Opinion: “So, you’re graduating with an English degree?”

Madison Stone, Arts Editor

First of all, I’d like to preface that I’m a creative writing major, not an English major, but if we’re being honest, it’s basically the same thing.

At least, I can guarantee that we all receive the same placating smiles and well-meaning questions when we proudly announce our majors and love for literature to family and friends. Questions like: what do we plan to do with the education we’re working so hard (and paying so much) to receive? How does learning literary theory and Romantic poetry translate to the workforce? And my personal favorite: isn’t your little brother going to be an aerospace engineer?

(He is, but I’m the one who got him through his comp. classes, thank you very much.)

One such conversation I had the pleasure of participating in happened a few years ago, back when I got my wisdom teeth taken out. I was at the preliminary appointment—you know, the one where they detail exactly how they’re going to saw your teeth from your jaw—and the oral surgeon was making small talk. He asked me what I was studying in college. I told him I was majoring in creative writing. He looked at me for a moment, gears clearly whirring behind his eyes as he processed, and then said, “So, you want to be… a blogger?”

I’m not above admitting that at least a small part of what motivates me to succeed is to spite some random guy who saws teeth for a living. If I ever publish a book, he’s totally going to be in the acknowledgments page.

But anyway, on to the point. I’m not here to rehash the usual ‘so you’re an English major’ spiel—to talk about all the amazing opportunities our education has opened up for us, or how to get a job with our degree or how annoyed we’re all going to be when our coworkers inevitably don’t know how to send an intelligible email. We already spend enough time defending our wonderful and oh-so-versatile degree choice. And I don’t care for all the cheesy motivational speeches and teary ‘best years of our lives’ verbiage that get everyone all mushy right before big life changes.

I simply want to remind us English (and creative writing!) majors that we really are ready for the world and that, as long as we didn’t sleep through every class, we know what we’re doing.

As much as it might feel like it, we didn’t just fumble our way to this May. We put in the effort to get to where we are, and we’re taking an entire four years of experience and growth and knowledge with us. That can be said of any major, sure, and maybe I’m a little biased, but I think we put in just as much work as any other area of study. Not everyone can write inspiring research papers, or read through Postmodern works and retain our sanity, or come up with convincing summaries of books we should have read but forgot to on the fly or even understand the complexities of sentence structures. At the very least, hauling around all those Norton Anthologies all of the time definitely counts for something.

Remember—no matter what field we go into, or what we pursue in grad school or how well we remember the differences between em and en dashes, we’re graduating!

Isn’t that what all the long hours, essays and many, many reading lists have been leading up to? Isn’t that the coolest thing to be able to say? And we’re doing it with a degree that is so versatile and just plain handy to have that, when we do go out into the ‘real world’ (whatever that is), we’re going to be all the happier, all the more fulfilled, all the better for it.

Really. I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better and prove wisdom tooth man wrong. We earned this. And, from one senior almost-English major to another, from the bottom of my literature and Oxford comma loving heart: we’ve got this.

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