Wednesday, May 21, 2014

There is something about Literature...

This conversation happens to me, oh, every moon or so.
  • Someone: And what are you studying?
  • Me: I’m studying English.
  • Someone: Oohhh.
  • Me: Yup.
  • Someone: So, you wanna teach?
  • Me: No, I don’t. I want to write.
  • Someone: Oohh. Write what? Like, journalism?
  • Me: Umm kind of.
  • Someone: So like… books?
  • Me: Hopefully, yeah. And poetry, and novels, and short stories, and essays, and memoiric type things… kind of everything.
  • Someone: Woooooww.
  • Me:Yeee-up.
This bothers me. In fact, it kind of enrages me.
Not the fact that people ask me what I’m studying, or what I want to do with my life. Go on, please, ask me! I’ll make you tea, and we can chat about dreams and life. What bothers me is when people hear “English” or “literature” or “writing” and immediately unplug their interest oven. As if books are irrelevant and words are useless and writers are outcasts of society who have no potential and no hope for a world-changing future.

I study literature because I love it. Because it brings me happiness. Because it breaks my heart and blows my mind and opens my eyes to new dimensions and perspectives every day of my life. I read things that people forget exist and things that people enshrine like cultural gods and things that make people change their lives and things that have changed the world. I’m not writing a treatise on all the ways literature has influenced this planet, but you shouldn’t need me to in order to know that literature changes things. Not all literature, certainly. But if literature has changed me, and has changed so many of my friends and family and people I admire, and has changed the people that write it, how can we possibly say that it is irrelevant?

Okay, yes, reality. Jobs. Money, insurance, bills. You need money to survive and a lot of it to be stable in this society in the 21st century. I get it. It’s only been pounded into my head a gazillion times. I am aware, thank you, that being a writer essentially guarantees me enough money to buy coffee and a fifty cent comp book, repeat until I die. Beyond that, I’ll have to find a job. Which could be anything from journalism to teaching (unlikely) (but who knows) to editing to publishing to working overseas to higher ed. I don’t know and I actually don’t mind that. I have and am reading beautiful and terrible stories, immersing myself in the endless possibilities of words. I have and am learning so much that my brain and heart can hardly keep it all in. And more than anything, I am learning that writing has the power to change people. It’s kind of incredible. And it’s only reinforcing my resolve. 

Rant about over. But–I just wish everyone could understand that just because I don’t have a laid-out future doesn’t mean I don’t have one at all. Actually, I’m more excited for my rather aimless future than I ever thought I would be. I’m not locked into anything. No one’s going to force me to do something I don’t want to do. I feel free to take opportunities as they come, to wander, to explore, to jump from place to place and experience to experience. Yeah, this is kind of idealistic. But I feel like I can breathe knowing I have unnumbered options open to me. And no matter what I do or don’t do, I can and will be writing, continually, always.

By the way. This goes for any major–particularly those that don’t get oohs and ahhs. Some of us have our futures set in front of us like highways. Some of us have wandery, hard-to-track footpaths through forests. And most of us have something in between the two. But the point is we’re all going somewhere. It’s probably not where we think we’re going, but it’s somewhere, and it’s going to be all right for us. So let’s stop pressuring people–each other–ourselves–to have it all figured out. Okay?

When you ask me what I want to do with my life, ask me because you really want to know. “English major” doesn’t mean “boring,” or “useless,” or “poor.” For me, it means a whole world of wondrous things. If you asked me… maybe I’d tell you some.A lot of us are scared of telling you that we’re scared, that we’re unsure, that we really have no idea what we’re doing. So maybe instead of asking us what we’re majoring in or what career we’re headed for, ask us about the things we’re passionate about. That’s where the better answers lie anyway.
Share with the world:

1 comment:

  1. You work to fill your belly. True. But literature fill the soul.

    Poems make this bare-metal monochrome world so much more colourful. Prose takes you away from your drab ordinary lives for a while to a era gone by or perhaps into the future. Plays engage you and make you live someone else's life for a few hours.

    And personally - "English major",to me means a lot of fun conversations, perspectives and one helluva story teller. As far from boring as can be!


Designed by Beautifully Chaotic