Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Curse of the English Major

I highly recommend college. Whether it's a tiny private university where a tour would take about 10 minutes (where I'm at now) or a large state school where a tour would require an excursion of an entire city (where I've been). I do not, however, recommend being an English major. Why? Well I am going to provide reasons, of course. I could never make such a bold claim without providing supporting details. (Yep, this is going to be a boring post.)

An English major spends a good portion of his or her time in college reading and rereading poems, novels and short stories often written by authors who ultimately killed themselves. It's not exactly the sunniest way to spend four years. Said English major is then required to analyze these depressing tales in long, flowery-but-not-too-flowery essays. Unfortunately, this habit of finding meaning in absolutely every word cannot be broken once outside of the classroom.

Ergo, the English major ventures into Fantasyland. No, not the fun kind where you meet witches (see image on left) and pretend to fly. The kind where everything everyone does means something. Every word, glance, action and inaction has a purpose. In the real world, however, (sane) people really don't put that much thought into everything they do. They don't pay close attention to word choice or metaphors. And it's obvious that body language was something Cosmo invented to sell magazines to insecure women. It's just difficult for someone who gets applauded by professors for pointing out "significant" passages to accept this fact.

That's another thing. We're encouraged every day to behave this way. Overanalysis is condoned with great enthusiasm. Even if certain words or character traits mean absolutely nothing, English professors practically wet themselves if you suggest that such things are actually totally crucial to the theme of the story. These well-meaning individuals are ultimately promoting a practice that can be detrimental to the English major's social and personal life.

I have a mini nervous breakdown every time someone says, "How's it going?" because I don't know how he or she (usually he) actually wants me to respond. It takes too long to say, "It's (whatever 'it' is) going well; how is it going with you?" In Fantasyland, I choose my words very carefully and squint my eyes just the right amount in order to convey a certain message. In the real world, however, no one really cares. People are not going to stay up all night analyzing every word spoken to them. That dude who greeted me in a casual manner is going to continue along his merry way no matter how I reply.

So next time an English major bumps into you (because she is probably too busy analyzing her last conversation to pay attention to where she's going), be moderately sympathetic and majorly straightforward because you never know what kind of ridiculous thoughts are swirling around in that head of hers at any given moment.

Well that's one reason to not major in English. So all of the above and the whole not being able to find a job after graduation thing. Two reasons to just say no.

1 comment:

  1. I love this :) Your writing is amazing, Paige, and I can totally relate. I overanalyze every single thing about conversations and body language. It's easy to drive yourself crazy!