“Useless English Major”

Audio Edition Coming Soon!


Being an English major is a little of a running gag in my family. Out of all my siblings, I have the highest level of education and (so far) the most years in school. Yet I also make the least amount of money and have the lowest expectation of career advancement. Usually it’s just good-natured teasing, the way one expects from siblings. I indulge in it myself from time to time, but even my self-deprecating humor has taken on a sharper edge. As the years roll on, it just doesn’t seem funny anymore.

I recently read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Is Majoring in English Worth It?” The contents were pretty much what I’d expected: a half-mocking look at how the value of an English degree has declined dramatically even as the cost of college exponentially increases, making it “the most regretted college major in America.” But I hadn’t expected the intense wave of bitterness that swept over me, a deep sense of resentment that something I spent six years, thousands of dollars, and untold amounts of stress attaining, a skill that I am good at, can be summarily dismissed as the butt of a bad joke.

So, like a good little Millennial, I shared some of my frustration on social media:

I got some sympathetic faces in response, which was about all I had expected. But then my friend David asked a very poignant question:

“If you had a time machine, what would you do differently?”

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Pride and Perception

As we approach the November elections and debates, both formal and informal heat up, I’ve noticed a distressing trend:

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that everyone sees the world the way you do.  And those who don’t are “obviously” delusional, blind, or just plain stupid.

We all fall into this kind of trap in our daily interactions (moreso when intrinsic bias is challenged), and, since our stories and characters come from us, it’s also easy for them to follow the same pattern.  I think that’s actually one reason why flat characters are so pervasive; their creator hasn’t tried looking beyond the obvious or from a different perspective.  After all, each one of us is shaped by our experiences, our raising, how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us.  No two people even experience with world in the same manner…literally.

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Literature — Larger Than Life

I have been reading, which is always a dangerous thing.

No, really, reading is dangerous.  It challenges the twin conditions of Status Quo and Ignorance.  Which is probably why is has been encouraged to decline.  I do not know what the current literacy rates are, but I see what people check out in libraries, what students come slouching sullenly to the desk to request, hear the verbal banalities pour, not just from the mouths of other babes, but my own, and it makes me weep.

In case you have not noticed, I’ve been reading classic literature and essays by Ray Bradbury.  Both put me in a maudlin kind of mood where I hover between ecstasy and madness.  Because when I read them, if I’m lucky, I get the sensation that there are great truths hidden within them, sentences and paragraphs that resonate with me, but I have no means of expressing them.  The sheer abundance of creativity makes me want to simultaneously shout my joy to the heavens and slink back home and tear up the pages of my manuscripts that aren’t nearly as beautiful or insightful.  (So far I rarely express the former in public and I’ve resisted the urge to perform the latter.)

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My Take on Writing Classes (and School in General)

I have always loved learning.

That being said, I have also always hated school.

Individual classes, individual teachers, individual ideas I have enjoyed and gained valuable knowledge from while in a school setting.  But the institution itself?  Loath it.  Despise it.  Repulsed with a vengeance.  Abhor with a passion.  Trust me, college is not for everyone.

Since school has started up again for many people, I thought it would be appropriate to broach the topic of writing classes.  I’ve had a mixed bag when it comes to writing and English classes.  My parents always encouraged reading and writing when I was homeschooled and I had a wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Ware, in middle school who was still old-school enough to make us do vocabulary, spelling, and grammar exercises.  (To this day, I can still spell “amalgamate” without help thanks to her.  ^_^)  In high school, my literary highlight was Fiction/Poetry Writing with Mrs. Turner.  I adored that class; it catered directly to my interests.  In fact, where my friends and I sat became known as “the Fantasy Corner” because we were all obsessed with that genre, and with J.R.R. Tolkien’s works in particular.  I learned about different poetic forms and took my first jab at writing short stories, so Fiction/Poetry Writing exposed me to some new writing forms and encouraged my creativity.

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Why Write? Why Not?

It’s ironic that, fifteen years ago, the last thing I wanted to be was a writer.

During my elementary years as a homeschooled student, composition class was my least favorite subject.  I suppose regular schools lump reading and writing under the heading “English,” but for me they were two separate things.  Reading was fun and fast.  Writing was a torture that dragged on for what felt like hours.  I remember my father tell me that I would probably grow up and become a great writer.  I looked up from grinding out another line of loopy, childishly careful cursive and declared that I would never, ever EVER become a writer.  Not in a million years!

Look who had the last laugh on that one.  As it turns out, Dad knew where my talents lay better than I did.  It’s interesting how it took me so long to come around to writing, considering how much I loved to read.  Plus, I always enjoyed crafting stories of my own, which I would reenact with my long-suffering toy horses, Barbie dolls, dinosaurs, and Hot Wheels cars.  (I believe we still have one of my stories involving My Little Ponies floating around on videotape somewhere…)  In any case, while I loved “playing” stories, it took me years before it occurred to me to write them down, or that my world- and character-creation was essentially the same thing real writers did.  I had other careers in mind.

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