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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Laura on November 20, 2013
"I'm sure that most people who have chosen to study history, English, music, art, or related fields, have probably heard this question before."

On earning a college degree in a useless field

"What are you going to do with it?"
I've been asked, when stating the particular realm of study to which I felt most drawn.
I feel this question is unreasonably simplifying, as if dumbing down a discipline to a mere blunt object that I must figure out how to wield.

It's spoken of as if the different majors and fields of study could be transformed into a collection of lovely, shiny keys on a ring. Some of them open ordinary doors, others large and impressive doors bursting with money and prestige and self-fulfillment. Those are the ones we all want, obviously.

And then, somewhere near the bottom of the chain, is English. Some misshapen, rusty old key resembling something that would be found at the bottom of my father's toolbox, which used to open something, once, but most people have long forgotten what. I mean, really, what am I going to DO with it? Send it off to the museum?

So I spent four years studying a language I already know. And since then I have also asked that question of other college hopefuls, simply because it was the same question that was asked to me.

But I have come to the conclusion that the metaphor this question brings to mind is completely wrong. You probably thought I was going to say it unlocks the mind instead, but I think they all do. It's just that it's not a key, it's not an old tool, it's not some blunt object to wave around and try to go do things with. It's a pair of binoculars.

It's something that anyone with eyes and a pair of hands can use, but with training, experience, and more than a few mistakes, it can come to be used not only to do, but to see. To understand something further out and higher up than could have been understood before. It's a realm of focus that continually brings itself deeper into the object or idea that it scrutinizes.

It views the details as well as the big picture, and everything in between. It makes seemingly insignificant things larger, to probe their facets and movements, and never stops asking questions. It keeps its guard, and stands watch for any differences, similarities, or themes that may pop up without anyone else noticing. It makes you realize that the more you've used it, the less ability or desire you'll have to go back to simply gazing past the things you never knew were there before.

Really, what am I not going to do with it?

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