In Defense of My English Major


There’s a moment, every time I tell someone that I plan to major in English, when I can see the panic in their eyes as they search for something polite to say.

Some ask what career I want to pursue, while others simply force out a transparent and often insincere “That’s nice.” What nobody says is what they’re really thinking: Shouldn’t you pick something more practical?

The answer: for me, English is practical. Practical is not what will make the most money, or what sounds the most impressive to my friends’ parents, but what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life—what will make me happy.

Sure, I was good at physics and calculus. I even considered engineering for a while—it certainly would have thrilled my parents. But I realized one night, as I lay awake melodramatically pondering my future, that being an engineer would mean working on an endless physics project. And that would make me nothing short of miserable.

That night I realized that what I truly love is literature, creative writing and even grammar. The prospect of having a career where I could edit manuscripts or work with soon-to-be-published authors every day excites me just as much as the idea of being the first person on Mars excites future astronauts.

What I also realized is that we can’t all be engineers, lawyers and doctors—the world needs editors and writers too. I came to terms with the fact that some people would always think that I was “wasting my potential.”

But I am not wasting my potential. Our words change lives; they allow us to dream and understand the thoughts and emotions of people thousands of miles away. My English major is integral to the human identity, which begs the question: Why not English?