Let’s take a second to clear the air and get it all out in the open: I am an English major. Please hold your gasps, shouts of indignation and imploring questions such as, “But don’t you already speak it?” This is, for the most part, the standard response I receive when I tell any family member, acquaintance or random person on the street what I’m pursuing a degree in. Suddenly, this slew of people that never had any interest in my well-being become very concerned that I’m throwing my hard work and money away to get a degree in a language I already speak.
“Good luck getting a job with that degree,” the 47-year-old cashier at Walmart tells me as he bags my hummus.
I could sit here and write all about how none of these concerns are true. That yes, while a good portion of the country speaks English, the majority of native speakers don’t do it particularly well. Or the fact that an English degree can get you hired at quite a few places, some of which even pay pretty nicely. However, that isn’t the point I am going to make.
Whenever these conversations come up, I always find myself wondering why these people didn’t grow up with someone in their life to teach them that, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. If I’m not asking for your advice about something, odds are you probably shouldn’t give it.
On a much larger scale, it is a little disheartening to me that our country has become so consumed with chasing profit that we can’t recognize and be happy for someone that might be pursuing something for reasons other than capital. I can recognize that your motivation and drive to pursue a career in business might come from a desire to make a large salary, and can respect that, even if I might want to counter back with a “good luck keeping your soul with that degree” quip of my own.
Society is becoming more inclined to dismiss any pursuit of passion as not worth the time and effort. If it can’t make you money, it’s not worth your time. As someone who still stays in the lane of more traditional academia, I can only imagine the backlash received by art, theater and dance majors.
The truth is, not everyone can study math, and not everybody wants to. What kind of society would we have if everyone went to school exclusively for science and business? If there was no one to create the music that you listen to on your commute or produce the TV show you binge watch when you get home? Not one that I would want to live in, that’s for sure. So when it comes to what you study and what you do, remember to stay in your lane. Unsolicited advice is often unwanted advice. Let’s all agree to leave everyone to what they do best, and to be a little more encouraging to the people around us.