If you're a college student, you probably get asked at least once a week: "So, what are going to do with your degree?"
Ah, if only it were as simple of an answer as it is a question. I initially went into college as a business major, but after about an hour into my first management course, I realized that business was definitely not the path for me. The next year, I declared myself as an English major. At the time, I was completely convinced that I had finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life. My high school English classes were some of my favorites, and the teachers I had always made me feel inspired and invigorated. So I figured, maybe I should follow in their footsteps and become an English teacher myself. I felt so much pride finally being able to respond to the dreaded "what are you doing with your life" question with a firm and definitive answer: "I'm going to be an English teacher."
That phase lasted for about two months. It's nice to try and convince myself that being a teacher is still what I want to do, but in total honesty I'm just not sure. And I think that should be okay.
I wish we could stop shaming young people for not knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Who wants to be tied to one career forever? And who knows what that career is supposed to be when they're barely 20 years old? The future is a scary thing to think about, and the idea of choosing one path to go down seems horrifyingly daunting to me.
People who ask me what I want to do for a career seem to be under the impression that there is only one career out there for all of us. When you ask me what I'm going to do with my degree, you aren't interested in what skills I'm learning that will help me to be a better human -- you want to know what one, stable job I'm going to choose from the limited pool of careers open to people with an English degree.
I don't know what I'm going to do with my degree. Maybe I'll do what I originally intended and become a high school English teacher. Or maybe I'll become a writer. Maybe I'll do something that seems completely unrelated to English and have people tell me for the rest of my life that I wasted my college education.
Those people will be wrong. Whatever I decide to do with my life, I will be taking the lessons I've learned throughout college with me. English majors don't just read Shakespeare and write meaningless papers. We learn how to articulate our disconnected thoughts into coherent sentences; we dissect stories to pinpoint the moments that transcend traditional writing conventions and shift our perspectives of the world. We strive to communicate and connect with people on as deep a level as humanly possible. You're telling me that these skills will be useless if I don't go into an English career?
College is the time to experiment, to dip your toes into all the opportunities around you with the hope that maybe one of them will lead you to something you're passionate about. I don't know what I'll do with an English degree, but I know that I'm a better person for having chosen to follow my passion for literature. I'm a hard worker and an eager learner, so whatever I aspire to do in life, I know that I will one day get there. For now, I just want to wander and enjoy the freedom of having no particular destination to end up at.