends references 🙂

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      August 14, 2013 6:25 pm

      I try not to go too many posts without making a Friends reference. 😇

  3. August 14, 2013 6:23 pm

    Yes, studying English is good for the soul (probably), and gives a good basis in critical thinking and various skills the world should appreciate. If the world doesn’t, the world is a ass.

  4. August 15, 2013 2:35 pm

    English majors UNITE! *high five* Job opportunities for us are broad indeed, contrary to popular belief. Because of an engineer who noted that technical people “can’t write” (his words, not mine ;)), I’m in a job in an industry that I would’ve never considered but am totally digging.

    So take heart, fellow purveyor of words. There is hope to be found in unexpected places!

  5. August 16, 2013 1:41 am

    I enjoyed perusing–er, I mean, skimming–your blog this evening, especially this post (which I did actually peruse). I was a classics major. Oh yes, they were certainly beating down MY door. Notice I didn’t say who, or why.

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      August 20, 2013 12:01 pm

      Classics definitely gets ragged on. Actually, anything that is not Math/Science/Business related usually gets bashed. We can’t all be doctors and lawyers, America.

  6. August 16, 2013 7:14 am

    I am jealous. I would have loved to study english but the atmosphere in my country is a hundred times worst than what you’ve described.
    So I gave in to the pressure and became an engineer and it BORES me. T_T

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      August 20, 2013 12:03 pm

      I do not envy you one bit. Engineering sounds…well, not very fun. Maybe someday you can come here and pursue an English degree! 🙂

  7. August 28, 2013 3:27 pm

    Oh, man. Try being an art major. People laugh right in your face. Big HAHAHAs. Maybe they are just trying to help you get feelings to translate into great works, but… it hurts.

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      September 1, 2013 12:38 pm

      I’ve had friends who experience that. It’s unfortunate. Whose place is it to say how valuable our majors are? It’s our life, not theirs. I try to think of it that way.

  8. Caley permalink
    September 7, 2013 7:18 am

    Story of my life. Trying to convince my parents that studying what I want to is better than wasting my time and their money on something that DOES NOT guarantee a job! They should have a course in teaching parents and family to just accept it and move on:)

  9. Suzette M. permalink
    May 8, 2014 3:55 pm

    Whenever someone used to tell me I’d never find a good job as an English major, I always replied that critical thinking and communication skills are very valuable in the work force, and that I already had a head start.
    Also, I graduated college with a degree in English Literature and I work as a copywriter/copy editor for a marketing/PR firm with clients nationwide.
    …just sayin’.

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