7 Possible Outcomes Of Getting An English Degree In America: An Outline


1. One week after graduating, you’ll apply to your first job outside of academia and be asked to come in for an interview. The company will offer a respectable starter salary, ample benefits, and opportunities for growth.

a. When you ask what the company does, the interviewer will show you a mission statement, vision statement, and value statement. He’ll tell you that they offer clients value-based services that enhance start-up viability by objectively extending catalysts for granular opportunities.

i. “Oh,” you’ll say. “I’m all about that.”

b. You’ll nail the interview with a peppering of humorous anecdotes and an insightful commentary regarding French post-structural theorist Jacques Derrida and the transhumanism of Japan’s hikikomori culture.

i. The interviewer, wiping tears of joy from his flushed cheeks, will waive the follow-up interviews and ask you to start the following day.

c. When you come to work the next day, your secretary will offer you an aromatherapy face massage. She will mix the oils, a base of patchouli with hints of jasmine and clary sage, and say to you, with a wink, that she’s added in a pinch of divinity. Once finished, she’ll bathe her legs in the elixir, lay you on the floor, cup your head with the soles of her feet, and caress your cheeks with a deep soothing circular motion.

i. Filled by a wellspring of inner calm, you’ll make chit chat with her and tell a funny little joke.

ii. She’ll laugh and you’ll feel a tinge of satisfaction. God will be in his heaven and all will be right with the world.

iii. You’ll wake up.

2. You will apply for a job and not get it.

a. You will apply for a job and not get it.

y. You will apply for a job and not get it. This was also 2b through 2x. I cut them out. I’m saving you time.

z. You will apply for work at a temp agency.

i. The temp agency will contact you and say that there is an opening that requires “some education.” The job will require the ability to count items in boxes, sometimes up to two dozen.

ii. Your response: “You mean 24?”

iii. His response: “No, two dozen.”

iv. You’ll accept the position.

v. You’ll be fired six months later, one week before the company would be forced to hire you on permanently. You’ll be accused of flirting with the warehouse employees, whose teeth look like jagged rocks at the base of the waterfall you’ll want to throw yourself off of.

3. You’ll be the host at a grand gala ball. You’ll compliment your guests on their handsome outfits and luxurious attire. They’ll guffaw and titter at your quick wit and sly humor. It’ll be a gay old time. The nice family at the other end of the room will ask for a refills on their drinks. You’ll oblige cheerily and apologize for any inconvenience. A fat frumpy couple will come in, stinking of body odor and cat piss, and demand to be seated. The daydream will crumble.

a. In reality, you’ll be the host at a 24/7 eat-in diner.

b. The fat frumpy couple will complain through their entire meal, demand a refund, under tip, and then leave thickly-textured, strange brown stains of unverifiable origin all over their booth. There will also be clumps of stray hair. Maybe animal, maybe human, perhaps pubic? Who’s to say?

i. You’ll imagine that this is what serfdom felt like in the middle ages. Except the serfs didn’t waste 4 years of their life on a degree, they just got straight into the shit shoveling business.

c. The aging mother of the nice family at the other end of the room, the quintessence of sweetness, will leave you a double-sized tip to make up for it.

i. “Oh, don’t let it get you down, sweetheart. Never forget, you’re a bright one,” she’ll say. “Why are you working in a place like this anyway?”

ii. You’ll shrug. You’ll have an arsenal of lighthearted quips for this question; a question that you have heard a thousand times by now. But you won’t feel like using any of them.

4. You’ll move back in with your parents, lock yourself in your room, and sleep all day. To soothe your depression, you’ll load an Elliot Smith playlist on your iPod and put it on repeat, at maximum volume, on the speaker dock/radio/alarm clock sitting on your nightstand. Yes, the same speaker dock/radio/alarm clock that you bought for $299, marked down from $499 on Black Friday (a complete steal), with your college loans from, for example, Wachovia bank, which has collapsed and been absorbed by Wells Fargo bank. “That’s okay,” you’ll say to yourself. “We all make $299 mistakes like that.” (No we don’t, you idiot.)

a. Because the banks do not handle your loans directly, you will be forced to negotiate the monthly payments you can’t make with debt collection agencies. Your deluxe executive customer service representative will be named Peter Sanjan and he will say, in an almost musical accent, “I’ll be very happy to help you today.”

i. He will read from the script in front of him with perfectly practiced English and not be able to help you at all. You’ll grow angry and scream at Peter, and he won’t give you the satisfaction of screaming back. You’ll hate Peter because he is better than you.

ii. You’ll also hate Peter because it’s not his fault that you live in a country that allows 18 year olds, who can’t even get unsecured credit cards and have never budgeted one tenth of a dollar, to sign on for massive, nondischargeable debt that will follow them, like Death on the Pale Horse, into their graves.

iii. Most of all, you’ll hate Peter because that’s not even his real name. It’s a name he wears, like a mask, to please unstable, xenophobic Americans so he can work a job and feed his family, in some far off third world stinkhole where they’d probably kill to have a speaker dock/radio/alarm clock. The mere existence of Peter and his troubles lessens the legitimacy of your own. You’ll turn off the Elliot Smith and leave your room in disgust.

