FICTION: Saturday morning I consider being an English major
Humanities majors might not have the best starting salary but “that doesn’t mean we don’t have an upwards trajectory.”
Ariane De Gennaro, Illustrations Editor
Something like that, I gesticulate. It’s not like I’m all that into medieval literature. I’m not about to analyze “Beowulf” for the 14th time. The mouth of the MCDB major sitting opposite me at the dining hall grins.
It’s outdated, you know? The idea that you’re supposed to choose between your passions and financial stability. I choose both, I say. The right side of my lips pinch together. My facial expressions have always been uneven like that.
It’s outdated, I repeat into the phone that evening, my IKEA lamp perched overhead.
Umma rambles on the other end of the phone, something about how cousin Lana interned at all these major film agencies but now she’s working at a furniture startup. About how Jin-woo from across the street is a computer science major now. How Uncle Park sold his start-up for $100 million, how Yale is the past and Stanford is the future and “you shouldn’t have rejected Stanford for a humanities school.”
You don’t know the job market as well as I do, I lie. For Umma, I produce soothing placebos of million-dollar book deals and million-dollar movie deals. How humanities majors might not have the best starting salary but “that doesn’t mean we don’t have an upwards trajectory.”
“Act as if,” preaches the reddit thread r/thelawofattraction. Or, fake it till you make it. On Sunday I talk to Sara about the eventfulness of my summer as if it were a continuous strand of string rather than thumbtacks scattered across a corkboard. I don’t mention that the corkboard was one-half existentialism and one-half nearly-crashing-Dad’s-honda-while-parallel-parking. I imbue constellations of meaning into this web-development internship or this trip to see my childhood friend. I don’t say that my employer asked for nine iterations of the homepage and that visiting Jocelyn was a mutual therapy session.
Sunday afternoon I’m training as a peer mental health counselor and the counselee scenario I’m supposed to act out goes something like “you’re a second-semester sophomore with crippling loneliness and are considering self-harm.” I’ve never considered self-harm, I think, somewhat pleased by this realization, but by the end of the scenario I am crying.
For a second I was convinced that was real, the instructor remarks. I laugh.
No, no, no, I wave my hands. Not at all.
Monday morning I’m tucked into my chair-desk watching Professor Leitus draw a story diagram on the board. Fiction is realism, he remarks. We read stories, not because we want to watch the knight slay the dragon, but because stories sneak around somewhere near the truth.
I like writing because I can fold myself inside the word fiction. Oh, it’s just fiction, I’d say. It’s not like I mean any of it.
Monday evening I lean on a beanbag and stare at the drawings on my wall. I wonder if being a writer just means that I’m monetizing entries in my diary.
I wonder if that would be so bad.
I go on Student Information Services, click “declare English.” I can always undo it later, I say into the phone. Umma, it’s not like law school is going anywhere.