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The English Major

Updated on June 6, 2012

Oh the struggle...

It was the itchy, black dress slacks. It was the name tag with all capital letters. The Zzzzzzz-ing of a computer screen that read: 1 GALLON MILK. EGGS. BREAD LOAF. The sound of automated voice messaging systems during every lunch break. The complaints of senile senior citizens about their smashed bread. It was eight dollars an hour. It was slavery. And so the part time jobs and social niceties continue while gnawing inside me is this constant desire to return to that blissful solitude of home, with a cup of coffee and a keyboard in front of me. I wait all day for the moment when I'm finally able to write until my fingers tire. In a secluded living room. In absolute silence. Just for a moment however fleeting, I belong to me.

The older I get the more I'm torn away from that burning desire to sequester myself in my thoughts through writing and everyone calls this woeful departure from that which I really love, "reality". Isn't reality, yet another social construct in a society where uniformity is praised and doing things for the love of doing them often results in alienation, criticization and/or poverty? In the Journals, Thoreau empathizes with his readers plight and I found myself drawn to his words.

"You cannot serve two masters. It requires more than a day's

devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day."

The struggle to maintain the balance between societal expectation and my natural inclination to pursue the penniless passion of being a writer is not my struggle alone; but one that has been shared by the geniuses and the anonymous lovers of words as a whole, for decades, centuries, ages. In attempting to serve two masters, that of which I love and that of which is expected of me, I find myself torn quite often and unable to invest all my energy into my passion while continuing to carry out the work of an automaton at a local grocery store. Is this life or is this self-imposed slavery? Through his words Thoreau supplied me with my answer; "you must get your living by loving", which is precisely what I intend to do, as a broke but completely happy English major student.

Don't know what to do with your english degree? Heres some self-help for the struggling english major:


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    • Chelsea Vogel profile image

      Chelsea Vogel 5 years ago from Bradenton Florida

      You're definately not alone but wow you've got your BA already, thats 4 years of two to ten page essays and A LOT of reading. It's crazy that you're having a hard time finding a job, what a shame! What exactly did you get your BA in? Creative writing or literature? I'm with you on the MFA thing, there would have to be pay incentive, considering the amount of money it costs to get a master's. I've still got a year and a half to go until I get my BA but I'm sure I'll face the same obstacles once I graduate. The value of an english major is highly underestimated in the job market!

    • profile image

      quietinstrumental 5 years ago

      Going through a similar quandary at the moment - I got into English for love of language and literature, but sustaining my idealism got somewhat trickier with the tunnel's end looming near. I thought I'd try and find some menial work after graduation while I considered my next long-term move, but even that's proving tough in this job market (not to mention my BA gives me the appearance of overqualification for a lot of said positions - irony's fun). I'd considered a Creative Writing MFA at one point, but I'm already knee-deep in undergraduate loans. If I do go for my master's, there'll need to be a guaranteed payoff (which means I have some research ahead of me). I've more or less decided to sniff out a tangible career path while feeding my true passions on the side. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in this!

    • Chelsea Vogel profile image

      Chelsea Vogel 5 years ago from Bradenton Florida

      Thank you Sparrowlet and I completely agree uNicQue, I've altered my plans as well changing my major from literature to technical and professional writing in hopes of getting into the publishing sphere. Every english major I've talked to, seems to be going through the passion versus income conflict.

    • uNicQue profile image

      Nicole Quaste 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I'm a senior English major at Millersville University, and I have been struggling for the past three years with what I wanted to do/what would make me a decent living. I would love to go into publishing, where I'd have the chance at having a hand in discovering new incredible authors... but I just registered for the LSATs in October because it seemed like the more logical choice. The passion English majors tend to have sadly but often goes unrealized.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      My daughter is starting college in the fall... as an English major! I'll have her read your thoughtful and amusing hub!