By the time this column is published, I will be a college graduate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that my BA is in English Literature.
People have been asking me what I intend to do with my degree and all I can honestly tell them is that I’m going to put it on my wall. Then they’ll ask me, “Do you want to be a teacher?” As rad as it would be to pull an Edward James Olmos and inspire some kids to read a book that isn’t The Hunger Games, I’d just rather not spend the rest of my life in a high school.
So what am I going to do? I’m asking you that seriously. I’d like to know.
I took a look at an article over the weekend that gave a list of highly successful English majors from Conan O’Brien to Mitt Romney, and the intent of the article was to say, “Look! These people majored in English, and they’re rich and/or famous. Don’t feel so bad, Champ!” But even though all these success stories began with a BA in English, the second chapter was usually acquiring a Master’s in something completely different.
But am I worried that my life is going to be a complete failure unless I go back for an MBA? Am I worried that I’ve wasted my time and my mom’s money writing papers on the search for identity in Light in August when I should have been learning to code? Am I worried that even though I’ve identified myself as an English major, I still routinely begin sentences (and even paragraphs) with coordinating conjunctions?
No. Not really.
Why not? (Don’t worry about it. This time I know the answer.) It’s because of improv. The one glimmer of light in high school was that it gave me an introduction to improvisational theatre (y’know, the thing they do on Whose Line is it Anyway?).
When I do improv, it’s really the only time I ever feel comfortable diving into the unknown. I may not know where a scene is going to take me; it might take me to a goofy encounter between idiot brothers or it might take me to the deepest abysses of human reality. I really don’t know. But I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I come out on the other side.
And why should I view life any differently? As Stephen Colbert said in a commencement speech at Knox College many moons ago, “You’re about to begin the greatest improvisation of them all.” Though he’s wrong—I’ve already begun. I’ve been doing it all my life. We all have. We’re constantly diving into the unknown. Sometimes the other side isn’t so good; sometimes it’s wonderful. We just gotta be brave enough to say ‘Yes’ and accept it.