If you caught that reference, hello new best friend! If not, go check out the song that’s been stuck in my head (with slightly altered lyrics – see below) ever since I decided to get my Master of Arts in English.
What do you do with a
BAMA in English?
What is my life going to be?
FourEight years of college, and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.
I can’t pay the bills yet, ’cause I have no skills yet.
The world is a big scary place.
But somehow I can’t shake
The feeling I might make a difference to the human race.
– What Do You Do With a BA in English? from Avenue Q
A sentiment I’m sure most college grads today can identify with. Right?
But seriously, what do you do with an MA in English? That question has been plaguing me more and more as my graduation from grad school looms closer. Because the truth is, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have learned a lot in grad school thus far. And I actually only have about 1.75 classes left which actually involve learning things (the final two courses are all about my thesis, and we’re not going to talk about that right now because it’s terrifying). But I still feel like I don’t know very much. I still haven’t written a novel or read Vanity Fair. Which is not a good feeling when you’re being thrust into the real world.
Part of the problem is I don’t feel qualified to do any of the things I am actually qualified to do. In nine weeks, I will technically be qualified to teach high school and lower-level college courses. And no matter how many times I read Pride and Prejudice or Beowulf, or how high my grad school GPA is, I seriously doubt I will ever feel ready to do that. I also don’t really want to be a teacher, so I’m kind of looking at that career path as a backup.
I want to be an editor, but also feel like I don’t know enough to actually do it. That said, I probably feel most confident about this option. I’m good at spotting writing talent, and I think I could do well as an editor. But I’m not exactly a big-city person (I lived in Boston for two years, and that was enough for me), and most of the editing jobs in the US are based in New York. I think I’d be miserable living there, even if I liked my job. So that’s out. I’ve been looking at smaller presses elsewhere, but there isn’t much. And practically nothing is in California, which means I’d have to relocate, and I don’t currently have the funds to do that. So I’m stuck.
I want to write, and I know I am capable of being a writer, but for many reasons – most of which I have yet to figure out – I haven’t done it yet (though I have high hopes for the project I’m currently working on). I also know that becoming a successful author is going to take a lot of time/might not ever happen. Which means I need a day job. And while I love my current nanny job, I know it’s not going to last forever, and I need to start a real career soon.
So what do I do with an MA in English?
I ask myself this question almost daily. Do I regret getting my masters? Not one bit. I have learned so much, and I really think it’s given me the tools to be the writer I want to be. I’m also glad I actually got my masters degree, because that’s something that I always said I would do, but that I didn’t feel confident enough to actually do. Accomplishing it is a big deal for me, because my education has always been a significant part of who I am, and (justified or not) I feel like I really proved that.
This week, I applied for my first (part-time) copywriting job. Which, honestly, scares the crap out of me. But it’s a foot in the door. After all, Neil Gaiman started out as a journalist. I can start out writing property descriptions. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for an interview. If anything, I’m hoping it will ease my fear of professional writing assignments.
Let me know in the comments what you’d do with an MA in English (and creative writing)? Would you write? Edit? Teach? Or do something completely different?