By contributing writer Sarah Juliet

There are certain characteristics all English majors share: an aversion to numbers so strong that it usually results in hives, an unfightable urge to not end sentences with prepositions, and an inexplicable desire to live in utter poverty. A special bond, really.

The defining criteria of this lies within the question we’re all asked time and time again: “What exactly do you plan to do with an English major?” And time and time again, we have no good answer. A high percentage of the Points in Case writers are English majors, and probably a big chunk of you reading this are pursuing a degree in our fine language as well. To answer the pesky question at hand, you all might say, “I am an English major simply because I love words,” or, “Because I’d like to become a llama farmer in Vermont.”

But not I, my good folks of the written word, not I.

For I HATE BOTH READING AND WRITING. More so the former than the latter, but I’ll get to that. First to tackle this sticky little question, if I hate English so much, then why have I taken it on as my major? The truth is, my dear readers, this question festers in the back of my mind all hours of the day, but I do not dignify it with an answer. I guess I just always figured I would study English, and that would be the end of it. Because back in middle school, I was good at English. Real good. You bet your bottom dollar I would never have employed the adjective “real” to modify the adjective “good.”


Makes a perfect gift for liberal arts grads!

From a young age, English teachers praised me for how well I was able to convey my “voice” into writing—a voice I can only describe as a combination of a middle-aged British knight and an adolescent gangster, both male. Don’t ask me why; that’s how they sound in my head too. Somehow I’m constantly able to wrangle these two distinct personalities together and make them express some sort of eloquently ghetto train of thought that miraculously doesn’t offend anybody. Call it a gift. Call it schizophrenia. I just call it “me.”

Aside from my unique point of view, I’ve always had a frighteningly active imagination. Like when I saw David Bowie’s Labyrinth for the first time, I identified. That’s not right, dude. Luckily, in high school I found a way to use this to my advantage. For example, in 11th grade, I wrote a 20-paged alternate ending to Lord of the Flies where Ralph gets devoured by a rabid sloth and Piggy overcomes morbid obesity to become the group leader. Oh, how I triumph for the fat kid who turns out hot in the end. In 12th grade on the A.P. Literature test, I wrote a 3-paged, timed essay about how my aunt who got breast implants (she didn’t) was thematically relative to (it wasn’t) the story of Don Quixote (which I never actually read). I got a 5. Suck it, College Board.

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For English classes, I never read books. SparkNotes is a great tool, and when that fails, there’s always good old-fashioned making shit up. What I’m trying to say is that the basis of my being an English major in college lies upon the solid foundation I built for myself during my earlier education—a foundation made up of both laziness and residual insanity. Things haven’t gotten any better, further suggesting that going forth in my conquest of the English language will do nothing to enhance my education. The funny thing is though, while I let my major stew in splendid neglect, I’m able to improve myself in other aspects of life.

For instance, like I mentioned before, I don’t really love to read. Okay fine, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Reading’s just peachy…when I have nothing else to do. In general, I consider myself a dirty, unibrow-laden pig. But when I have a novel due to be read, I suddenly become hyperaware of the clothes strewn about my floor, the mold farm growing in the coffee cup on my nightstand, and the collection of dust that has settled on my refrigerator and rendered it little more than a taxidermied alpaca.

What’s weird is, none of this bothered me over the past couple months. But now that I have a book to read, I MUST CLEAN. I fervently fold, scrub, and Clorox until my fingers are raw and smelling of pine. I’m just about ready to start my reading when I see the picture of the Geico caveman on my wall and realize that it is me, staring back at my own reflection. Suddenly, eyebrow pluckage is a top priority, followed closely by dragging a brush through the matted tuft of steel wool that has grown from my scalp.

For me, writing is the exact opposite. Instead of waiting until I have done EVERY POSSIBLE THING there is to do both on and not on my agenda, I only have inspiration to write when there are at least ten pressing issues at my demand. This, you might be thinking, makes no sense, because I write all the time. EXACTLY. At the moment, I really should be reading 73 pages of Jaques Derrida, applying for my study abroad program, looking into my identity (which I’m pretty sure has been theft-ed), and of course, showering (like seriously). But instead, I am here. Writing this.

It’s really a shame, seeing as writing is the one thing that I like to do, a lot. You’d be surprised at the number of times Court Sullivan has asked me to write something, and my response is, “Sorry Court, but I have way too much free time on my hands to crank out an article for you. We’ll just have to wait until midterms, eh?” It’s not like I haven’t tried to write when I have spare time. Believe me, I have. Instead, whenever I have a peaceful, relaxing time to write, I create diversions for myself.

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Enter Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is my forbidden fruit. For when I’m trying to write something useful, say for example, a thesis on women and autobiographies, I suddenly become REALLY REALLY interested in knowing about all things, including, but not limited to the feudal system, torque, Heidi Klum, Fidel Castro, incinerating toilets, Daft Punk, cookie monster, “where’s the beef?”, Ovaltine, lycra, Polly Pocket, and America’s Next Top Model. None of these subjects relate to women and the autobiography, except maybe that America’s Next Top Model is pretty much Tyra Banks’ way of brainwashing us into thinking that everything on television is her own personal autobiography. But that still doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t do my writing assignment.

What it does do, is open my world to other bits and pieces of information I would never have discovered. Take incinerating toilets for example. I’m more knowledgeable about those babies than I’m comfortable to admit, but I never would have known about them if it weren’t for some writing assignment that sparked my desire for knowledge. Seriously, it’s a really informative page. You should Wikipedia that shit. Will I ever have to write an article about the burning of giant poops? Probably not. (But if you’re interested, leave a note in my comment box.)

T.S. Eliot, one of our great literary fathers, once said, “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” If by “anxiety” he meant “Wikipedia,” then he definitely has a point.

So you see, the benefits I’ve gotten from being an English major so far aren’t the ones for which my parents think we’re paying 40 grand a year. But I’m cleaner, and I’m knowledgeable about Cuban dictators.

And that brings me to my conclusion: Oft times, the typical English major gains not a rich background in theory and literary know-how, but an eclectic mix of all sorts of other random skills and tidbits of knowledge (and a kickass vocabulary). Therefore, the English major ends up being the jack-of-all-trades, and ultimately, the guy who pumps your gas. It could be me one day; and if you’re an English major, it could be you too.

So if we know this is our fate, why do we do it? It’s true, for the scatterbrained English major, there may just be no other choice. If it weren’t for our educational destinies, we would all be hairy wildebeests stewing in pools of our own filth, sans the knowledge we should be equipped with should we ever happen to catch the Cash Cab. And that’s my justification for the selection of my major, thank you.

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