Well, I was a literature major. While the mathmos were in the bar working out how many two beers plus two beers was I was ... well I was in the bar too, but I was arguing with my friends about whether Jay Gatsby was really the embodiment of the American Dream. Of course, the arguments went on forever, because there were no right answers.
No right answers meant night after night up late trying to decipher meaning in the obscure phrases of obscurer poets. It meant deciding what you thought the author was trying to say, and knowing that you had to come up with a damn good argument, because at least half the the people reading your thesis were going to disagree with your interpretation, and you had to convince them. It meant not only reading the texts, time after time after time, to make sure you'd squeezed out the last drop of significance, but also reading every piece of criticism you could get your hands on, just to make sure you weren't accused of plagiarising Bloggs' essay in "Minor poets of the 17th century" (1973).
No right answers meant you had to write to impress. You had to be thorough, you had to be eloquent, your text had to flow. Your vocabulary had to be erudite, your metaphors arresting, and your grammar and spelling had better be perfect.
You would never find a liberal arts major in a coffee-shop at four, because they'd be in their room, writing, revising, editing and writing again. Our laundry was only done because it could wash while we worked, and go in the dryer when we went to get our twenty-fourth cup of coffee. Bright-eyed? Maybe, but then again caffeine does that to you.
The girl you see crying in the corner at lunchtime? She might be a science major who has broken up with her boyfriend, but more likely she is a literature major, who has spent the last seventy-two hours writing a paper on "The psychological imperative for Ophelia's suicide" pouring her heart and soul into it, and, because there are no right answers, she still isn't sure of a good grade. She knows that however well she has done, however well supported her arguments, her professor can mark it down because they disagree, because they don't like the brand of paper she used, because they had PMS that morning or an argument with their wife last night. And she won't be able to argue, because there is no proof, one way or another.
I used to yearn for right answers. It's probably why I did my Masters in Computer Science.