There are stereotypes about every college major and people in every field have things they wish those who aren't studying the same thing understood about them. That said, my fellow English majors and I get told on an alarmingly regular basis that our major is pointless, unemployable, has no real-world application or is meant for lazy people. I don't know why you would think you have the right to say this to anyone, let alone people who put in the kind of hours we do, but somehow so many people seem to feel that they have the right to do so. "The only thing you can do with an English degree is become an English teacher, so there's no reason the study should exist," is something I've heard more times than I care to count.

If you really think there's no reason to study English, or writing, or literature, that's your prerogative, but you're missing the fundamental value of the study I devote so much of my life to. The study of literature and writing is essentially the study of storytelling. A story can be a funny anecdote told to friends over coffee, or a thousand-page long epic poem, or many other things within and beyond those boundaries. But whatever shape they take or context they are told in, stories are one of the most valuable commodities humankind will ever have.

The stories we value and the ones we tell repeatedly shape our values and the way we see people and the world around us. When we listen to stories as children, our favorite ones tell us what character traits we find admirable and the kind of conflict that resonates with us. They can serve the dual function of providing an escape from the real world while also helping us understand it. They memorialize our greatest achievements and our most bitter failures.

Stories help us remember the good times and the bad times we've gone through and allow us to form connections with other people, even those whom we have never met. The study I have chosen for college and committed four years and more of my life to is learning how to understand these stories, how to appreciate them, how to interpret them and how to tell them better. In what way is that a waste of time?

Stories are an essential part of what it means to be human. They help tell us who we are. They connect our past to our present to our future. They help us learn from our mistakes. How is studying such an important thing not a worthwhile pursuit? English and literary studies may never be employable or "respectable" in the same way as medicine or law, and it may not be any more important that those fields or any other. But the study of stories provides something essential to humanity, something that the world would not be the same without.