In my experience, telling people I know that I'm pursuing a degree in English often surprises them, mainly because I'm not your "typical" English major.
I'm not a free spirit. I don't have my nose pierced. I don't wear beanies and glasses. I don't have a Mac. I don't live and breathe for poetry. My face isn't constantly buried in books, and I'm not so much of an introvert that talking to people frightens me.
I work in sports. I'm a perfectionist. I'm a logical, analytical thinker. I'm decent at math and science. Yes, I like books and movies, and I enjoy intelligent conversations and debates.
I just don't look like an English major. I get it.
The follow-up to the shock of me pursing an English degree is often this question:
"Oh, so do you want to teach?"
This is a natural response, right? I can't fault people for assuming teaching to be the line of work I pursue post-graduation. But here's the thing: I don't want to teach English. I don't want to stand up in front of a class for hours each day and teach.
Don't get me wrong -- I have the highest respect for people who are able to do this. But teaching is a hard enough job when it's something you're passionate about. If I don't have the desire to teach, what would get me through the day? What would sustain me?
Of course, after I tell people I have no desire to teach, their next question is something along the lines of,
"What do you want to do then?"
...I still don't have an answer to this question.
I don't have it figured out. No, I'm not an engineering undergrad who has interned for a company and already has a job lined up for post-graduation. But that doesn't mean I'm not prepared to go out into the real world. That doesn't mean I haven't learned something along the way.
So, what do I want to do with my English degree? What has it prepared me for? What was worth the $XX,XXX to go to college and get this degree?
My time as an English major has taught me how to analyze. It has taught me to ask question upon question in order to arrive at the true meaning.
It has taught me to respectfully bite my tongue when I disagree. It has taught me to respectfully engage when I disagree.
It has taught me how to push through and just keep going. That even when it's 6:00 am and I haven't gone to bed yet, I can still do this. I can still get this done, and get it done well.
It has taught me what it's like to have someone believe in you -- really believe in you.
Most of all, being an English major has taught me how to see life from many different angles. To consider what is really driving someone's thoughts and actions. To understand that just because I don't agree with someone's reactions to and/or characterizations of someone or a situation, doesn't mean they aren't valid.
Being an English major has prepared me for life, and nearly any career.
It has also taught me the correct definition of "irony" -- something our world struggles with often... *sigh*