When I was in 11th grade, my English teacher, who we'll call Mr. Z, told me that I looked the way he'd always imagined Queen Guinevere looked, and I promptly developed a crush on him, even though he was like 50, and I simultaneously fell even more in love with literature. (Of course, my high school boyfriend claimed that Mr. Z was hitting on me. But he was wrong, because the NEXT year, my 12th grade English teacher [who was a happily married middle-aged woman] told me that I look like Ophelia from Hamlet, so apparently I just look like I was born in the wrong century... or English teachers think I have a "classic" look, either way.) Anywho, the point in sharing that little tidbit is that 11th grade was when I decided that I'd like to major in English in college, and I credit (or blame, depending on how you look at it) Mr. Z for that.
I've always loved to read, but Mr. Z introduced me to literature that I'd never heard of (he had our class read Cyrano De Bergarac, and for that I will love him forever) and made my love of books and language feel sophisticated instead of nerdy. And I decided that being able to read and write for a living would be the most romantic, wonderful thing that I could possibly do. So in my senior year of high school, when Mr. Z asked me what my college major would be, I said "English," and he said, "English?? Tova, have I taught you nothing??"
His point, of course, was that there is no money to be made in having an English degree (nor in having a writing degree, which is what I ultimately ended up getting), and that if you're going to go to college, you might want to get a degree in something that will help you get a job. (My dad used to joke that English majors need to learn how to speak English well so that people can understand them when they ask, "Do you want fries with that?") And that's how I ended up working at a job that, while it is important and rewarding and meaningful, pays less than what some of my friends who never went to college are making, and those friends have the added bonus of not needing to pay back student loans. This same job relies in large part on charitable contributions, so the bad economy is hitting us pretty hard.
This week, one of my coworkers was laid off, and my department was told that we had to cut back our hours. So starting next week, yours truly officially works four days a week instead of five. It's good in that my writing degree and I will get to sleep in late one more day a week, but it's bad in that Mr. Darling is in med school, so I (with a teeny bit of help from my writing degree) am the one who pays the rent and puts food on the table (well, we eat most meals on the couch, but you get the idea), and now I will be making less money. We also get loan money, but apparently you actually have to give that money back at some point, and we won't get our next loan check until February-ish, which means that Mr. D and I are officially poor with a capital PO. (Ok, I'm majorly over-dramatizing; we'll be fine once we get the loan check; plus, my parents only live 15 minutes away, and they would never let us starve to death, in part because they're counting on my uterus to give them more grandkids someday. Also in our favor is the fact that the Internal Revenue Service, in spite of its flaws, at least recognizes that two people living on my income cannot possibly afford to give it any money, so we'll be getting all of our income tax back.)
So, this is not so much a "poor little me" post as it is a public service announcement. Here is my advice to all of my readers who are trying to decide on a college major - for the love of all that is good and holy, if you insist upon studying English or writing in college, make it your minor.