An English Major: a person who enjoys reading and writing, the parts of life many people run away from or drop as soon as they get out of high school, but for a select few, there is somehow enjoyment formed out of it. Starting a new book before going to bed and not being able to put it down until you find out who killed who, who marries whom, what happens next, or how it ends is one of the many exciting parts of an English Major’s life, and being able to create your own stories is something amazing in itself. We move from being the admirers, captivated by an author’s work, to the ones who hold the power to create and destroy with a simple click of a key or swipe of a pen. But this life is not for everyone, the constant judgment of “not having a real job” and the countless rejections received when submitting your work into journals and publication is enough to make anyone lose confidence or sight of the glimmering light of publication and consider other paths. But this never ending trail is rewarding. With every poem or story is the creation of self-expression, an inner release that creates a new life more magical than the stale world we live in. A world of endless possibilities that begins as a blank canvas for our ideas to pour out and paint a new reality. For me, this path has been laid out as more of a hiking trail along a mountains rocky edge than a linear path with birds flying overhead. I have though many times about turning back or taking other routes but somehow I manage to keep going, climbing along that rocky mountain with a goal in mind strong enough to push past the negativity shot in my direction.
From the early years of my education I acquired a love for writing poems and stories. I would finish an assignment as fast as I could and doodle on the back of my paper any scene that popped into my head and write a story about it. Of course this meant I would do poorly on the assignment from blazing through it, often being reprimanded by my teachers, but how could I think straight with a story buzzing through my head and characters screaming to come to life through my poorly drawn doodles? Although I enjoyed writing, I faced one major obstacle that would leave me hanging off the mountains edge just when I thought I found my calling.
I was a quiet student, sitting next to friends or other students never enticed me to talk. I would silently sit at my small metal desk, my fifth grade mind dizzy with stories and ideas as I would daydream out the window, imagining my stories taking place before my eyes, like the window was a TV screen. The class would continue without me, I could hear their voices switch back and forth with the teachers as they moved through the lesson plans. Eventually I would be called on and my TV screen would flash back to the trees and cars moving by outside the classroom, I have to read the next paragraph. Instantly I begin to sweat, my legs and hands shake under my desk and I can feel my body become numb as my heart races within my chest. Paragraph five, I can read that, it is not that long, but what if I mess up and stutter? What if I come to a word I do not know? My classmates always laugh when I have to sound out words and they always jump in every time I take too long. As I begin to read I instantly start to stutter. Every word blends together and I switch them around without even realizing it. The class quickly intervenes, I can hear them huffing and tapping their fingers on their desks as I try to continue, but I have already stumbled and do not know how to regain my footing. I try to stay positive, maybe if I act goofy everything will be okay. I hear the class laughing so I do the same, my teacher’s becoming aggravated and stops me. She reads the rest of the paragraph and I look back to the window that turns into my TV screen again, my heart rate slows and the jitters subside.
The anxiety of reading out loud got worse as I began middle school. I would find any excuse to keep me from reading to the class and sometimes left the room right before it was my turn, hiding out in the bathroom until I decided it was safe to return to class. High school was not much better. I became a pro at speed reading ahead to become familiar with the section I would be given. One of my English teachers would use popsicle sticks with our names written on them to pick the next reader, so one day when she was not looking I found my popsicle stick and stuck it in my backpack. From the anxiety I felt, I soon lost my love of reading and even my love of writing. My journals housed more blank pages than they use to and when I did feel the urge to write I would get frustrated and rip them out and throw them away.
Junior year of high school I chose creative writing as an elective. Although I knew I used to love writing, I was nervous and sometimes dreaded coming to class. We wrote countless stories and poems but each one had to follow strict guidelines, offering very slim wiggle room for open expression and creativity. While writing, I would regain the feeling of excitement as I crafted my unique poems and stories. Feeling elated with what I came up with, I read them to the class with pictures bouncing through my head of the story I created coming to life. But I would leave the class confused and full of judgment, I did not follow the directions correctly or they would say “that is not even a poem,” leaving me dangling dangerously close from losing grip of the mountains edge with no power or motivation left to hang on any further.
In college I switched my major three times. With no idea what my calling is, I started dabbling in different careers from various classes: criminal justice, environmental science, and nutrition. I enjoyed all of these classes but could not see myself doing them as a career for the rest of my life. It was not until I took a Women in Literature class at the Anne Arundel Community College that I realized the burning desire I still had to be a writer. My professor was very passionate and despite the class taking place online, I could feel her love of writing and to see her students succeed in the literary world.
The class focused on the movement from female discrimination in the 1600’s to how females have gained their voice in present day writing. I became very expressive towards gender equality from this class and without even realizing it, I soon regained a passion for writing all over again. I felt inspired to start a blog and one of my first posts was called “The Female Traveler” where I spoke on the topic of female empowerment and being fearless when diving into life without the bind of discrimination to hold us back. I later wrote a post called “The Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty” where I spoke, probably way too strongly, about the way media has created a false reality of how women are to look and act. These topics soon expanded to praising various female writers such as Sojourner Truth and Gertrude Stein. In my writing I became an activist, rebelling against the norms of what it means to be a female and expressing myself through the pages of my blog and later through the stanzas of poetry and lines of short stories.
The desire to be a writer was back and I obtained the strength to hoist myself back onto that rocky path I have dangerously dangled off of for years, and sprint head on into the mysterious world before me. The trail may still be twisted and narrow, but how satisfying it is to be able to face those hurtles with all the power and determination I have gathered from my past. Writing became a regular part of my life, and the old habit of creating stories in my head was a great way to pastime between classes, but this time I make sure to have my phone or laptop with me so I can take notes or blog about it.
As I continue on this path, I have managed to meet so many amazing and inspirational people who have guided me when the path left me dizzy and confused. One being an author who agreed to mentor me. She helps me expand my confidence as I submit my poems and short stories into literary journals, and offers reassurance when I receive countless rejections. Her story inspires me to keep writing and where she shared her own personal journey of facing discrimination in the literary world from being a female. She told me of her new identity as a male author and how she became published under a pseudonym, all while sending in the same work that was once rejected under her real name.
The rejections and negative comments I receive about my choice in major and dream career are what empowers me to keep moving forward. Even when I am told “writing is not that hard,” “that is not a career,” or “you are not going to make money with that career” I still dream of writing and publishing my own novels one day and maybe even working in the TV or film industry as a writer. The path of an English major is not for everyone, but for those who have a love for writing, it is impossible to see yourself doing anything else.