Ah, the question I’ve heard a thousand times over. It’s usually accompanied by a smug smirk and a look in their eyes that’s somewhere between confusion and pity.
I like to rotate my answers to this. Sometimes I’ll go the serious route, and explain that most of the career paths I aspire to follow require at least a university degree, or sometimes I’ll humour them and tell them if I work hard enough, I just might get that barista position I’ve been hoping for. (This is said with no offence to the baristas out there, but if I hear one more person tell me all their friends who have arts degrees work at Starbucks, I’ll cry).
I’ll admit, I had the same feelings before I began my post-secondary journey. Right out of high school, the last thing I wanted to do was get back in the classroom. So I got down to business and found administrative jobs I enjoyed, and told myself I was set. However, a tiny problem arose when at 22, I felt like my 9-5 job was sucking the soul out of me.
I know, I know. Stop being so dramatic! Working’s part of life, and hardly anyone enjoys their job. Just sit down and suck it up.
I tried that for a while. I tried to fill my life with excitement when I wasn’t at work. I tried telling myself that the money wasn’t bad, and that it was a fair exchange for being able to enjoy myself when I wasn’t working. I tried telling myself that even though I was miserable for 40 hours a week, that still left me with some hours in the day not to be miserable, even though I was unconscious for a majority of them. I tried telling myself I could tough it out for the next, oh, forty years or so.
And then, one day, I stopped believing all of it.
So, with cautious uncertainty, I applied at the local college for a 2 year psychology diploma, with plans to transfer to the local university afterwards. Some people wouldn’t think this was a big life change, but for me, it was a huge. I had gone from hating the classroom, and the idea of ever going back to school, to waking up before the alarm went off every morning because I was so excited to start my day.
I ended up taking a break after graduation to work for a couple of years, but as I find myself back in the classroom again, I’m just as elated as I was when I first decided to go back. And yes, my social science major may lead to some serious side-eye when people ask what I’m going to school for, but I assure you my liberal arts education isn’t a throwaway. The way I think about things, including current events around the world, is completely different from how I constructed my thoughts before I decided to attend college. The elective courses I have taken, like political science, environmental science, and ethics, have shaped the way in which I view the world, and my arguments are now backed with facts, instead of whatever I read on the internet. I now know to look at situations objectively, and that the world isn’t always black and white, but rather a muddled grey that you have to carefully wade through.
So, to answer your question, my arts degree will let me live the life I imagined while I was daydreaming at my cubicle all those years ago. It will go with me as I choose my post-university path, and, hopefully, it will help me make the world a better place.
P.S. I know you still have that smug look on your face, and that’s ok.