Second thoughts? Try twentieth thoughts.

I know, I know. We all do it. I’ve already done it more times than I can remember. But this time it’s different, I swear.

I’m in college, halfway through my engineering program, and all of the sudden it comes to me in a flash of insight from heaven above: I’m in the wrong major.

Not

It would be more fun to study English.

I hate my calculus class.

Why is physics so complicated?

Or

Those darn liberal arts majors are sure living it up. I wish I was one of them.

Not even

I’m more naturally suited to languages and writing. What the heck am I doing in the sciences?

Nope. I’ve thought all of those before. They’re nothing new. I’ve spent the last three years of college agonizing over whether I was making the right choice. By choosing an engineering major, was I sacrificing my passions on the altar of practicality, or serving a noble cause instead of indulging in frivolity? By sticking with an engineering major, I choose to believe the latter. That doesn’t stop the former from haunting me.

Up till now, I was taking math, physics, and chemistry at a liberal arts college. Next fall I’ll start engineering classes at an engineering university. I’m about to get down and dirty. I’ll be an engineering major for real this time.

Problem is, I’ve toured least seven different engineering companies, and every single one involves sitting at a desk staring at a computer all day. The only one that was even remotely non-desk-job-ish was civil engineering, and they admitted they didn’t actually go out to the job site all that often. You know who did? The construction workers.

Construction’s not my thing, sorry.

I don’t think I mind the idea of a desk job. It’s just that my experience of day-to-day engineering work has been extraordinarily tedious. I’m currently interning in a fairly typical small engineering company, and I’m not a big fan.

Thinking of a superawesome new invention, or optimizing an old one, would be great, and doing the initial design is probably loads of fun, but after that? Troubleshooting, troubleshooting, troubleshooting. Swear at computer. Testing, testing, testing. Swear at coworkers. Production, production, production. Swear at customers (just not to their faces). In a word, MONOTONY.

I keep telling myself that when I get a real engineering job I’ll work on a really cool project, so that the carrot dangling at the end of the tunnel distracts me from the tedium of the journey. I’ll help NASA brainstorm extraterrestrial colonies, work at a small start-up to create a personal jetpack, or be on the team at Tesla that figures out how to make those snazzy electric cars an affordable option for everyone.

There are a few problems with that theory.

(1) Those types of jobs are impossible to get,

(2) Some of them might not actually exist, and

(3) At my internship now I’m working for a company that has produced a really cool brain monitor/stimulation device with fascinating applications like helping patients with Parkinson’s reduce the tremor in their hands, calming kids with ADHD, controlling helicopters with your mind, and virtual gaming. If that’s not interesting enough, I don’t know what is.

Part of the frustration with my current internship is that I often don’t have anything to do. But the real reason I’m having yet another crisis about my future career path is…shhhhh

You know what I do when I’m bored at work?

I write.

I love it. I feel liberated and graceful and free. I’ve never written so much in such a short time before. Family, friends, and teachers tell me I’m good at writing, but I’ve never considered myself a writer until now. I always thought writers were those crazies who possessed the magical gift of inspiration, something I’ve never had without a prompt. Until now.

It turns out we create our own inspiration. Like anything, it’s a habit and takes practice. Once I had the right mindset, though, anything and everything suddenly prompted me to think, “What clever quip could I write in response to this? How would I capture this moment in words? How could I turn this incident into an entertaining story?”

Maybe I’ve always thought that way, but I always pushed the ideas off into Neverland, thinking, “That would be an interesting thing to write about…” until they shriveled up into nothing. Now, I at least jot down the idea for potential use later. A couple weeks ago I had to excuse myself briefly from a meal so I could go scribble down the poem that was rioting inside my head, yelling at me that it wanted out.

I don’t see myself becoming a full-time author, necessarily, although writing a book would be magical. I could maybe see myself as an editor, working with other people who share the same passion and helping them bring out the best in their work.

A door that has always been ajar somewhere in my peripheral vision has just swung wide open. It’s filling my eyes and beckoning me to jump in, come through, don’t hesitate, just do it! You won’t regret it.

Up until this moment, I was convinced that I would. If I dropped my engineering major and dove into creative writing, I’d feel like a failure. Like science was just too hard for me and I had to give up and take the easy route. But the tables have turned. I wouldn’t be running away from something, but running toward something else.

I don’t know if I would regret jumping through that door into the great unknown. But I’m beginning to think I’ll regret it if I don’t.

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11 thoughts on “Second thoughts? Try twentieth thoughts.

  1. It sucks to feel liek you’re doing the wrong thing. But on the other hand, how many jobs are there that are not monotone? I guess it’s almost impssible to avoid.
    But of course you can write beside your work?

    • That’s what I keep telling myself. Writing can always be a hobby. You don’t (necessarily) need a degree to write, but it’s pretty hard to get far in fields like engineering without at least an undergraduate degree.

  2. The problem is, where I live at least there isn’t much pay in writing full-time. If you become freelance anything, then you’ll have to put a lot of hours and a lot of effort in to get a steady income. That’s certainly something I’m considering doing, as I don’t have much of a social life to ruin (heh) with the long hours sat in front of my laptop. But, all the same, I think it would be better for me to get a different job – any job, even if it’s boring – and keep writing to my free time. If you stuck with your engineering major and got a boring job in an office, what would you be doing? Working a legitimate job for your pay, and then using writing as your passtime. Having it as a passtime means you wouldn’t be so bogged down with it, and wouldn’t necessarily get bored with writing or feel like you’ve dedicated so much time to the *work* side of it that you can’t face winding down with it.

    However, there’s the other hand, of course, which you’ve already addressed. If you go and do an engineering major, will you regret it? Would it be too late once you started to give it up if you find it to not be what you want to do? If you’re having serious doubts about whether or not you want to do it, is there any way to change the course now, or speak to someone about your doubts? You could easily pick up a writing course elsewhere, or even just a literature course, and then you have your experience in engineering to go back to at some other point if you changed your mind again. But honestly – what do you think is best? Do you want to be a full-time writer, work as an editor, or be an engineer and writer on the side? It’s your decision and yours alone, and whatever you choose will be the best for you personally.

    Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks for the thoughts! I’ve expressed my doubts to many a mentor in the past. I know I’m going to finish my undergraduate in engineering. I’m just wondering if I should get more serious about writing, too–that is, try for a degree in it as well. I didn’t realize exactly how much I love it.

      • I would both recommend and not recommend a degree in writing – while mine gave me a lot of advice and a lot of access to sites and journals that I wouldn’t previously have known about, it also drove me away from writing for about 80% of it. I wouldn’t want to put you off, though! That was just my particular university’s degree scheme, and if I’d been somewhere else or had forced myself to be more motivated then it may have been better 🙂

  3. It is a rarity to find a job that does not have some mundane aspects. I have had several different types of work and some are definitely better than others. My motto has always been, whatever you do, do it well. That way you can at least feel good about what you am doing.

    So, you have a passion for writing, but you are midway in your engineering education. If you dropped now, would you feel that you had made a mistake later? A degree opens a lot of doors, especially one in engineering, even if you don’t pursue a career within the confines you describe.

    Often times it is the journey that is the most rewarding. Once you reach your goal, you can always have another one, and another one, and another one.

  4. Pingback: Time to shoot for the stars! | Behold the Infinite

  5. Pingback: School sucks. | Behold the Infinite

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