It’s no secret that simply being in the arts gets you a LOT of flack. People don’t take you seriously, and it’s really easily to lose confidence in your self, your convictions, and your talents, when the world is designed to cater to businessmen and science-brained people. But the truth is, I can’t change the fact that books got me through a lot more than numbers ever did, that the only math I’ve ever been good at is calorie-counting, or the fact that I’m just a very emotion-driven person. It’s who I am, and so is English. No matter what, I am an English student. Even though some days the thought of that makes me cry for hours, and second-guess my entire life, and that some days I definitely don’t FEEL like an English student, or a writer. But it’s as permanent as the tattoo I got when I was seventeen just to prove something.
I realized today that I spent six years building up my body image, and neglecting my self-esteem when my intelligence and convictions are concerned. I no longer think I need to weight 95lbs and get a boob job, but I cried over a C and ripped up a paper that I got a B+ on because I’ve convinced myself that that’s “not good enough” and that to be an English student I have to be the best. NOT TRUE. The thing I love about English is that no two papers are ever the same. No two class discussions ail ever even be similar. There’s so much diversity and room to be who you are in English studies. And a B+ is NOT bad.
I’m not going to be a nurse, or a doctor, or an engineer, or even a business woman. I might have an office job at some point, because I’m organized and creative, but I hope I’ll end up teaching kids about Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald and reading Harry Potter to my own children.
I was struggling with not just English, but also writing and poetry, because I write for people, NOT just other poets. I write in a way that I like to think can reach anybody that needs to hear it, not just people who’ve studied poetry analysis and understand metaphysics and anadiplosis. Because, yes, I’m a privileged, whiny, nineteen year old girl, but I still have some pretty important things to say. Things that I want to go beyond the ears of JUST poets. So I will tell my stories how I want to, not how a book on writing or a professor or the MC at a poetry SLAM tells me.
Once I stopped crying and looking for reasons to drop out of school and go hide under the blankets with my cat forever, I wrote this. Thanks to Amar and Maddie and Amy and Maham (and my entire family), I can breathe again (for now) and I’m not going to give up on myself, my writing, or my education. And in five years I’ll be standing in front of my grade 12 students, using this poem to rationalize them studying for their English diplomas. (First draft, but I’m okay with that.)
Life Support for English Students
If I wanted to switch degrees
I’d lose 30,000 dollars
after barely a year
and a half.
But I don’t want to switch degrees,
It’s just that the constant metronome
of business students
and engineering students
has me thinking
that I’m worthless
for counting the metaphors for
in Jane Austen novels
instead of cataloguing
marketing strategies and
risk management assessments.
For writing essays on modern obsessions
and the breakdown of gender
in Shakespeare’s plays
instead of climbing the corporate ladder
or solving calculus problems
in a classroom of 500 people.
Because not everyone is designed
to cure cancer
or build skyscrapers.
But that doesn’t mean that literature doesn’t change people.
That doesn’t mean that I can’t save lives
the same way a doctor
a car-crash victim.
That doesn’t mean that I can’t bring someone back
from the blade-bones of anorexia
with book recommendations
to English majors
are life support machines.
We plug into them
like cancer patients
and we breathe in new ideas and pretty language
and breathe out relief
But this “career services”
has me devaluing
the English language
when the study of it was developed
to increase the morality of students after World War two
to ensure that another Hitler’s growth
by academic and social integrity.
So if that isn’t noble, I don’t know what is.
I spent six years woking on my body image
and neglected my intelligence.
So that when someone mentions
that my degree is useless
my entire life’s work
–I’ve kept everything I’ve written since I could hold a pen
but I just tore up an essay
that I got a B+ on
because I convinced myself
that that’s not good enough.
The last book I read outside of class
was a self-help book
that told me
my career choices were useless.
But they’re not.
Because when I grow up
to teach The Great Gatsby to fifteen year olds
I will cry in front of my students
because that’s how important English is.
It deserves tears.
It deserves classrooms that aren’t in the basement of an old building
with enough chairs for all of the students.
It deserves the same respect that
because English makes better human beings
it’s more than a certificate to pin to the wall
of your one bedroom apartment
it’s a way of life
and it is a way of giving life
breathing it into
and adults alike
like plugging families into
to recharge their batteries
and read peter rabbit to
Because all of these doubts
are just road blocks
and we are riding on the dog-eared pages
of our favorite novels
to find careers in the spines of our favorite books.
Because English deserves tears.
And this is our life support.