Why I decided to become an English Major (A love story)


Let’s say you’re a seven year-old girl named Sophie. Whaddya wanna be when you grow up? Probably some kind of like, astronaut veterinarian thingy. You’re inspired by your scientist parents, who do cool shit when they go to work. You want to cure cancer and develop pilotless flight and probably invent something cool. You want to do this all before you turn thirty, because after thirty people are OLD.

Flash forward eleven years.

You are now an English major.

How did this happen?

It’s not as though books were my one true love when I was younger. Nope. For eight solid years of my life, I was going to go to veterinary school. I really loved animals. I read everything I could about biology and loved those books where you got to flip through the different “layers” of animal bodies. Books were more like background noise. They were less of a thing to do and more of a thing that was always there. We always read books, but I never thought about them in any special way.

The first thing that happened was algebra. I was never that great at math (I never realized this would become a hindrance), but this didn’t really sink in until I started taking home problems with letters mixed in with the numbers. So confusing. So sad.

The next thing that happened was biology. I remember coming out of that class and saying to myself, “If I had to do this everyday for the rest of my life, I think I would explode.” It was the same for chem and physics (though not for environmental science – but that shit’s just fantastic).

What followed was a long stream of, “I can do this! I don’t want to do this. I can do this! I don’t want to do this. I can do THIS! I don’t WANT to do this.”

And then something crystallized in the back of my head. It’s like when you live next door to this guy for years and years and then suddenly you realize his shoulders are pretty sexy and you just think, “Huh. Hello there.”

Another big factor was that I met the nicest people in my English lit classes. Even at the university level, the people who taught me mathy and sciencey things were just bitches. Like, entertaining, definitely – but bitches none the less. They had very little tolerance for people who weren’t just plain good at what we were learning in class, and they seemed aggrieved at having to teach whatever classes they were teaching (mostly intro classes, I guess this might make a difference…)

(But it shouldn’t – the only English class I took this year was a horribly pedantic intro to theory class and the grad student teaching it was more accessible and enthusiastic than anyone I’d met that year.)

What is going on here?

For all of my life, I’d heard people talking about encouraging people to enter the sciences. We need more scientists – they’re going to be the ones who cure cancer, not me. I might write a book that touches the souls of a generation (secret admission time: Sophie wants to be Laurie Halse Anderson) but, let’s face it, the history books aren’t written about poets. So why aren’t the teachers reaching out to students? Why are they being bitches?

Oh well. Didn’t matter to me. I’d already made my decision – I want to be a part of a community that helps, not one that makes an ass out of itself anytime someone asks for help. (Note how it didn’t take an actual sampling of people to make me think this – just one or two jerkwads in high school and college. Teachers: stop being bitches, seriously.)

BESIDES all of that – what do I really want to do when I grow up? Write books. What’s this amazing thing you can use in conjunction with your BA at the UofC? It’s called a creative thesis. What’s a creative thesis? Writing. Chapters of books. Short stories. Okay. I can do that shit. And I can do it well. Why shouldn’t I do something that makes me happy and that I can succeed in no problem instead of something that makes me want to grind my head against a wall over and over again?

I dunno either.

I realize I titled this “A Love Story,” and it is – not very romantic on my part, but I like to think of English waiting patiently as I was running around prostituting myself out to other subjects. And now it is like love. Warm, eggnogy love.


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