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Disgruntled and Ready for a Change

September 22, 2011

I need to figure out what it is I want out of life. What do I aspire to be?

This is a question I have been asking myself ever since I can remember.

When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut/president/country singer/veterinarian/ballerina/scientist. These were all very realistic dreams to me. These weren’t occupations that I came to in any particular order; I wanted them all at the same time.

I’d watch Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and other PBS shows. I’d watch as much Discovery Channel as I could. I had a love for science. I still do. My mom got me books from Wichita State University to help me construct and understand the workings of the eye and its blind spots for a 5th grade project. I loved my biology class in high school and was asked to be an assistant the following year. But that love of biological science also was blindsided by wanting to learn German, play in the orchestra, and get involved in the school’s computer technician courses.

I also wanted to take the high school’s automotive class so I could learn how to maintain my own car and feel less scared about the automotive world if I had to take my car to the shop. I was told “that class is really for people who want to become career mechanics.” The (female) principal told me that I didn’t want that.

I chose not to go for the biology TA position and chose the foreign language instead. I was also forced to choose between orchestra and computer tech.  My orchestra teacher gave me an ultimatum since the class met every day and my techie course only met every other: I had to choose. He took me out into the hall while the class enjoyed a free-day and told me as much. He was certain I would choose playing the viola over playing with computers, and he was wrong. I looked at him and said, “See you next year, then.” He was speechless.

I loved my computer teacher. She was great at pairing the her techies with jobs they were good at. She encouraged me to do work in Desktop Publisher, she had me make awards for the Special Ed. kids, she sent me to work with the tech center for the USD. I went out and worked with the guys at the tech center to install hardware and software for classrooms throughout the district. And my project, which was incomplete, involved making an alphabet-learning program for children with special needs. I don’t know what came of it and I don’t think the project was ever completed. I didn’t use any programming language. I don’t remember the names or faces of the people I worked with, only the places.

So, with high school graduation running towards me, my thoughts were, “of course computer science is the direction I should go.” I moved out to KU, started taking classes–the biggest decision maker against computers was my C++ class. The first and only class I’ve ever failed. Prior to that semester, I had never failed a course, I’d rarely get lower than As and Bs in shool.

The TA teaching my class was terrible, although I can’t lay the blame entirely on him. My entire class went to the other TA teaching the course for help, ours was useless and rather condescending. It wasn’t that I was incapable of doing the work or comprehending the material. I just didn’t care. I was exploring a new place, new freedoms, and new friendships on top of taking this course. One of my friends who had taken the class very seriously spent 14 hours on one project. I had made the decision that the class was not worth that kind of time.

2 years of being an “Undeclared” major was driving my student adviser up the wall. I had to declare for my Junior year, so I went with something I’ve always been good with. I declared my major in English. What can you do with an English degree? Teach? I didn’t want to do that, at least not yet.

I took a creative writing course. I love reading and I remembered my problems with writing stories in grade school, I turned in my project late because I couldn’t get the right ending. I got in, powered my way through writing and finishing short stories, and got feedback. It was brilliant. My work, not necessarily, I was in desperate need of practice. But I was encouraged to rewrite, to edit my classmates’ work, offer suggestions and force myself to see what I would do if I were facing some writing issues my classmates were. I got so much good writing advice out of these classes.

One of the key pieces of advice echoes throughout my brain like a slap in the face for serious soul-searching:

“If you can see yourself doing anything else, any other career path you can be happy in, do that instead.”

It is a piece of advice that has been echoed by many other writers. These words were not intended to crush dreams, only to open eyes to realistic expectations.

This soul-search has pushed me to rack my brain and other organs quite un-literally. To this day, I can only think of professions in which I would be good at. There are a number of jobs that, if I were given the chance, I could perform well at. But doing something which would make me happy? Something that I would enjoy doing? I keep coming up blank. I love creativity, I love writing, I love reading, and now the question is, how can I turn that love into something that will keep the bills paid and some fun things to do on the side?

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