I’ve always known that an English major was not directly associated with a promising career path, usually conjuring the image of the unsuccessful-yet-still-pretentious writer or, on the other end of the spectrum, the assumption of grad school to further the English major to make it more, well, useful. Almost every single time when someone asked me about my major, it would go something like this:
Random Person approaches me and attempts to make small talk about life, which inevitably leads to the question, “So, what’s your major?”
“I’m an English major,” I declare confidently, as I’m sure the connotation of my major must entail the long hours of research and detailed literature analyses which have made me so vastly intelligent.
“Oh,” Random Person replies with a slight raise of the eyebrows, “So you’re going to teach?”
This is the point where I either want to slam my face into my hand in frustration, or slam my hand into the other person’s face for being so presumptuous. After a while I got used to this response, so I say with as much enthusiasm as possible, “No, I actually like to write.”
“Aah,”Random Person says with an unmistakeable look of concern. “So you’re gonna, like, write books or something?”
Feigning as much confidence as possible, I respond, “Well, maybe one day, but I’m realistic enough to know I need a paycheck. I actually want to do editing and publishing in Atlanta or something.”
This is usually where the topic of my major ends, and the only response Random Person can usually muster is a repeated nod of the head and an, “Oooh, OK.”
As much as I try to convey the interesting qualities of pouring over documents and meticulously correcting grammatical errors, Random Person has already mentally condemned me to failure in the writing world, assuming that my only option is to teach. One nurse who I told about my major skipped the formality of questioning my career altogether, saying, “Oh, an English major? What grade are you going to teach?” Not that there’s anything wrong with being a teacher, as my entire family is full of them and they’re all brilliant, but aside from something I’d want to do abroad, I’ve never really been drawn to it. So, having graduated from college with a big fancy BACHELOR’S DEGREE, I assumed that it was time to find a stable editing or writing job in Atlanta with opportunities to interact with important authors and publishers and eventually move my way up to success as an independent young writer in the city.
“Wrong” might be something of an understatement. First of all, there is no such thing as an entry-level writing job. They are a complete myth, ranked with fairies, Bigfoot, and Diet Dr. Pepper, and anyone who says otherwise has either never looked for a job or is playing a cruel joke on you to get your hopes up so that you’ll finish school. It doesn’t help that I get my hopes up like a small child on Christmas Eve, and when I’m let down it’s like reality is slapping me in the face…with my degree. I felt accomplished enough just by completing my resume, and felt even more encouraged as I continued to apply for jobs online. Cover letter after cover letter of my “qualifications” and “experience” really just translated into “I’m desperate and I can write. Please hire me,” but since most of the jobs I’ve applied for require at least 2 years of experience, I’ve had little luck so far. Several times I’ve checked my email and my face has lit up with excitement at the words “Job Opportunity” or “We Reviewed Your Resume,” but upon closer inspection, all of them have been offering me various sales positions. Nothing wrong with sales, of course, but I did not go to college for four years and sign my life away to student loans to have a career in something I don’t care about.
SO, until then I will be writing as much online as possible when I have time. Articles, blogs, whatever it takes to build a portfolio, get my writing out there, and gain as much experience as possible. I may be a starving writer for a while, but at least I’m still a writer.