Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When I Grow Up

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to want to be an archaeologist. And a novelist. And a teacher. And an artist. And a doctor. And an astronaut. And a lot of things.

Where did my inspirations for grown-up jobs come from? Archaeologist definitely came from watching The Mummy. Artist probably came from art class being the most awesome class in school. Astronaut may or may not have been partially inspired by the Christmas gift my engineer uncle gave me one year: Astronaut Barbie. When did I decide I wanted to be a computer scientist?  It definitely didn't come from Computer Science Barbie!

I guess I decided on Computer Scientist when I changed my major the end of freshman year.

I applied to college wanting to be some kind of engineer, because I love technology and solving problems and creating things, but where the major was available, I opted for astronautical engineering -- because that was the closest thing I could get to being an astronaut. Of course, that was one year before I actually started college, before my ex-boyfriend had laughed at me and told me to find another dream because I'd never be an astronaut, so when I got to college I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering, because it was kind of like being a doctor. But after my BME 101 course, which involved memorizing things about the heart because the instructor had some kind of ultrasound patent, and then after taking CS 101, I realized that I'd much rather learn a skill that I could master than memorize a lot of facts that are constantly changing (because I'm lazy and memorizing is boring).

So now I am a computer scientist, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.

I enjoy designing solutions to problems and algorithms to implement the solutions, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of finally seeing it all pull together and function -- even if it's as simple as seeing "Hello World" print out on the console. Solving puzzles has always been a hobby of mine. I just don't know what kind of puzzles I want to solve for the rest of my life. Maybe I do still want to be a teacher. Maybe I want to make robots. Maybe I want to make video games. I am interested in too many things!

This is especially difficult when deciding, "what next?"

Right now I am developing and testing software that is not particularly interesting to me. This is a combination of the technology being too dry for me (signal processing does not really excite me) and I'd much rather make something I can appreciate and/or know someone will use. Part of the problem is probably that I don't know who uses what we make, or where, or how often, or why. I don't really like working for a government contractor for this reason: obscured secrecy. That's no fun.

I recently got turned down for a job I really wanted. It was located in a place I really wanted to live, but even if I got placed at a different office location, the company culture was one of innovation. I want to collaborate with other smart people to make innovative and useful applications and products, and this company seemed to give its employees a lot of freedom to do that without too much hierarchical decisions or red tape. In essence, I want to work at a *chill* place. That's what I wanted in college, when I was working late into the night to get my project functional and daydreaming about what my future held.

In a sense, I wanted to be in college forever. The atmosphere of a group of people, eager to learn how to do something, gathering to work together to complete their next big project showcasing what new awesome thing they can do or create. The ulterior motives in college are to succeed, to make yours the best, maybe even go above and beyond to get that extra recognition. The working world is so much more corrupt -- get it done just enough to make the customer happy enough to pay you for it. I am so un-enthralled by my job that I went from initially eager to improve design to now just getting my assignments done, get through the day so I can get paid and go home. And sure, there are plenty of people in college just concerned with getting through it, but you have to think that if the course or project is rigorous enough, anyone participating really wants to.

That's why one option on my menu of "what's next" is to go back to school.

I love learning new things. If I could magically afford rent and food and fun while going to college forever (+ maybe a fun part-time job), I would. I'd just collect majors. I'd be the ultimate Renaissance Woman.

In the real non-Sara's-imagination world, though, how do you decide it's time to go back to school? How do you decide if you can afford it? How do you decide if it's a major you could really use? I was so ready to stop breaking my hump on school projects and work for a few years, and now I'm whimpering and ready to crawl back into the academic womb. I guess you can say I did do some self-discovery in this last year. Or you can say I got a job that really isn't right for me (according to studies, though, it's because I didn't do an internship in college so I had no idea what the right *fit* would be!).

[I'm going to seem to change subjects, but I swear it will circle back soon, promise!] I have also more or less decided that I want to move back to the city I built a life in for four years in college. I definitely consider myself lucky to have gotten a post-graduation job at all, but was very sad to move away at the end of my last summer of freedom.

I get really attached to things. People and places mostly, but things, too (I can never justify throwing away things that are broken if they were once so useful and heavily used -- I'll write a post on it later) -- so really, nouns. I guess you can't really get attached to verbs or adjectives, unless they are paired up with nouns in some way. !OFF-TOPIC! I got really attached in four years, and many friends and even boyfriend are still there, so I've been resisting any possibility of getting attached here -- especially since more or less deciding to move back.

Yay, I decided on something, go me! So what's the problem?

Look at me, all responsible adult, with a job that pays enough for me to afford rent and food and various things like a cell phone and car insurance and even enough leftover to save up a little cushion for that inevitable period of time in my future when I will be unemployed (you can't expect a girl to graduate in a super recession without such fears!). I can't exactly walk away from that, can I?? I mean, if I had some super awesome opportunity like my dream job (already failed that one) or medical school (already decided that's way too hard for me), sure, jump ship from the job you hate in the place you don't want to be and move where you do want to be for your super awesome new opportunity! But no such luck. Right now I'm staring at quitting my job and moving back to where I went to college with enough money to stay afloat for maybe 6 months (assuming high rents living all by myself; I would last longer if I lived with the boyfriend) and no guarantees that I could get a new job with which to support myself. Am I crazy?!?

What if I justified quitting my job and moving back to go back to school so it's not like I'm just a failure at being a self-sufficient adult in the big bad world? Oh, I have to know what and where I want to study first? Crap. I hate decisions!

I've considered waiting until I've accumlated over 1 year of professional experience being a real world software engineer at my current job before just quitting my job and moving in with the boyfriend to bum with him until I find something better close to him. This would put me in the sad position of leeching off of him, but at least I wouldn't go broke and be homeless after 6 months. However, I would be risking giving up my omg-so-lucky-you-have-a-big-girl-job status that makes my parents proud, the pay check, the security, and not having a current job as leverage for getting a new one.

I'd be pretty dumb to do that, wouldn't I?

I've been wrestling with myself ever since I got turned down from that dream job, and I feel like I am just too young to trap myself in a job I don't like in a place I don't want to be (or rather, one that isn't where I very much do want to be)!

Isn't life supposed to be easier after you graduate from college and get a job?

I've made it to adulthood but haven't quite finished growing up yet.  So what do I want to be when I get there?

already know what you want to be when you grow up.

When I grow up, I want to be happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment