Poetry and Life

I visited my parents over the weekend. They are the conservative kind of parents who have let me roam in hopes that I will see the light and return to their way of life. I doubt that’ll ever happen though. I feel as though I have roamed far enough to know I prefer a happy middle between modern and traditional ideals. ¬†Whenever I go home my visits with my mother go somewhat like this: “How’s school?” “Great, you know just classes and work and stuff.” “Still an English major?” “Yup.” “Well, that can change you know, you can always pursue business or politics in the future.” “Please respect me and my decisions, thank you.” “I understand, sorry.”

I encountered a distant relative at my father’s house and he had no idea what my studies were. When I told him I study Creative Writing he said, “What, are you going to write letters and make money? Hahahaha.” He was very condescending about the whole thing. I kind of smiled and laughed and twiddled my thumbs so as not to seem rude. I was trying to see the world from his perspective and trying to be understanding of how much he does not understand my choices.

I didn’t want to tell him that I feel more ready for the world than I’d ever be if I was any other major, and I wanted to tell him that I didn’t care about the money because I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and experience I’ve gained for the world. I feel sometimes that being a poet allows me to know the secrets of the world, those that no one else but poets have access to. And sometimes I feel that we are all part of some huge cult because we can see the world in the same, but different way. I think other artists have this same feeling towards one another, but I think I like that my art is poetry and that though people claim that it is dying, this has always been the case; I want to think the opposite though, I want to think that poetry is surviving and spreading. Whether people know it or not, doesn’t matter to me much, but I can see it in the way so many people want to be “artsy” and don’t know how.

All in all, I just wanted to tell all of you who get this bullshit from your relatives that it’s okay, it happens to me too. But I know that they’re wrong because they know nothing more than I do about how to live a happy life, I think we are all just learning as we go and I think that poetry teaches us how to learn forever without teachers.

3 Replies to “Poetry and Life”

  1. I love this.

    Before I went to college, there was a lot of back and forth about what major I should declare. When I told my friends and family about considering English, creative writing in particular, I was met with mixed reviews. I know this career might not make me a lot of money. But being told that all I’d ever be is a barista in some local coffee house chain (as pleasing at that sounds to someone that loves coffee) started to grind my nerves. I got it all the time. Even when I officially declared that I’d be attending Geneseo in the fall with a focus in creative writing, I still got told that I’d only ever work in a coffee shop and struggle to make a decent living.

    But then I think back to the few people I told that agreed with me. “Yeah, you were always really good in English.” “Aren’t you taking a directed study with one of the English teachers?” “I love your writing.” It was the last one that let me know I was in it for the long haul.

    Since then, it’s been easier. But it’s always difficult to hear. You’re an amazing writer. I think it’s way more important to do something you love.

    I think back to my childhood and how my nose was always in a book. And I remember that this was the only path for me.

  2. Carolina,

    Great post. I think another thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that all undergrad degrees get you pretty much the same thing career-wise. Unless you’re pre-med or something, a bachelor’s degree in English holds no more or less value than a bachelor’s in Psychology or Chemistry or Business or Economics when it comes to the work field. Generally, jobs that are hiring undergrads are hiring anyone with a bachelor’s degree in something. So unless you plan on going to grad school to pursue a master’s, you should study what interests you in undergrad– what will help you be a better version of you. Even then, though, you can go to grad school for say, Law, with an English degree. I’m considering pursuing a master’s in Speech-Language Pathology, and I’m graduating Geneseo as a French and English double major. People put way too much emphasis on the importance of what your undergrad degree is in in relation to how financially successful you will be. A bachelor’s degree is, for the most part, a bachelor’s degree. So why not spend undergrad learning how to relate to humanity on a deeper level, than say, a business major? Why not learn about things that are intrinsic to our existence as human beings who must live together on this planet? Is this less valuable than understanding a supply and demand curve? I don’t think so. This isn’t to say that majors like mathematics and physics don’t also teach you such things, and this certainly isn’t to put down other majors at all. We need businessmen and physicists just as much as we need poets– we need people who are a mixture of many of these things. We need people who are able to understand the value in education, in general, and able to see past the overvalued individual relative “worth” of particular undergraduate majors.


  3. Carolina, I totally understand where you’re coming from. When I decided on an English major, especially one in Creative Writing, I got the stock responses from friends and family: “What are you going to do?” “What money is there in that?” and “But you’re so smart!” as if knowing a lot about English, the language we collectively speak, is somehow useless. However, I think that it is important to remember that you have a great faculty and a stellar student body more than willing to help you grow as a writer and face those challenges! It’s going to be rough, yeah, because like it or not the culture we live in likes to consume art but doesn’t like to pay for it, but the community you’re a part of will support you.

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