Today I’m handing the reins over to Tam, who wants to tell you her story. Now a full time writer (you can see what I think of that here), she took an interesting path to get there! But that’s for her to tell…
Although I grew up in the United States, I was living in Israel when I attended university. Because I was a native English speaker and a writer and lover of literature, getting a bachelor’s degree in English was a no-brainer choice for me even though I knew English wouldn’t exactly be the most practical choice I could make.
In fact, my father tried to convince me to study social work rather than English. He had a ritual of sitting down with all of us (my brother, sister, and I) when the time came to apply for colleges and advise us. Understandably, he was concerned for our future. He convinced my brother to apply for a science degree, something with “bio” in the name that was up and coming at the time. He also convinced my sister to minor in Cognitive Studies, another up and coming field. With me, he argued that my people skills would fit right into the social work field. But I wouldn’t budge from my desire to study literature, even if it meant working clerical jobs in order to make a living and give myself time to write.
I never regretted my decision even though I did exactly that after college – worked clerical jobs to pay the bills. But those jobs gave me the mind space to write and study my craft.
After about eight years of clerical work, I found I wanted more of a challenge. I went back to school to get my master’s degree. I chose my passion once again – English. This time, my graduate degree got me a career in teaching first-year writing courses like composition, business writing, and research writing. Later, I worked with an online company as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. I really enjoyed these jobs because I helped students learn to express themselves better in writing. Most of my students weren’t big writers and readers like me but they were able to understand that writing does have its uses and it’s not as torturous as they initially thought.
My father’s good intentions didn’t quite pan out. My brother ended up getting his degree in social sciences and went into business which he is good at and enjoys. My sister focused her minor on cognitive psychology which fed right into her own love of reading and writing and later entered a program in Library Sciences. Much later, my father admitted that my decision to study English was a good one because it gave me a broader experience and writing skills that are necessary in any job.
My takeaway message is this: Study your passion.
It’s very tempting to enter a university program solely based on practical considerations, what’s trending, what has the most job opportunities, or what has the brightest economic future. It’s more of a challenge to go against the advice of parents, teachers, friends, etc., and study what you love. But ultimately, a university degree sets you up for the future. We all want to be happy in the future, whatever that means for each of us. We all want peace of mind. Peace of mind doesn’t come from setting up a future based on disinterest or even misery. The key is to study your passion but find ways to make it work in the real world. That means knowing all your options, talking to people in the field to see how they’ve stretched their knowledge and practice, researching how you can use your passion to practical means.
So be practical but be passionate also.
Thanks Tam! It’s reassuring to here that your English degree worked out in the end!
For more about Tam May and her works, please visit her website at www.tammayauthor.com.
P.S If you would like to be involved in this series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Life After Uni’ as the subject!