Tuesday, August 2, 2011


It's no secret that in my house the topic of me being an English major in university is taboo.  My study focus remains unspoken amongst me and my parents; they've long given up asking me about the courses I'm taking, about my grades, about my plans in the future.  To say my parents - maybe I should revise that and specify it more as my dad rather than my mom - are at least at terms with my area of study would be a lie.  Instead, my university experience has become strangely and uniquely independent; I've lived at home for my first two years but even with that, my parents have had absolutely nothing to do with anything I've done aside from clicking Pay on my student bill.

My dad takes jabs at the courses I'm taking or have taken which led me to stop telling him anything about my major in the present.  Whenever the topic of university came up, whether it be through my extended family or my parents' friends asking me about my year, my dad would always say things like "Oh, yeah, he's off learning about children's books."  I'd fire back; I'd always say "I took that course for interest as an elective to fill a requirement of my major;" after a while that argument grew stale and I've learned to take his remarks as it is.  Naturally, then, I haven't even told him about the courses I'll be starting in just a month's time - I doubt he'd like the idea of French, German and Italian Cinema, or Canadian Drama or Romantic Literature from the 1800s my three semi-writing-semi-communications-semi-journalism courses.

My mom isn't much different than him when it comes down to it; she just shows signs of still being a compassionate human being through her decision not to mock me.  My previous two years of schooling brought forth minor breakdowns along the line, and I always looked out for the time when I could talk to my mom, alone, about my stresses.  Now, no matter my stress, whether it be about a scheduling conflict or worries about juggling eleven courses (don't worry they're not all in one term) or what have you, the conversation always turns to her question, "but, you'll get your PhD, right?"  I answer her "yes" to get to the things actually bugging me.

My after university plan is, truthfully, hazy.  I do plan on going to graduate school for English, and depending on my stress levels or debt or level of sanity or hell my desire to continue with schooling, I'd like to continue on to get my PhD as well.  I don't exactly know what I'll end up doing with my English degree, but if going on for my PhD is the case, I'd love to become a professor.

I had a conversation - or maybe argument is a more fitting term - about this topic with my friends recently about the stigma post-secondary - or even post-post-secondary - has.  People nowadays go to university because that's what society tells them to do; as a result, the weight of having a university degree is far less than what it used to be.  It's no longer prestigious; it's the new norm.  Now, to be a "cut above," one must go on to grad school to set themselves apart from the new norm, having a university degree.  Really, though, even that is something society enforces on you: I believe that the level of degree has never and will never equate with getting a good job.  Yes, some opportunities are only available to you if you have a Masters as opposed to an undergrad degree, but I don't agree with the social "ranking" of occupations out there.  I'm a believer that the perfect job for someone isn't the job with the most credentials or highest salary - the perfect job for anyone is unique, and if it doesn't require a PhD or if it does require a college diploma or if it doesn't even require anything, so be it.

With that in mind, my plans to continue on past university are simply because I enjoy learning and I'm looking to seek a higher education than what I have now.  Some people are in university now because that's what everyone told them to do, that it's become a means to an end since now it's commonplace to have a university degree.  I don't think like that.  Back on topic - that's how my parents do.

My dad tells me I should be a lawyer or a surgeon.  When I say it's not what I want to do, he gets upset with me; when I say that it's something I'm not capable of doing, he gets angry.  I can say that I'm a smart guy, sometimes brilliant (hahaha), but I know that I'm nowhere near smart enough to be a doctor.  I get that it's my parents' obligation to always say otherwise - I am their kid, after all, and they'd be bad if they were like "yeah, you're right, you're average" - but it's infuriating when they equate a happy life with the best job out there.  Honestly, I'd live a very happy life if I was a high school English teacher.  Saying that to them breaks their heart every single time.

I guess I'm lucky in the sense that I actually do want to do what my parents want me to - that is in respect to continuing on to grad school or further.  I know to myself that I'll be doing it because I want to, because I want to keep learning, and because I want the sense of accomplishment and be able to look back and think to myself I've reached my intellectual capacity.  The way my parents would see it, though - it'll look like I'm doing it because society has told me that it's the only way I'll get a good paying job.  I suppose, to them, if I slap a PhD on myself, they'll be happy, even if it's in something like English which they frown upon to begin with.

If all else fails I should just get famous.

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