No, Dad I Will Not Be A Lawyer: Why I Value My Liberal Arts Degree

by Rebecca Akrasi-Sarpong

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds” ~Bob Marley

Wonderful! I have graduated from university with an undergrad in English Literature. I am a brilliant competent free thinking individual—now to find a job. Many people would say an arts degree was a step in the wrong direction. I wholeheartedly disagree. Here’s why.

#Africanparentsbelike “be a doctor or a lawyer or even a nurse” anything else is considered settling. My father has been invoking this stereotypical overbearing, demanding African parent demeanor over the past few years. It’s great for comedy but I resent it, especially since he is not paying for my education and I am saddled with heavy student debt.

Moreover he was not present during my formative years. I was raised my mother— my single Jamaican mother who though also strict overbearing and demanding encouraged education first and foremost and encouraged me to take whichever career path I would hope to choose. However she did discourage me from my dream of becoming a Spice Girl. “Why should Scary Spice be the only black girl getting shine” back then.

My mother was not perfect. She also thwarted my dreams of becoming a painter. She encouraged my artistic pursuits as a hobby, though not a career. I can honestly say I was a talented little artist and the talent that went to waste I’ll forever regret. I blame my mother but on the other hand I do not blame her at all she was and is a product of society that is obsessed with thought of security and career. It’s not that she didn’t believe in me. She just wanted my future to be safe. Many of her generation and even now share the same thought process.

People say “why don’t you go into something more secure?” I think to myself another word for secure is chained. I don’t want to be chained. I love myself and I want to be free. Why should I tie myself down to a particular career title just because it promises job security? “Promise is a comfort to a fool”, the Jamaican saying goes. I think to lock down your soul and neglect your passion based on projected job market promise is foolish— or at least not meant for me. I love literature I love to read and I love to write. When I find a job where I am paid to do both, a job where creative and open ended thinking are valued at the utmost—I will be in heaven.

In addition to practical work experience my education is invaluable. Courses I have completed with success in completion towards my degree include: Literary Theory & Criticism, Romantic Literature, Creative Writing, Post-Colonial and the Environment, Arab-American Literature, Sci-Fi literature and much more.

Through my education I have written and read countless literature reviews, read classics from the canon, studied Shakespeare, Khalil Gibran, discovered poets and genres which I would never have previously considered. I have honed excellent oral and written communication skills. I developed the ability to self edit and learned the value of peer evaluation. I am open to diverse world views and therefore able to communication and work effectively with a wider spectrum of people. Skills any employer would value.

I have become thoughtful and thought provoking, hungry for change and social justice I see how theory can both mobilize and cripple. I now am equipped to theorize and express the everyday realities of being black, being womyn and being an artist. All of which are important all identities which are valid of representation in the public sphere. I have become a shinier me. Ready to take on the world. A general arts degree is not a dead end but a fork in the yellow brick road that holds the freedom of many adventures to come.

Through my career experience and education I am confident I have gained the skills and wherewithal to tackle and succeed at any presented opportunity.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Currently based in Toronto, Rebecca, is a recent university graduate with a degree in English Literature. She's a writer, a poet an all around lover of words and consumer of literature. She is adamantly pursuing any career that will fuel this passion, while refusing suggestions she become a lawyer. You can follow her musings about life on Twitter @Inuitivewordz

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