Musings on a Major

I recently Googled “worst paying college majors,” knowing that what I might find could cast a shadow upon my chosen field of study. According to Forbes, an English major is pretty much worthless. At least, the statistics say that studying English literature is monetarily going to set me on the path to failure. But am I actually setting myself up for failure, or is life about more than money and statistics?

Forbes cites that English majors who are “experienced grads,” earn $52,000.00 in median income. I saw nothing about what these grads will earn spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually. Seemingly, money is the most important thing. When you could pursue a monetarily rewarding career path, why would you choose to spend four years of studying something that might not give you a future with a huge bank account and a BMW? Many of us who choose the path of an English major know we that we might not be making the biggest investment in our bank account. We do know that we just might be making an investment in our hearts and minds.

A college friend recently asked me: “What is the purpose of studying literature?” My friend’s question was worthwhile because it made me search for the motivation behind hours of reading, writing, struggling, and trying to comprehend words scrolled across a page. I found the answer in my humanity: in my need to understand the world that God has placed me in. “The study of English literature is the study of what it means to be human,” I responded. The sorrow, pain, cruelty, beauty, and grace depicted in literature shows the vulnerability of the human heart and the struggle to fully recognize our potential as people created by a great God. By reading Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, I learn that man is depraved and hopeless without God. The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins teaches me of my need to praise the Savior, to revel in the stunning world he has created. The time I spend reading is time I spend investing in understanding who I am within this vast universe.

Although the unemployment rate for recent graduates in my field of study is 9.2%, and the median income for those of us with our B.A. in English newly in hand is $32,000.00 (according to Forbes), I don’t think I will regret my decision to invest in my heart instead of directly investing in my wallet. Through my course of study, I am learning what it means to live. I am learning what it means to exercise the intellect that God has given to me. I am learning that life is too short to be spent fearing the future. Yes, I want a rewarding job. I hope to be successful and make more money than Forbes indicates that I might. Yet, I know that it may be a struggle. Thanks to four years of struggling through volumes of literature, I know I will be ready. I know that to be human is to face problems and triumph over them. I know learning that truth has been worth my while.

“I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…” ~Thoreau: Walden

Read the Forbes article here

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