Have you ever been judged for what you pursue?
Once, when I told someone I was majoring in English, he looked at me all strange and said, “Isn’t that more of a hobby than something you study?” (I felt like punching him in the face, but luckily, I exercised self-control).
There’s a stigma these days on those who pursue humanities and fine arts degrees, because apparently we’re useless, jobless when we graduate, and have no tangible skills. Also, apparently the only reason why we’re stuck in the arts is because our grades weren’t good enough to get into STEM programs.
I get flack for pursuing a degree in literature and creative writing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. When I tell grown-ups (by grown-ups I mean my parents’ friends, relatives a generation up, etc.) what I’m studying in university, I can see the slight confusion in their eyes and how hard they try to hide it. The inevitable question that pops up is: “So what do you want to do for a living?” “Something in the creative industry, like writing for a television studio, or in communications and marketing,” I’d say, shrugging. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll figure it out.” The grown-up will then nod slowly and visibly try – hard – to keep a straight and respectful face. But I know what they’re thinking. Why is this otherwise bright young person choosing to study such an unpromising field? Why are her parents letting her do this? Maybe she’s not that bright after all…
A few years down this non-STEM path, though, I’ve learned to deal with the stigma. And hey, sometimes it is possible to not care what other people think! I’ve learned to announce my major, confidently, to anyone who asks. (I mean, you asked for it..so here it is.)
I study what I study because I genuinely love it. It’s something I’m interested in. It’s something I am willing to spend hours on. It’s easy for me, because compared to other stuff I’ve studied, I’m good at it. I don’t want to study something that makes me want to scream and throw my textbook across the room to the other wall. I don’t want to spend my university years in hell, hating myself and life and the whole damn world.
And if people think I’m stupid just because I study a field in the humanities? Well then. I’ll tell ’em that both my programs only have a cohort of about 30 people because, yeah, (just like many STEM programs) it’s not that fucking easy to get in. I’ll tell ’em no, I don’t spend all day cooped up in a room or café reading and doodling or whatever. I go to events related to my field, make connections, actively look for – and am practising – job experience in my field. I tell ’em that ultimately, I’m not looking for money, I’m looking for a chance to give back to the community through something I love. Because I value literacy, expression, speech, and the role these things play in our lives.
And I know I’m not the only one. Most of us arts people are intelligent, able, and proactive people in our communities. Many more have their shit together tighter than me. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you love even if it’s not the most promising field out there. So long as you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. So long as you do it loud and proud.