What can you do with an English degree?

When I first had to grapple with this question years ago, I told people, “I can apply to law school!” I was, as a very young adult, skilled in the art of telling people what they wanted to hear in order to temporarily cover up my true designs. If I’d told them that I had no interest in law school, I would have been treated to many useless lectures that older adults tend to smother younger adults with. (I try not to do that myself, as much as I’d like to sometimes. They need to learn and grow on their own, and as much as I’d like to think I do…I don’t know everything.)

But if someone were to ask me today, What can you do with an English degree?, my answer would be this:

You can recover from trauma.

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A recommitment to writing

I’ve done over the past few months what I often do, which is turn inward. I always tell myself I’ll keep a blog going, and it’s not for lack of words and ideas that I don’t. It’s more just that introvert’s tendency to want to live in your own head, in your own private writings, in your own little world.

I’m recommitted to writing – not that I left necessarily, but I got distracted by other things for a while. Now I’m clearing those other things out of my life so that I can get back to that one thing.

That got me to thinking about why it look me so long to get here…

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Stepping out of my burrow

So I’m in my late 30s. This is an age that I think a lot of people dread, because 40 marks the beginning of middle age, the no-good, very bad slump that follows young(er) adulthood where we’re all suddenly used-up malcontents who are either beaten down by life or on the verge of launching headfirst into a sitcom-like midlife crisis.

That is, of course, utterly ridiculous. But I have noticed that birthdays that end in 0 tend to cause panic in adults.

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Dangling

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I enjoy reading about words and phrases that exist in other languages, but don’t have perfect English equivalents. It’s a fascinating insight into what shapes the experiences of people in other cultures, and also sometimes helps me to think about things in ways I haven’t done before.

I read an interesting article a few months ago called Let the Soul Dangle, a translation of the German phrase die Seele baumeln lassen. It’s supposed to signify that an idle mind – one that wanders and engages in reverie – is ultimately a more creative and productive mind. I’ve returned to this piece several times since I read it, as it talks about art being a catalyst for emotional experiences within safe spaces that help us process our real-life experiences. I have a professional interest in how people experience art, so this article has been added to my collection of research materials. But what makes it stand out is that small German phrase, and how the authors connected it to a universal concept.

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