Earlier this week i read a wonderful paper online entitled Liberal Arts, and The Advantages of Being Useless. Too many times I’ve been situated in conversation where people ask me what I’m doing in college, then either 1) look away awkwardly or 2) ask me if I’m going to be a teacher after graduation when I tell them I’m reading literature/ art history. (To that point, no, kids scare me so teaching is out as a career.) Sometimes there’s a fleeting look of pity when that happens, like I cemented my future in bleak hopelessness when I made the decision to read literature at a university level, or the recognition of my spot at the bottom of the bell curve of, oh, i dont know, life. It’s okay. We’re used to it. It’s why when our professors make jibes at us, and boy oh boy they do, – “this will about as useful in life to you as an English degree”, etcetera etcetera – we laugh along. Sometimes someone runs out crying but it’s rare.
At the cusp of my first semester, one late night over hot cup noodles and conversation, i asked tentatively, what if this is all a big mistake? and my best friend stared at me over his cup of Nissin and said, but Jem, this is what you were born to do. I couldnt be happier. Validation right there. I can’t say i was never worried, honestly, but then again neither can I convince myself that I’d be more satisfied doing anything else. Besides, it’s the same reason I get so annoyed around that time of the year where universities release the projected average income levels for each course of study and the entire world moans and freaks out. Because are you aiming to be average? No? Then it’s irrelevant to you. Stop freaking out over nothing.
In any case, the questions, they come and come. It’s natural. That’s okay for now. It’s packaged with other questions, like, What’s your GPA, When are you getting married, How many kids, Have you considered this life insurance plan, and Are you sure you want to match those shoes with those pants? Its okay. I cant pretend I’ve never worried about the future, but I’ve given up worrying about the future within social structures a long time ago. If I’m going to freak out over a bad grade, it’s going to be because I don’t like the feeling of doing badly, and not because someone or structure else doesnt think its a great grade. If I’m going to have kids next time, it’s going to be because i want to/ get over my kid-phobia, and damn well not because of some childbirth policy. It’s a self centered ideology, sure, but noone else is going to take responsibility for your happiness but yourself, so get with it.
So yeah, that’s kind of always been my take on it. When i saw the article posted by Fee on my twitter newsfeed and read it, i was like wow, this is really, really good. You don’t have to be convinced by me, and in any case a freshly twenty has no business giving anyone life advice anyway, but read this. It basically expounds on why a liberal arts degree is useless and why it is just so great to be useless. I think it’s pretty good. But don’t take me at my word, read it. Arts kids especially. You’ll love it.