Opinion: The English major’s worst nightmare

Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman is a sophomore English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.Contact Jake Crissman at [email protected]

I find it to be absolutely insane that at the age of 18 you have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life.

This is quite a daunting task to ask of a young person. You don’t even know, at that point, who you are yet. When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. In some ways, I still don’t. I debated whether I even wanted to go to college. I didn’t really see the need for it. Most kids in my class knew exactly what they wanted to do. They knew exactly where they wanted to go; they had their 10-year plan mapped out.

I didn’t have any of that figured out; I had no clue where my life was headed. But for all the questions that scrambled around in my young, feeble mind, I knew that there was one thing that I could count on: English.

I knew I wanted an English degree. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, what school I was going to go to or what profession I wanted; all I knew is that I wanted an English degree.

Sure, English is cool and often romanticized, but it’s kind of a pain. Every young, hopeful English major has, I’m assuming, these grand illusions that he or she is going to become the next Twain or Hemingway, myself included, but the fact of the matter is that most of us will end up like Paul Giamatti.

When you think about it, it seems like Paul Giamatti is always playing some depressed English teacher who hates his life — just some pathetic, bald, fat, washed-up, bitching, alcoholic, wanna-be writer who got stuck in a teaching job which he took just to make some cash while he worked on his novel.

Now, while this won’t happen to me (you have to stay positive, resolute and believe in yourself; that’s the key), I understand that this is a very viable option for many of my colleagues. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with an English degree, so most graduates will become Giamattis. If you want to teach, that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with that. Teaching only becomes a problem when it is your fallback and, therefore, a sign of your failure.

I find that I catch myself bitching about how much I have to read and write all the time, all of the late nights I have to stay up, how my brain is just fried and can’t take much more of this, that I’m always tired and I’m working myself to death and stretching myself too thin between school and my job, but then I have to stop myself because I realize that I’m going off on a Giamatti tangent, which is the first sign of becoming Paul Giamatti.

So just be careful, all you English majors, that you don’t turn into your worst nightmare: Paul Giamatti.