Why I studied What I studied

There was a running joke in my English program at BYU that went something like this: "Hi, I got my BA in English. Do you want fries with that?"

My parents warned me that there was nothing I could do with a BA in English. They urged me to get my teaching degree "Just in case," but I didn't want to be a teacher, I wanted to be a writer. I see now it was love and concern that spurred these comments, and I think teaching is an honorable profession, just not what I wanted to do.

I have been asked why I studied English. "Do you just like reading a lot?" people asked me. Or, "Oh that's great, do you want to be a teacher?" "Do you want to edit?"Or the fan favorite, "What are you going to do with that?"

What does anyone do with any major? I am going to work, and wherever I work I am going to contribute new ideas to my company. I am going to pursue whatever dream I have because regardless of what your degree is in your dreams don't necessarily change. And I am going to think most of all, because that is what any Bachelors degree teaches you to do.

I know being a nurse, or an accountant, or a teacher is more practical than a BA in English. But I tried the nursing thing and hated it, I am terrible at math, and I don't want to grade papers. I want to write books and poems and have children and teach them how to express their thoughts and feelings, and read them Wordsworth and Austen before bed, and practice articulating my thoughts accurately. And most of all, be happy.

You can learn a lot of things, but learning more about what you love makes you happy. Or at least teaches you to pursue what makes you happy. And that's why I majored in English.


Alex said...

I think it's great you majored in something you loved. I hated every second of my bacherlor's degree because I didn't major in something I was actually passionate about. And you know why I didn't? Because I thought there wasn't much I could do with a degree in history. Definitely wish I would have done what you did!

Half Dressed said...

Personally if I was ever going to give anyone any advice on choosing their degree I'd say go with something you're passionate about. I also did a BA in English! :) And although now I want to teach, that's not what I had in mind when I went into my degree I had no idea,I just knew I loved English.

L x

vintch said...

i did my BA in English too, and am perfectly content. i'm a technical writer, so i use it somewhat, but the times when i really feel like i'm using my degree? when i'm swinging on our front porch swing, reading a beautiful novel and truly understanding, grasping and appreciating what the author is saying. worth all that tuition. hands down.

Mallory Camille said...

I admire your confidence and determination to do what you love, to live and breathe it! That's where real happiness comes from. I'd rather be a poor woman pursuing what I love than a rich woman in a practical job that I hate.
Yay, English.

kristen said...

I majored in Geography. Totally know waht you're talking about ;)

mrs. autumn said...

I picked something "practical" that I also happened to love. Special Ed makes sense, but I still don't have a job as a teacher even though I have submitted my teaching application and resume to over 40 positions and and explained it through so many interviews.

If I hated my major though practical wouldn't have been worth it and that's why I am fine with going to grad school now instead of teaching.

Brittany said...

I totally agree with you, 100 percent. About learning to think and about not studying something you don't love.

But you know what's funny? I feel like I use my degree all the time. I use it when I'm taking and giving advice. I use it when I'm studying the Gospel. I use it when I'm reading the news and when I daydream at my part-time summer desk job. I use it to know myself, to love myself. If my degree can do all of that, it can certainly get me some sort of job (along with your very helpful advice via email, thanks!). I love my degree of choice. I am actually probably a little too proud of it.

kitty said...

i believe there are two kinds of bravery when it comes to picking a major.
the first: pick something "successful" and have the bravery to get through all those yucky classes
the second: pick something you love, and have the bravery to do that thing no matter what else comes your way.

i'm a visual arts major. I know "the look" very well. the pity {wrong word} people have for me when they think of the rest of my life and what may or may not happen. but i'm doing what i love. and i am happy :)

i love your blog. I love your words. what you are doing is so very much important. thankyou

Michelle said...

yep yep! Know the feeling. Totally was against getting an english degree when I started college. Started on the Engineering, and then Dentistry route because it is practical. But you know what? I hate science and I love words and that's just how it goes sometimes. I don't particularly want to teach, truth be told, I'd love to be a writer- I just never write (ha! Working on that this summer).

I think my parents might pass out if I said that with my degree I planned on being a writer. That's why I'm "planning" to teach. We shall see. It wouldn't be the worse thing in the world, I like tutoring. Most of the time.

mj { a r c h i ♥s m a r y - j a n e } said...

Love this post. As a music major who didn't emphasize teaching I can relate.

Emma Karen said...

This is exactly how I feel when I tell people (other than my english teacher) what I want to major in and I get that look like, "Oh... That's great... Have fun with your dreams..."

Melissa said...

I majored in Humanities and loved every class. I think every undergrad should walk away with such a broad understanding of arts and the world around them. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Ana* said...

there major satisfaction comes from doing what one loves. I changed my major from Psychology several times because of the usual "oh, you will never find a job with a Psych BA," or "you won't be able to make a living" comment. I tried accounting, was good at it but hated it, sitting in lecture was a torture to me, tried nursing and the same thing happened. It was a good idea to explore other fields but my overall learning experience was "do what you love," sounds cliche and simple but it's the key to happiness.

annie said...

i majored in journalism at a time when journalism was dying. and you know what? I'm okay with it, because i loved it. loved the words and the intimacies and the sharing of stories. and all of that i can apply far beyond the interviews and the newsprint. my degree helps me in life, will help me as we raise children, and will help me in my passions for writing and for story. i'm happy with that decision and have a feeling i will be for a long, long time.

Whitney Kaye said...

I received the same questions when I graduated in Humanities. I now work in business. I loved every course I took and love what my major gave me. I will be a better human being, wife, mother and friend because of my major and I will be able to contribute so much to wherever I work before I become a mother and during it as well. I'm glad you appreciate your major as well.

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Jared Heath said...

You're right, Mandy. Absolutely right. I have a BA in English and a salaried job with benefits--and a baby on the way (keep that on the DL for the time being, k?)

It has been a while since I've been to your blog. I'm glad I came.

(PS.--Looks like you have a spam comment right before mine...looks like an SEO grab for a link. Just to let you know...)