The problem with being an English major

As a wee freshman in my literature and composition class, I realized my love for words and ecstatically declared myself a journalism major. People told me I was a good writer, so I figured that was where I needed to be. It took about a semester for the idea of working at a newspaper to completely terrify me, so I scurried on over to the English department.

I thought, Hey, I love books; what could possibly go wrong?

Everything, apparently. Well, not everything. Just one thing, the big thing, the essential reason I became an English major: Reading for pleasure.

As English majors, we’re assigned to read a novel a week per class, on average. That doesn’t really leave much free time to read Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve had J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy staring gorgeously at me from my shelf for weeks, and I can’t read it for another month — if that — and it breaks my little heart.

Weekends should be a glorious time when we get to pick up a mindless book just for kicks, but nope. We either catch up on what we didn’t read during the week, try to read ahead so we have less to do during the coming week, or take the wisest option of all: Get plastered.

So here I am, reading Puritan journals and obscure poetry at 2 a.m. like it’s my job. I mean, technically it is, but sheesh. I imagined a life of reading Sylvia Plath all day erry day for four years, wearing berets and smoking long-stemmed cigarettes, only to be found in coffeeshops scribbling in a black notebook or reading pretentious literature. My bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love everything I’ve studied in my classes, and I’ve learned a ton about the world and blah, blah, blah. I just miss having free time to read my own books.

What makes it worse is when professors rattle off extraneous titles that we scribble down in our notebooks, knowing we won’t have the time to read them at least until winter break — if even then. I prefer to spend my breaks sleeping and watching reruns on TV Land.

So, fellow English majors: How do you deal? Do you have the same struggle of balancing reading for work and reading for pleasure? Do you go nuts during winter and summer breaks and read everything in sight?

2 comments on “The problem with being an English major

  1. I’ve definitely felt the same way from time to time, reading lately has become something I ‘have’ to do, instead of something I ‘want’ to do. More often than not, I cope with your third option every time I have a spare weekend. Although, I must say that sometimes the ‘wisest’ choice doesn’t seem to be all that intelligent the morning after. Thumbs up for English majors and for letting off a little steam on the weekends.


    • So glad I’m not alone. I have some literature geniuses in my classes, and I just stare at them in wonderment of how on earth they get everything done. I guess they’re more of the minority than those who don’t have time to read up.


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