Hi, so, I don’t know what to do with my life.
“Could you please punch in your Student ID?”
Yeah. Wait, sorry, that was my social. Okay.
“Well, it looks like you’re doing great in all your classes! You could really do anything.”
“What have you been thinking about?”
I mean… I came in thinking about Linguistics. I like language and it’s really satisfying to solve problems in 201, but I don’t know what I’d do with the major.
“Hmm… You’re doing pretty good in Japanese, too! Are you enjoying that class?”
Sure? I like learning anything, really. Except math. An unfortunate class in middle school convinced me that I’m Not Good at it. So I gave up on computer science or engineering early on. …Does infotech have math?
“You should ask the School of Communication and Information Sciences.”
Well, I checked out the site. It looks okay. Everything looks okay, really. I’m just not particularly passionate about anything.
“What subject did you enjoy the most in high school?”
Why does that make me feel stupid?
I’ve kind of been dreading this.
The moment I resigned myself to a major in English is one I remember quietly.
It was a lonely, cloudy morning sometime in April 2013. I was a freshman with a poor data plan, hunched on a bench just close enough to Scott Hall that I could leech the Wi-Fi. I’d come minutes earlier from one of two total counselling sessions at university; with my second semester coming to a close, I’d figured I should maybe speak to an adviser.
I’ve never been one for advising or guidance. I was called down to the office in high school a handful of times, but when I actually needed the help, I never felt guided. It was more like they were against me–teachers, the school, maybe even my parents. So at university, I mostly went to the woman behind the desk just to go through the motions, with no intention of being advised.
In the five minutes we spoke, she pointed me to writing contests on the English Department website, none of which I would ever enter. I don’t think the Comparative Literature or AMESALL Departments—two minors that I would later wish for desperately, if only I had known about them early enough—ever came up. I must’ve been too guarded; it can’t be her fault.
I thanked her and left.
I have a desperate fear that I didn’t do enough in college, that I wasted too much time. I’m often melancholy about my major in particular. It still feels lame. I’ve resorted to telling people that I did “Literature,” which encompasses the 18 AMESALL credits for which I don’t officially have a minor. To “Literature,” people smile and nod. To “English,” they do not.
“What do you do with an English major?”
I want to write. Go into publishing, maybe.
“Do you want to be a teacher?”
“God, I hate reading.”
“Are you going to graduate school?”
For what? An MFA?
I have a fondness for learning. I like school, I like obtaining new information. I like logic and coding and geography, I like upper-level courses. But I had, in college, the hardest time finding a field of interest. Because I knew, somewhere in a dusty corner of my mind, that I could and still can do Bio or Comp Sci or Informatics or Education or anything else with technical training and a more clear route to the future, but I didn’t care enough, I wouldn’t enjoy every moment of it.
A discussion on different translations of The Arabian Nights. A creative writing workshop, how a classmate could hear me speaking the words in a piece while she read it. Finally, a soaring sensation in my heart.
Officially I majored in “English.” My heart and head swim in writing and in literature, which are lifelong adventures.
Someone once told me that eventually I will be married and I will grow up and out of fantasy and writing or whatever. I knew not to take it to heart but when you are surrounded by STEM and Business every time you walk into an MSA meeting, it’s hard not to cry, hard not to feel stupid and like you wasted your parents’ money on fruitless tuition. You wonder if you’re even any good at this.
But then there was the other day when I told someone my major and she smiled and said, “Now more than ever, we need people like you.”
You don’t know how much you helped. Thank you.
Days of self-doubt are endless. Words sprout wings. Please tell people when you support them.
I have finished my last semester of university and only Allah knows where I am to go from here. I cannot afford any regrets.