“Teach? Serve coffee? Be homeless? What’s your plan?”
When asked what I was going to do with my degree, I usually smiled and laughed it off with some, “Isn’t that the question of the day” remark, but perhaps I should’ve been asking, “Why the urgency?”
For years I’ve struggled to understand exactly what I wanted to do with my life. When I was eight-years-old, I wanted to be a vet, a horse trainer and a painter. When I was 13, I was certain that I was going to own tigers and live in a castle. Before college, I wanted to go into law, maybe be a doctor too.
I just didn’t know.
Every time I started to nail down a plan for my future, something in me shook the chains of time and resisted. I was terrified that I was making the wrong decision. So, I immersed myself in self-help articles, decision matrixes, pro/con lists, and sought the advice of almost everyone I knew. The end result?
I became one of those crazy idealists.
I studied what I loved.
After my freshman year of college, I realized that my current classes just didn’t sit right with me. I started signing up for lectures that made me excited and eager to learn and I graduated with dual degrees in English and Spanish.
I didn’t worry about what my ultimate plan was nor how my classes would contribute to my 401K. Instead, I filled my mind with things that expanded my awareness. I graduated with a thoughtful, critical and creative perspective on the world.
Unfortunately, I seemed to be going against the grain with my optimism. I began to feel utter dismay from friends, family and strangers who asked me, “What are you going to do with your degree?” More often than not, they almost instantly assumed I was going to teach, that somehow I had closed off all other professional options for my life.
I couldn’t disagree with them more.
While studying English, I interned and worked in promotions, law, sales, writing, editing and event management. I dabbled in as many avenues as I could, to get a taste for what did and didn’t like.
At interviews, companies seemed attracted to my attention to detail, strong communication skills and problem solving techniques. If there is one thing I can almost completely credit to my English degree, it is my ability to efficiently manage and complete huge, intimidating tasks. Many of my literature classes primed me for the workforce by assigning massive reading assignments, writing projects and focused critical analyses.
Now, I work in marketing while pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry. The applicability of this degree is challenged frequently but I know that the best way to success is not by focusing exclusively on an end point, but by focusing on the journey.
Somehow this message of peace is beginning to be lost in our society and I’d like to be a part of the backlash against it.
Allowing others to question the validity of my craft and my studies has brought me to experience self-doubt, anxiety, insecurity and has caused more fear than I know what to do with. Money doesn’t make a man valuable and a job doesn’t provide identity.
We are beautiful and if nothing else, let this be a reminder to you:
You are where you need to be.
Don’t be afraid.
Author: Laurel Rose Milburn
Associate Editor: Kendra Hackett/Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock