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.
It would be more fun to study English.
I hate my calculus class.
Why is physics so complicated?
Those darn liberal arts majors are sure living it up. I wish I was one of them.
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 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.