Doing What I Love is probably not an option: A Humanities major falls over putting on her big girl pants

I grew up with one mantra in mind: Do What You Love. Damned if I haven’t tried, too. The problem is, I want to do everything—I bounced between nursing and translating and teaching and counseling before I got through middle school.

I got my undergraduate degree in Spanish—but translating for parent/teacher conferences in college a) gave me the worst headaches of my life, and b) proved that I am just not possessed of the rapid-fire brain patterns I would have needed to really be good at it. The problem: I didn’t realize that until it was really too late to change my major to something (slightly) less lucrative but might have suited better. So I had a very pretty but mostly decorative degree to display leaning against the wall of the converted garage my parents let me stay in rent-free after I graduated.

Remember the horrible, awful, no-good, very bad job market in 2009? I graduated with student loans—lower than average given that I went to a private school, thankfully—that year and didn’t really have the luxury of boundless job prospects even venturing an hour away from home to Little Rock. I lucked into a part-time retail job that paid minimum wage but at least brought in some income while I kept my eye open for something better (by which I mostly meant ANYTHING BUT TEACHING). Then I had the brilliant idea to pursue a master’s degree in History. That got me out of Arkansas, but added to my loan balance and ended up being an intellectually intriguing but ultimately not very useful endeavor, since I really needed a different concentration to move past unpaid volunteering with local museums; see, I love museums, and I love showing them to people. But I don’t have the fire-in-the-gut zeal to pursue yet another degree in a field that already has a glut of job-seekers who are exponentially better-qualified than I could ever be. So I now have two very pretty but mostly decorative degrees displayed in my apartment. And I’m stuck in a job that isn’t What I Love and isn’t necessarily something that even Needs Doing, which I’ve kept in the back of my head all along.

I called my mother a few days ago to vent about feeling like I’m spinning my wheels and wasting time and sliding down the cliff of turning into a ticking stress-ball like my dad was before he left the job he’d had since we moved to Arkansas and went back to school to get a degree in accounting. She kept asking me where my passion is leading and I finally had to answer that I just don’t know any more. The one thing I know I can consistently do, and well, is put words together. Maybe it’s time to try a direction I never even once considered and start putting words together—and eventually convince someone to pay me for doing it.


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