Hope That Helps
I recently received the following email from a student I taught in eighth grade a few years ago. She is at university now.
Long time no talk. How are you? How’s the family? Hope you’re all doing well. I’m going into my second year now at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I sort of hate it, but I’m learning to deal with it, so I guess that part’s okay. I wanted to ask you for some advice – I’m in a weird place right now. They really don’t prepare you for college in high school… Well, anyway, I’m kind of stuck between wanting to be an English major and struggling with what my odds would look like career-wise, and trying to pick something more “practical” like Psychology and going to med school etc. I’m so confused and it’s so unbelievably frustrating to be debating myself about my entire future… please help!
You find yourself in a familiar spot for anyone who has ever been entranced by the word. For every person who’s been tricked into believing that perhaps a living can be made from prose and metaphor and creation and bliss.
The reality, and I really hate to be the one to tell you– as perhaps I was the one who lit the fire, or at least fanned it early in your life, is that there is nothing practical about literature or writing. It is a dead end road obstructed with angst and pain. Forget about careers and security and normality.
You may be one of the lucky ones who has the tenacity, talent and verve to become an actually writer. A tattered creature scraping by enough money to make what they call a living, but the reality is more likely that you will fill your head with the magic of words and find yourself powerless to exist in a world that seldom values them.
Maybe you will become a teacher who spends her life hoodwinking others into believing that art and beauty and dreams are more a human act that working and careers and money can ever be.
You ask me advice about practicality? I know little about the subject. Follow your heart and what you love, the rest will fall into place. Do what you believe will make you happy. Think of what has always made you happy thus far and stick with that. Do not be led by practicality. There are more than enough people following those pursuits. There is nothing wrong with Med school or psychology, but do it because you love it and you feel you have no other choice. Do not allow your decisions to be made based on what you think you should do. Make them based on what you must do.
Whatever you do, will be the right choice. Life is long and simple and pleasant when you do what you love.
Hope that helps.
Do you have any advice for her? What would you say?