My husband is an electrical engineer. He works for an engineering company and has a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD. He has dedicated his life to research and developing new and creative ways to solve engineering issues. When people ask him about his job, they are often polite and usually impressed. He does complicated math for a living AND he has a PhD, that is like the smartest of all the smarts!
I am a literary critic and writer. I have a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts, Arts Honours, and am completing a Master’s Degree in literary studies. I look at the culture that we humans have created and analyse it. I deal with race issues, gender issues, how we perform and consume culture, and how we create culture in the form of music, writing, poetry, art, plays, etc. When people ask me about my job they are often dismissive and usually unimpressed. I must not be very smart if I want to do a PhD in literary studies, that must make me the dumbest of the dumbs!
To say that I am frustrated by these narrow-minded views about my life’s work is an understatement. People who see no value in the arts or humanities clearly haven’t taken more than five seconds to think about its impact on the world. I usually don’t say anything to these people who dismiss what I do as naval gazing, but sometimes I do ask them, “Have you read a book? Do you watch T.V.? Do you listen to music? Do you ever go to museums or art galleries? Have you ever bought clothing because of how it looked?” The list of questions can really go on and on here… Culture is everywhere we look. Culture is created by humans for humans. There is no way to escape it.
Many scientists analyse the natural world around us; animals, humans, planets, stars, dirt, air, trees, bugs… Literary critics along with others in the arts and humanities look at the world we humans created, culture and art.
Sometimes people just won’t get what I do, and I just have to accept that. So it goes as Vonnegut would say… But that doesn’t mean I can’t compile some of the mean, nasty, and sometimes down right funny things that people have said to my face about my studies.
“I could have done something as frivolous as study music, but I decided to become a doctor.”
“So, do you just talk about your feelings all day?”
“What kind of job can you get with that qualification?”
“So you’re like the less useful version of marketing and communications degrees?”
“Are you going to become a taxi driver when your done?”
“Why do you even bother doing literary studies? Haven’t you thought of doing something more useful?”
“I guess that is a waste of education funding.”
“How do your parents feel knowing you’ll be poor forever?”
“The sciences are much more noble.”
“So there are people trying to cure cancer and you just talk about books all day?”
“If you have to practice singing and piano so much every day, you mustn’t be very good.”
“If you were any good at what you do, you’d be famous by now.”
“Don’t you want to do something that contributes to the world?”
These are just some of the ones that I could think of, off the top of my head. There are many others that I have simply blocked out for my own self-preservation. And no doubt, there will be many many more horrible statements like the ones above.
I had a friend ask me today, “How do you deal with all of this negativity?”
To be honest, I know what I am doing contributes to society, culture, and the arts. Music, writing, poetry, art, are all beautiful amazing things that humans have created since the dawn of time. To be a small part of this awe-inspiring field of study is fulfillment at its best.
The best thing to do with your life is find something you love and then do it every day. Simple.
Are you in the arts of humanities? Have you ever had to deal with snide remarks about what you do for a living? I would love to hear your stories. Remember to share the reading love.