Do you want fries with that?
August 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
What does a literature graduate with a job say to a literature graduate without a job? – Dou you want fries with that?
Pretty damn funny, isn’t it? Well, I don’t think so. I’m currently in college, studying French and German literature and linguistics, and I get those jokes a lot. Most people don’t know that they have tickled a very sensitive nerve of mine there. I’ve wanted to study literature ever since 8th grade, but now that I am a year away from my bachelor’s degree, I’m facing a reality that is frighteningly close to these jokes.
Those who know me will agree that I’m not very talented at small talk. But there is one question that I fear more than all the others: “What are you studying?” I want to sound confident and bold when I tell people that I’m majoring in French and German, but I usually just mutter those two words and hope that we move on to the next subject. I can’t stand the jokes and comments, the disapproving and condescending looks of people who study “something real”. Why am I so ashamed of my studies? Literature is my passion and, in theory, I should be proud that I followed my heart.
Unfortunately, the whole “follow your heart” thing turned out to be bullshit. At the beginning, it seemed like a good idea to study the thing that I like most and that I’m good at, but I was so in love with the mere idea that I ignored all warnings from the people around me. By warnings I mean both the old jokes mentioned above and long, serious lectures about the bad job market for literature graduates. After high school, I had some hesitations whether to enrol in French and German literature or in something else, something that is more promising career-wise, but my emotions won against rationality.
I’m seriously not happy in college. Not because I don’t like the classes I’m taking (on the contrary – most of them are quite interesting and rewarding) but because I constantly worry about my future and wonder if it would have been better to have gone for med school, engineering or even a teaching degree. I’ve had long conversations with various people, some of whom encourage my decision and tell me that I will eventually find a job, but just like me, they can’t really picture what job this will be. Other people say that I’m irrational and irresponsible and that another degree would suit me better.
I seriously don’t know whom to believe. I know that the job market is everything but promising for me, and I’m constantly thinking of taking up something entirely different or switching to a teaching degree. But then I imagine myself in med school, learning by heart all parts of the human body, and I wonder if this Lena is more satisfied with her choices than I am. I doubt it.
Literature, unlike medicine or engineering, is a field of study that makes a very good hobby. If you’re an avid and attentive reader, you can analyse and discuss books with a cup of tea on your living room sofa and not in a dusty classroom with squeaky chairs. Maybe – for people like me who care a lot about what others think of them – it’s even better to solely read in your living room, in your own private bubble. And I know that no matter where my studies will lead me in the end, I’ll never turn my back to literature, no matter if it’s what earns me a living or what I waste my earned money on.
In the ideal case, it’s both at the same time.