“I’m majoring in professional writing.”
There was an uncomfortable pause as the woman sitting beside me adjusted her skirt and ran a hand through her hair. “Well…uh…you don’t hear that one a lot.” She forced a smile and quickly turned back to the church bulletin.
I used to promise my friends I’d be happy dying in a cardboard box under a bridge if my writing touched just one life. But here’s the truth: I have no intention of dying in a cardboard box under a bridge, and neither should any other student majoring in an “impractical” field.
My dream is to be a novelist, but that isn’t the only a profession for a writer. My education thus far has taught me skills that would be useful in publishing, marketing, public relations, social media, journalism, screenwriting, editing, and copywriting fields. If your degree is done right, you’re never training for only one job.
As a writer, I’ve learned to adapt my voice to reach a multitude of different audiences. I can’t think of a job interview that won’t matter in. I also work in the props department in my university theatre. Do you know what it feels like to be gluing an actor’s prop back together in the pitch dark two minutes before he or she needs it on stage? Hopefully not (because it’s terrifying), but it taught me to work fast, be resourceful, and handle people I don’t always get along with.
My theatre friends are experts at communicating effectively and presenting themselves well. They know how to read people’s abilities and motivations because they’ve been trained to see through someone else’s eyes. They can move past themselves to take in all possible perspectives and angles of a situation. Beyond that, they have unbelievable memories and a huge breadth of literature knowledge.
I could go into the same detail about art, architecture, literature, history, philosophy, and a hundred other “impractical” majors. The world needs eyes that see rainbows before it’s stopped pouring, voices that speak the truth so it can be understood, and minds that build palaces where there are only weeds.
We need these students. Employers need them. The next generation of dreamers needs them. Our world needs them.
The fathers of the Renaissance, especially Leonardo da Vinci, saw art and science as inextricably entwined. The two can’t be separated. Beethoven’s symphonies are so beautiful that they snatch the breath from our throats, and yet so mathematical that they can be replicated over and over again exactly the same way.
The problem isn’t the ignorance of onlookers. It’s the ignorance of the students themselves. We don’t realize how versatile we are or how many hundreds of careers we’ve been groomed for -- and so we defeat ourselves without ever meaning to. It’s a worldwide tragedy threating to strip us of the greatest minds of our generation. We can’t let that happen.
Of course, you got into this major in the first place because you want to attempt the riskier creative fields at some point in your life. But even while you’re waiting for your first acceptance letter, art sale, or audition result, your training has equipped you to take on almost any job in the meantime. Mom and dad don’t have to worry -- you’ll always be able to put food on the table, and it won’t be by doing something you hate.
Impractical is the wrong word. It’s a lie we’ve been force-fed for too long, and it’s stunted hundreds of dreams. If you don’t write, paint, sculpt, or direct the messages the world needs to hear, who will?