July 11th, 2021


what I wanted to be when I grew up

for my birthday, daphnep asked what did you want to be when you grew up, when you were small? Any silly early wishes? And how old were you when you started figuring out where you really wanted to go?

So going back... when I was very tiny I was in dance class and piano lessons I remember asking my mom if I could be both a professional ballerina and pianist, she said of course dear. She didn't mention that I was really bad at dance class. Years later, I saw videos. No idea where they're at now, but I was not one of the kids who'd ever get to be in the front row. I haven't gotten my own kids into any lessons like I was in. They did some YMCA sports, one month here or there, but nothing serious. I wonder if I did them a disservice.

When I was a pre-teen, I was definitely going to be an architect. Maybe blame lego for this? or the world... but I was convinced I'd found my calling. I'd build tiny houses out of everything. Toothpicks, paper, mud, household items. I loved quadrille paper. I'd draw floorplans and kept them in a folder. I loved thinking about houses, where doors could go, how they'd swing out or in, I loved big center spaces for gathering, or I'd add a stage or something random. So many houses. Architecture sounded like a real job and I could get serious about it.

In late middle-school, early high school, I was going to be a Christian Minister. I felt called. I was going to help people find meaning in their lives. I was leading the Christian club at school, I'd write essays and manifestos and songs about how we can all rest assured that we are loved by God. My youth group mission trips would bring me to tears, thinking about how much work there was to be done in the world to help people. I thought very deep thoughts.

Late in high school, I started getting more economically motivated, and suddenly both jobs seemed to have a supply and demand imbalance. I started looking around. Rather than telling the world what it needed, I wondered if I should listen to it. There weren't articles about how bad the world needed ministers. Architecture was competitive. Physics, my favorite class, was competitive. I got a 30 on my ACT but that wasn't exactly MIT material. I felt average, I felt that intensely, and wanted to find something that was more of a sure thing.

In high school, our essays and assignments grew more and more research based, and I started learning that some disciplines force you to look at the past and back up your assertions with what everyone else has said, especially if you're not an established, proven expert.

So I let the colleges pull me. We'd visited lots, and I agreed to go to the one with the best scholarships, it made perfect sense to me. In the world of engineering and consumer electronics, little people could come up with new ideas without having to prove that they stood on other shoulders. That was what I wanted - some kind of something technical. Then I got another scholarship to choose electrical and the rest was history.

I guess my big question is... why don't other people think this way? We keep watching this show Master Chef on TV. It's fun watching Anne Burrell work with restaurant owners to pick their next executive chef. The people applying for the job always confuse me though. They always say that being a chef is their dream, their passion, but it's so stressful, and so far it only pays $12 an hour... HOLD UP! Why would you pursue something with that huge of a cost/benefit imbalance? Isn't there some kind of food industry related job that will actually pay for you to eat and afford your student loans at the same time? Did you not KNOW, ahead of time, what a terrible deal this was, how over flooded the industry is with chefs? Did your culinary school tell you that everybody does just fine after graduation?

I know it's easy for me to say now that I'm 18 years into a career... I know nothing is guaranteed. When I graduated in the awful post-9/11 economy there were several months of job interviews where I worried that I could not be an engineer after all. I do tell young people that if they're passionate, they can make it in something related to almost any field. But I'm still glad I picked a field with slightly better odds.

In high school I started seeing so many people, but especially women, who were unsure of what they wanted to do. So I said if you're not sure, why not pick a job that will pay well? That was a strange thing to say. Most of them shrugged and picked something that would never pay off. Why? And why was it always women who shrugged and picked the lower paying fields, while men shrugged and picked the higher paying ones? Something was sketchy as hell, there. I was only 16 but I was feminist enough to want to kick that trend over. I still haven't figured out the others.