English Major Phobia


When I came to Washington and Lee, I had every intention of being a Biology major andgoing to medical school after I graduated. Itonly took me a month of Genetics class to realize that medicine wasn’t for me, but it took me a year and a half to actually let go of my plan. I call it a plan for a reason. Going to med school was never a dream or an aspiration. It was a plan with a definitive end and what I imagined to be guaranteed success—career and happiness were completely separate identities, not to be mixed or confused.

I have been a writer since I got my first journal on my fifth birthday. It has always been my source of laughter and relief, and it has remained the steadiest part of my life since that day. The journal was pink and had a princess crown on the lock. I mostly drew pictures of my mom and brother, but sometimes I managed to write a sentence or two. One of my favorite entries was about my brother: “Otto peed on the flor today. Mom is made.” But even after keeping a journal for almost fifteen years,  I couldn’t find the courage to drop Biology and pursue an English major—something that wouldn’t give me a definite career path. So I stuck with my plan and pursued science, but I wasn’t doing well and I wasn’t happy.

Although I knew English was the right thing for me, I was afraid of venturing outside of what I viewed as a “successful career path.” Growing up, I always saw men and women in nice suits, going into their office buildings downtown and leaving late at night in their fancy cars. Being anything other than that was the most terrifying thought in the world. However, at a certain point I had to put my happiness first, and I switched my major to English—likely the best decision I have ever made.

Looking back on all the hours that I spent doing work that I didn’t enjoy and failing classes that I couldn’t even appreciate, I feel inclined to wonder why we place so much emphasis on certain types of success. There are hundreds of different factors that contribute to our desire for career success: the limited job market, the influence of the media, and the competition that comes along with today’s materialistic society. Ultimately though, I think it comes down to human nature. We are genetically hardwired to sacrifice anything and everything to ensure the livelihood of our offspring and ourselves—but does this mean we can’t do what we love? I still don’t know what being an English major is going to lead to for me, but I know that it is going to give me more opportunities for happiness than anything else, and right now, that’s all I’m looking for.

About Eleanor Haeg

Eleanor Haeg is an English major and Creative Writing minor at Washington and Lee but hails from Minneapolis.

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