We walked against the nighttime wind with our heads held high and our heels a little higher. We were slowly making our way into the comfort of a house where we’d be provided with intoxicating substances and communal sweat. Homework was done, classes over for the week, petty stresses behind us, and a night out before us.
Suddenly, a group of boisterous, clearly wasted guys showed up next to us. One of them caught my eye and asked, “How are you doing tonight?”
“I’m doing well, thanks,” I mumbled, not wanting to get too comfortable with this rando.
“You’re doing well? YOU’RE DOING WELL. THANK YOU. YOU HAVE PROPER GRAMMAR. THANK YOU,” he shouted obnoxiously.
Though I didn’t know if he would rejoice the same way sober, I internally teemed with joy because he picked up on my word choice. I’ve always used “well” instead of “good” not only because it’s grammatically correct, but because I secretly hope people will recognize and appreciate it, just as I do.
I laughed nervously in response, “Well, I’m an English major.”
“You’re an English major? YOU’RE AN ENGLISH MAJOR. Why are you an English major?”
I laughed nervously again. It wouldn’t even matter what I said, as he probably wouldn’t remember, never mind register, my response. This over-analytical introspection was exactly what I had gone out to avoid that night. I tried to explain mindlessly, “I guess I like literature… I like reading…”
“…Bullshit. Why are you really an English major?” he pressed.
Goddamn, since when were drunk guys this receptive? Why did he even care? He clearly heard the tone of uncertainty in my superficially confident reply. I didn’t know how to answer next.
“Okay, I like writing too…”
He gave me a quizzical stare. “Bulllllllllshit.”
Thankfully, we finally reached our destination, where this guy became more preoccupied with getting more screwed up than interrogating me. I breathed a sigh of relief because his soul-searching queries were the same ones I asked myself every single day. I gave myself a night out because I wanted a break from contemplating questions I didn’t really know the answers to.
Now, I’m back to analysing my life decisions. This time, I’m demanding a real response from myself. Why am I really studying English? Why am pursuing a degree the world frowns upon as “useless?”
Yes, I do like literature. I enjoy reading and writing. English has always been my best subject in school…
But beyond that, I love books because they give me characters to fall in love with, to become best friends with. Outside of the real world, there are stories I can relate to, and sometimes that’s enough to make me feel less alone. Words on a page simply have the ability to turn my eyes into waterfalls, or into crescent moons of laughter, which is so refreshing when it seems like there is nothing worth feeling for. Books transport me to an entirely different universe, so I can have a break from this one. Stories teach me lessons my parents and teachers can’t explain. Though it sounds dramatic, stories motivate us, give us hope—save us all.
I love writing, because it is one of the few things that make me feel like a sane human being. When anxiety takes over and I feel like exploding and everything is happening all at once—putting my thoughts on a page untangles the problems and helps me see the solutions, tangibly in front of my eyes. In writing, it seems as if for once, I can control everything that happens in my world.
I am obtaining a degree in English because I don’t want to be another doctor, lawyer, engineer who is living life on the safe side just to please her parents and to earn a six-figure salary for the sake of feeling “accomplished.” I admire writers because at one point in their lives, they had to flip off societal expectations and declare, “I am going to be a writer, dammit, and you’re going to accept that.” They refused to shrink themselves into the narrow molds of the world. With their words, they made the world shape itself around their ideas. Successful writers stand as examples of how wrong people are when they label English a useless major.
I am studying English because I may never be a JK Rowling or a Jane Austen (or even a Stephanie Meyer), but I hope that someone somewhere will read something of mine and feel influenced in some way… I am not set on changing the entire universe, but a small dent of impact would be nice.
After years of contemplation, it took a drunken frat guy to help me realise why I’m really doing this. So, Drew, thanks.
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