The rain fell on the windows — the only sound that gently touched my ear. The time and space I’d seemed to occupy began to fade down like a tiny fracture in the galaxy — wait, aren’t we bored of these metaphors, yet?
I used to love them. Cliched metaphors have a magical power that excites us whenever they catch our eyes. Most symbols (rain as the sadness, the sea as the rebirth, etc.) lead us to similar meanings, but their tones become so different in each writer’s narrative that they manage to seem innovative each time.
After studying English literature for six years, the magic began to withdraw its wand from me, searching for new wells. I got used to the charm and became bored with my new reality.
Emily Wilcox’s article came up to my screen, and fortunately to my heart, in one of those days that had lost the spell. I was questioning why on earth I decided to study English literature for years and ended up jobless. It was harsh.
I was thinking of myself with zero qualifications. My six-year-education gave its fruits with numerous rejected job applications.
The sadder part is to see I’m not alone at all. People often say that it’s always better to be in the same boat as others. In this case, seeing several young individuals whose hope and excitement fade out is heartbreaking.
This situation has carried me to another cliched phrase: why shouldn’t I see the glass half full?
If you are a graduate of humanities, you may ask whether there’s a bright side to obtaining a diploma without financial independence. Let’s go on a journey together to remind ourselves why our degrees worth it.
Reminder #1. You are innately adventurous.
Nobody would ever go for the uncertainty if they weren’t excited enough about what life could offer them. Read that again.
When I wanted to study English, I was the top-scoring student in all my courses at high-school. It was the reason that I created a war zone among my parents and teachers with my decision: Why on earth would you waste your success in a field with no career prospects? You could be a successful doctor/lawyer/engineer in another department. Don’t be fucking careless!
Yet, there was a voice in my heart urging me to act recklessly. It didn’t mean that I’d jump on a cliff and expect to be alive. I’d jump with a belt surrounding my body. But, most importantly, I’d be the one to create the belt, not stick to socially accepted careers with money, yet no adventure prospects.
When I look retrospectively, I am amazed by the brave person that my 16-year-old self was. The current ambiguous period and drawbacks of adulthood have broken my childish, excited, and daredevil wings. I lack the courage to live my life creatively according to my values. My choice back then gives me the fuel to stick to the adventurous path that I need in my adult life.
Choosing an uncertain and different future deliberately doesn’t make you an unqualified person. It may not guarantee you a job right after your graduation (which department does nowadays, anyway?). Yet, it presents you with a wide range of opportunities to rebuild your life intuitively and daringly, whenever you want.
Reminder #2. Your perspective is more rewarding than your bank account.
The definition of the ‘useless department’ varies according to your country, financial situation, or mindset.
My culture considers a degree in humanities a waste of time because it doesn’t guarantee financial opportunities. Indeed, the degree often guarantees us unemployment in the first stages of our grad life. We either can’t find a job because of the lack of practical skills or don’t have enough experience. We witness this dreary journey until we draw our paths.
Yet there is one thing that people underestimate while talking about ‘skills.’ Humanities widen our perspectives about our lives, environment, culture, and history. They teach us to observe, analyze, and question what doesn’t seem right. They help us leave the herd.
Getting a stable job and earning a decent salary have become norms that shape most educational systems. However, these ‘decent’ salaries barely provide us with meaningful profits. In a mad rush of getting our wages, we neglect to look inwards and care for our mental health. Self-care becomes a mythical concept that we give up prioritizing. In short, we can’t invest ourselves with essential skills that schools neglect to teach us.
Studying literature has enlarged my knowledge about art, history, culture, and myself, besides making me a literary critic. I’ve begun to associate novels with their historical, social, and philosophical backgrounds instead of reading them merely for fictional purposes. I’ve started to look inwards and observed my actions according to protagonists.
Analyzing how writers merge social realities with their fictional worlds widens my perspective, sparks my creativity, and teaches me how to behave consequently for the future.
Literature and art provide us with what this world and its inhabitants have gone through in more truthful accounts than history books because literary testimonies include emotions, traumas, and healing.
If you aren’t convinced, compare an imperial nation’s history book taught at schools with Toni Morrison’s novels.
Furthermore, humanities are interdisciplinary fields. They combine two or more academic disciplines for a common pursuit, as befits the name, it builds constructive criticism for humankind. In doing so, humanities cross the traditional boundaries to observe cultures and offer more meaningful interpretations for our reckless actions.
In sum, our degrees teach us to observe our fragile selves and planet so that we can transform our lives into daffodils.
Reminder #3. Hold on, it’s a matter of time to reach your life goals.
Many successful people on Medium often begin writing for a side hustle and turn it into their primary career.
I’ve encountered numerous young writers who realize that their writing helps both themselves and others. Writing is their passion, and they commit their lives to get better at it.
Furthermore, the prevalence of creative jobs on digital media stems from young students who study in humanities yet can’t make their way in the traditional workplaces. (Digital) content writers, YouTubers, influencers, book reviewers, and many more. These portions are born out of creative people who want to earn money from their passions.
As we depend on technology, our current world will need these creative jobs. If there is one thing that machines can’t compete with human beings, it is our intuition, inspiration, and creativity. Muses can’t be machined.
As Microsoft president Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research Harry Shum write in their new book The Future Computed, “as computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.”
These intellectual skills are absent in the curriculums of traditionally successful departments. As Amanda Ruggeri points, “few courses of study are quite as heavy on reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking as the liberal arts, in particular the humanities — whether that’s by debating other students in a seminar, writing a thesis paper or analysing poetry.”
On the other hand, the world is full of financially and career-wisely successful people (e.g., doctors, lawyers, accountants) who realize that their passion is different in the very late of their lives. Due to the social prejudices and fear of being broke, they pursue something they don’t enjoy in their short lives. Of course, I don’t protest these vital professions that keep humanity under healthy and orderly conditions. But, is this the life we’d like to live? A life accorded to societal expectation?
I agree. No. I’d not prefer to be an old aunt who will tell my future nieces how different my life might have been.
For this reason, our ‘useless’ departments are not the reasons for our financial (in)stability. Earning money may differ from those with more stable professions. The definition of our success may shatter from time to time. But, feeling uncomfortable is the key to evolve and find our genuine passion.
“Be successful at something and money will follow, as opposed to the other way around. Focus on doing the stuff that you love that you’ll be so enthusiastic about, people will want to give you a job. Then go and develop within that job.” — Anne Mangan
Takeaway: Being a graduate of useless departments is never useless.
With my six years of literary education and numerous books I’ve read, I often feel unqualified and depressed. God knows how many times my room’s walls get slammed by the books I throw out of my fury.
Yet, when I observe how I think, speak, write, and act, I see a different person than my six-year-younger self.
Studying in an interdisciplinary department has equipped me with an open mind to approach everything critically. It has given me a huge heart to grow empathy for everybody. It has developed my decision-making mechanism, creativity, and self-confidence. I’ve learned about human beings, their cruelty, love, minds, dilemmas, and mistakes a billion times more than my schoolbooks.
Yes. Stable financial independence is not a norm in my life, yet. But, how can we dare to define stability after living through 2020?
Studying creativity and trying to earn your life is challenging, but never impossible or useless. It is the most elevated way of living because we learn to observe as we live. As the goddess of this century expresses it,
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner–continuously and stubbornly bringing for the jewels that are hidden within you–is a fine art, in and of itself.” — Elizabeth Gilbert