I’m thankful that I’m past the point in my life where most people don’t ask me that dreaded question anymore.
“What will you do with an arts degree?”
Perhaps it’s not fair to call it a dreaded question. It’s actually perfectly fair. It’s a question any major could get. But I think it is fair to say that arts majors are generally met with more skepticism than other majors are. And that might just be because people don’t understand that there’s so much one can do with an arts degree. And in that way, arts majors are similar to many others. Spanish, IR, math, English, History can all lead to various jobs in various fields in various locations; so can music, dance, theater, and the other arts.
In the past, I’ve reacted badly to this question, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s because I have read skepticism or judgment into it, when in fact they might not have been present at all. Maybe it’s because until recently, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to be perceived as another pie-in-the-sky arts major.
As time went on, I got more bold with my answers. I was honest about that fact that I wasn’t sure, but that I could go in several directions. Sometimes I even cited my dream job (writing music for Pixar films). Because who doesn’t have a dream job?
Depending on who was asking, I was met with several follow-up questions, like how I would be a film composer without living in California, or how much money I’d be making, or if I realized how competitive my field was.
And if you’ve experienced anything like this, you’ve probably felt belittled, undermined, and unworthy.
Looking back, there’s an answer that I could have given that might just have saved me all those feelings.
When someone asks what you’re doing to do with an arts degree, all you need to say it this:
I’m going to do the same thing you are, or that your daughter or son or nephew is. I’m going to be absolutely passionate about. I’m going to work hard, learn everything I can, and excel in my field. I’m going to run with it and become something wonderful. I’m going to research and find my own opportunities, or make them. And I’m going to love it, that I know. And in doing so, I’ll be one of the luckiest people in the world, one of those people who dared to think she could redefine what it means to “make it.”