You know what bites? When you tell people what you studied in college, and instead of saying “Cool!” and moving on, or asking “Wow, that must have been interesting, right?” and opening themselves up for conversation, they instead say something rude like, “Why on earth would you have studied THAT?” It’s a question that happens so often in my life that I typically just gloss over it and keep moving, but it happened the other day in a way that just lingered and started to fester, so I decided it would be best to talk it out right here.
News flash – yes, those of us who studied niche subjects like Medieval Art & Architecture know that most of the people we meet on a daily basis won’t have similar interests. However, as someone with a great many interests covering some very broad areas of life, I’m here to tell you that no matter what I’ve been interested in at any given time, very few people I’ve met have found whatever I’m studying to be of great interest. This includes so-called “mainstream” topics like marketing, social media, writing, jazz music, historical fiction, running, movies, eating (even discussions about bacon can have surprisingly few takers…what a shame) and the list goes on and on and on.
Yet, for some reason, if you’re at a dinner party and you meet an accountant, you don’t say “Why on earth did you study accounting? That’s, like, the most boring shit I could ever imagine wasting my life on!” No, you take a second, realize that this person is great with numbers, and maybe that equates to something else that might spark a conversation that fits your own personality more, like playing Sudoku, going to Vegas, or being really into WWII Enigma machines. In fact, I’ve known several extremely interesting accountants, one of whom taught me a great attack plan for making sure to have enough shoe shopping money for the year…but that’s beside the point.
I have to venture a thought that perhaps people don’t openly insult people who studied business topics because they’re mistakenly attracted to the concepts of safety and banality as a life plan. That they assume that studying business in any of its guises is bound to lead to steady employment, whereas focusing on a more academic field will lead to starvation and death. Or something of that nature, I don’t know. I’ve been steadily employed since college, despite (or maybe because of) my intense interest in religious architecture and how medieval religion affected women’s lives and livelihoods, as evidenced in art of the period.
And the bottom line is that people have to choose their college majors at 18 in this country, with no apprenticeship programs and very little else to guide them in most cases. Why should it be that 14 years after making that fateful decision to study something I loved, that sincerely interested me in ways that not much else has or will, I am still being brought up on charges of supposed idiocy for choosing a non-lucrative college major? It’s not fun, or funny, or cool to pick on me for having an imagination and some hope that I wouldn’t have to get stuck in the 9 to 5 (or should I say 9 to 10) grind when I was a kid. In a perfect world, I’d probably be a professor right now, instead of a slightly peeved, moderately inebriated online marketer.
I’m sure that there is more than one person out there right now that studied something supposedly “safe” in college and is currently working in an entirely different industry. I know a kid who went to school to become a banker and found out he could make more money as a fisherman. Just because you take the route everyone’s trying to force you into doesn’t mean you’re going to prosper under their guidance. You’ve got to make your own choices, or you’ll never be yourself.
What do you think? Do people ever ask you insulting questions about your history, as though you were the only person to take a year off of work to dogsit, or to move to another city without a job “just because”? I’d love to hear about it. Life is short, and definitely hard enough without giving other people the power to crash our parties!