5. You’ll go to grad school and become an adjunct teacher. You’ll teach freshmen English and have a student submit a paper with the following thesis: Opportunity in America are a baby and be ability to push up towards future with your dreams.

a. This will not be the thesis of an English Second Language (ESL) student. The ESL students only flub article usage. Otherwise, they write immaculately.

i. The American students, thanks to an education system that has wholly failed them, flub coherent thought.

b. You’ll receive around $15,000 a year with no benefits.

i. You won’t be able to afford the pre-emptive medical screening that would have caught the pre-cancerous mole that develops into melanoma and kills you in five years. You won’t care. “Bob Marley died of melanoma,” you’ll say. “That’s good company.” But, in reality, you hate reggae and you find the commercialization and commodification of Bob Marley’s likeness and message by hemp-breathed white suburban youth to be –like so many things in an English major’s life– problematic.

c. You’ll be a martyr-champion for education, making the necessary sacrifices to hold back the rampant forces of anti-intellectualism that ravage the American dialectical landscape. You’ll do your part to make better citizens by nurturing your students and encouraging others to pursue the degree.

i. You’ll scorn people who dismiss English and the Humanities, based on something as crass as “dismal employment opportunities,” and denounce the conversion of Universities into “career training grounds.”

ii. You’ll argue that an English degree is valuable in a work environment because it teaches critical thinking and interpersonal skills, and that these so-called “soft skills” are just as valuable as knowing how to code or milk a goat.

iii. Meanwhile, your life in academia will provide you a clear career path and allow you to directly benefit from your degree and its course content in a way that your private sector peers never will.

d. Twice a week, you’ll have wet dreams about tenure and be forced to launder your sheets at 4 in the morning.

6. You will give a fuck about an Oxford comma.

a. You‘ll find yourself on an elevator with Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend. You’ll tell him you like the Oxford comma. He will thank you and fidget uncomfortably, continuing to stare ahead at the doors. You’ll clarify that you didn’t mean the song, that you feel the first VW album was too derivative and that their brand of afropop engaged too freely in cultural pillaging. You will grip his arm and insist that the Oxford comma is a paramount piece of punctuation. Ezra Koenig will try to pull away.

i. Ezra Koenig will begin twisting and shaking violently, like the branches of a tree caught in a level 4 hurricane, and a great wailing will rise up from him, the sound of a thousand mothers mourning their dead sons. You will be driven to tears, falling to your knees and ripping your clothes like King David in the Bible. You will have a heart after God’s own heart. Ezra will flee, as soon as the elevator doors open, shouting down the halls that there is a “fucking mad fuck in the elevator.” He’ll shout it in his Paul Simon voice.

7. You will learn to organize your thoughts into lists because your considerable critical prowess, exhaustive research capabilities, and your toolkit of deconstructionist/post-modern/post-structural interpretations can’t change the world. Or rather, they can change the world about as well as architecture can change politics. It turns out your formidable powers are only good for writing benign, digestible articles about 5 Blockbusters That Have Terrible Morals, 7 Events Your History Teacher Got Wrong and 4 Items Within 4 Feet of You That Will Kill You in the Next 4 Seconds. Worse yet, it turns out there’s nothing wrong with that.

a. You will settle, as most adults do, for lowered expectations.

b. You’ll tell your spouse, perhaps a young wife, that your first couch, first dog, first child and a second car will have to wait another year. You’ll insist that next year is the year things pick up, that it will be a year of good savings and smart investments, paid-off credit card debt, steady employment and new beginnings. You’ll tell her this, even though it’s not the truth, because there are no other options.

c. You’ll go into the other room, to be with alone with your lies, and surf the internet. There will be an article that is making everyone online angry. Ho-hum. You’ll read the article and it’ll make you angry too. Ho-hum.

i. The article will excoriate your generation, the Millennials, for being unmotivated, unengaged, self-entitled, and self-absorbed. It will be written by a member of the Baby Boomer generation, the pioneers of self-absorption and the architects of our collective financial ruin. The writer of this article will say, in all sincerity, that the Millenials are not starting their lives, not starting their families, because they want to remain children. Forever.

ii. You’ll think of your wife, picking out baby names under the false pretense that it will be financially possible to have a child in a year’s time, and you’ll feel a flame, an all-consuming conflagration, well up in your chest. You will want to burn the world to cinders. Ho-hum.

d. You’ll know that your debt is a generational debt, a suffocating trillion dollar weight that crushes all of us as we sleep. It is a debt shared with your peers, whether they are Humanities majors or the much-touted STEM majors, who are discovering that they too can be replaced for cheap labor whenever and wherever possible.

i. You’ll know that we are all proud Dwarven brothers and sisters, sworn in blood and fealty, toiling away in the halls beneath some great mountain, like something out of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The mountain is our debt. It will collapse and kill many. The rest will be cripples.

ii. “Still though,” you’ll say, “I’d rather be a cripple with an IT degree. Maybe if I went back…”

e. People will ask you why you decided to become an English major. You’ll give a little chuckle and say, “Well, I was an Art major but decided I wanted to be half poor instead of completely poor.”

i. They’ll politely laugh and you’ll feel a tinge of satisfaction.

ii. It will pass.

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