There I was standing in front of a bathroom mirror on campus where the word “dick” was written in red lipstick framed by a heart. Something inside me sank, as I couldn’t help laughing at the painful irony: I had just left my poetry workshop.
Isn’t that the most fitting metaphor for being a liberal arts student?
That the conversation we had in class about our duty in the world as writers 10 minutes before got wiped out the second I entered this reality where “dick” is a profound enough word to become graffiti on a university campus.
The liberal arts are seriously undervalued right now. I did not anticipate spending so much time during my final semester defending my degree.
I get it. With such an emphasis on STEM fields right now, liberal arts get brushed aside and dismissed as a trivial area of study.
When I tell people I’m graduating with an English degree in May, I can see the secondhand anxiety creep into their eyes. It’s flattering anyone cares enough to worry about me, but they can all stop.
It used to make me nervous. If I was a nursing, education or accounting student, no one would ask me about my future plans, but here I am bravely choosing to study something I love and I have come to realize that leading by emotion freaks people out.
When I started college, I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. To be honest, I still don’t. I did know, however, that I wanted to graduate feeling as though my life has been deeply enriched in some way.
The thought of learning one area of study really well, but lacking in other areas scared me. How could I decide what was of real interest to me unless I dabbled in everything?
Though, lately, it seems college is fueled strictly by the purpose of attaining a job, I wanted to get back to the roots of college being for an education and an enlightening experience.
I held this unconventional notion that my college experience should do its original intention and make me an all-around smarter, more aware person. With that, my dad, who was a history major, told me to pursue a degree in the liberal arts.
He argued that if I want a well-rounded education, a degree in the liberal arts would be the best option.
He championed for an English degree from the start, so after some gentle bullying I declared English my major and only regretted it a few times — like when I have four papers due during same week every semester.
Even more daringly, I decided to concentrate in creative writing. Another useless area, right?
I challenge anyone who thinks creative writing is a joke to sit in on a creative writing workshop where each student has to pass out his/her work, sit in a circle and listen without responding to everyone’s criticism of said work.
If that isn’t preparing me for rejection in the so-called “real world,” then I don’t know what will.
Of course, I don’t mean to sound snobbish or elitist. I understand there are plenty of reasons why students can’t always pursue a liberal arts degree, like the insane cost of college and return on investment, for example.
With one month to go before I graduate, I find myself ruminating on my decision often. And despite the fact I don’t know where I’ll be in five years, I’m confident I’ll be successful because my dad was right: the liberal arts didn’t prepare me for one specific career; it prepared me for almost any career (don’t worry, I’ll stay away from the medical field).
My English degree helped me accomplish my goal of attaining a fulfilling education. I am more perceptive and intuitive.
I can articulate solid arguments, express myself clearly both orally and in writing and while I’m definitely not saying I know everything, I graduate knowing I have the capacity to understand and critically assess most things on some level.
Therefore, I do believe I’ll be successful in whatever path I choose. So, while I appreciate the concern of others, I am going to be fine.
Truthfully, I’m not sure I could say the same if I had not chosen the liberal arts.
Mostly, I feel grateful and maybe a little spoiled. I got to enjoy an education driven by a love of education rather than the fear of my future.