20something profile: Ally
“An English major, huh?” Nods. Long pause. “So… What are you going to do with that?” Sighs.
While earning my B.A. in English Writing at Butler University between August 2008 and May 2012, this was a question I heard all too often. I’m sure other English majors can agree that for whatever reason, the English major has developed a reputation. To many, it’s considered an aimless pursuit.
To some degree, this is true. Majoring in English is not going to propel you toward a specific, definite career path. But these days, can any college major set you up that perfectly? While perhaps a degree in English lacks specificity, its benefits lie elsewhere. Critical thinking. Clear communication. Creative approach. These are skills I gained from majoring in English that I feel could prepare me for nearly any career. “So…What are you going to do with that?” Pause. Thinks. “Well, actually…anything I want.”
I spent the majority of my college days thinking I would one day work in Public Relations. This is what I told people. I told myself, however, that I would be a writer. In the meantime, I worked on both. I excelled in my creative writing courses at Butler, edited our literary magazine and read my stories at Starbucks performance nights. Outside of school, I interned for a radio station, the Smithsonian and a local Indianapolis website doing communications-type work.
In one realm, I wrote poems; in the other, press releases. As graduation approached, I applied for the PR jobs. I beefed up my résumé and dressed up for interviews, but still, apprehension and doubt lurked in the back of my mind. You can do anything you want. Is this really what you want to do?
It wasn’t, I decided. Instead, I took another direction and applied for a high school teaching position at a small, private school near Butler. One application, one hand-delivered résumé and one tough-as-nails interview later, I had the job that I thought I was the least qualified to obtain. But once again, my English major proved everyone wrong. Although teaching was not in my original plans, I was so relieved to be hired and to have a job right out of school. It took off so much of the pressure that only second-semester seniors can truly appreciate.
Now is when you’re probably thinking: But Ally, why are you relieved? Don’t you want to be a writer? And the answer is yes, actually I do, and I’m also not finished with my story yet.
If I’ve learned anything in my short post-grad experience, it’s that life — and everything about it — is a marathon, not a sprint. I realize this is completely cliché, but it’s also completely true. I don’t want to be a high-school teacher forever, not even for five years; but for the present, it’s working well for me. Every day at work, I get to teach children what strong writing looks like. I get to read and analyze the literature that I love. I get to sharpen my intellect and think on my feet.
All of these things are stepping stones in the right direction toward becoming who I want to be. Like any dream job, becoming a writer is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time and energy and sweat and blood. Okay, maybe not blood. But, I know that I’ll get there one day if I pace myself and make each step count along the way.