Archive for Wednesday, January 10, 2001

The life of an English major is …

January 10, 2001

"I'm an English major," I told the nice woman. She nodded, paused, then asked, "What are you going to do with that?" I was ready for her response. I am part of the proud minority, made up of Art majors, music majors; people who've dedicated four college years to preparing themselves for the world of rejection, loneliness and minimum wage jobs, our punishment for enjoying what we learn.

"Are you going to teach?" she asked. I was ready for that question too. It comes often, fueled by the only sensible, stable, career track for an English major.

"No," I say confidently, "I'd like to be a writer." And she nods again, with a, "Yeah, you do that, sonny," smirk on her face.

I wanted to say, "I'm going to sell my first book the day after I graduate. Someone will buy the movie rights. I'll have a $50,000 advance on my second book, more than you made in two years mind you, and someone will write a biography about me, the successful English major who, barely old enough to drink, bought a house in New England and won the Pulitzer Prize before marrying." That's what I wanted to tell her. "You'll be scurrying around town to find my book. It will be on the shelf with the other bestsellers. Your relatives will give it to you for Christmas and when you see the back cover you'll cringe and wish you had asked me for an autograph."

"Yeah, you do that sonny." And I plan to. As soon as I graduate and as soon as I find an apartment large enough for the library of classics that I've accumulated over the years. As soon as I find the joy in reading again, and as soon as I get a real job to pay off my student loans. I'll do that. I'll write a book. As soon as I settle down, with my wife who was a communications major. As soon as I buy a car to drive myself to the supermarket where I sack groceries and dream up plots and characters that will catch a publisher's eye. As soon as my children are off to school, as soon as the car is paid off. I'll write a book.

And so it is, my uphill climb, punishment for enjoying what I learn. It is the burden I carry in my book bag, heavy from years of avoiding math and science in exchange for Dickens and Dickinson, Hemingway and Hawthorne. It is the major uneasy with six figure salaries, and at home with a typewriter, which I'll buy as soon as get my first paycheck, from the supermarket, where I'll sack groceries and dream up plots and characters that will catch a publisher's eye.

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