I’m not going to read through this before it’s posted, I just thought I might put out a few ideas for this thing I said I’d write for my Alumnus (is it capitalized?).
I chose to be an english major because while in high school I was the guy who would sit in chemistry and have my face buried in Chuck Palahniuk’s prose. I wasn’t all that interested in the English courses in high school either, but at least I had things to contribute unlike most of my peers. I came to Western Illinois because my uncle did – simple as that. I didn’t even think of going until April before I graduated. I was convinced I couldn’t get in anywhere. I’ve got to go a bit cliche and say that college changed my life. Undeclared, supply chain management, math, English Ed, then finally just English – this was my first two years.
A lot of people joke that English is a “would you like fries” sort of BA. I had thought that before, during, and after getting it myself. Reflecting, now that I’ve been working for two years: no degree matter – just that you have one. You want to work in a cubical? Just apply to the corporate world – trust me the only thing they learn that you won’t is expense reports and the wonders of Excel. What do they miss out on? Discovery, a deeper love for the arts, and shouting at professors about phalic metaphors.
Right now I am the marketing department at a small, but well known restaurant in the city of Chicago. We’re fairly ahead of other businesses because of the work I do. For perspective, how many 40 seat restaurants with three grocery shelves do you know of that has a full time marketing person on staff? I consider myself immensely lucky, sure. Things fall into your lap and you are unsure, but you learn to absolutely love them. This is the same experience I had joining the English Department at Western.
Full disclosure – I had to take English 102, yes, the low level freshmen entry course and English 202, twice, because I failed the first time. Just because you suck at sentence structure, spelling, and usage doesn’t mean you don’t belong in English. It’s more than sitting around talking about MLA vs Chicago and if email should have a hyphen or not. It’s about literature, delving deep into authors that upset you, confuse the shit out of entire classes of 19 year olds, and professors that make you grin because they flip the right switches. For me, English was about the people too; the cool cute girls that were kinda nerdy and brainy that you’d try to empress with your lexicon and stretch to an over arching metaphor of the color red in a book, and the cool guys that would tell you about their weekend soirees or joke with them about a teacher’s boots but still be humbled by their intelligence, and the infinitly wise and ever exciting professors that pushed all of us to see things in writing that would be impossible to explain to people outside the class let alone the department.
There was just something that clicks with English students. You get passed the ‘weeding out course’ and come out through the other side like the band of brothers, only with your head buried in stinky used books instead of sand and a lot less bombs.
I guess my message to incoming English majors to Western would be to not give up when it’s tough and to not think about how you won’t get a ‘real job,’ because they are over rated anyway. Do what you love and eventually something will find you.
So this came out a bit more like a high school graduation speech, but it’s a good ground-work i-beam frame out of what I was thinking. They want more about how I use my degree in a day to day type thing – it’ll get there.
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