Are there any life choices you regret to have made or not made?
If you were 16 again with today's knowledge, what would you do different?
What was your best decision / what brought you the most joy?
I told my supervisor that I felt really bad about not having an A&P license - stands for Airframe and Powerplant. It's what you need to be an airplane mechanic. It's a big deal, you have FAA authority to declare something is flightworthy. It takes a LOT of time, you're required to spend so many hours learning and working on airplanes, so if you want to get it while working you spend two years not sleeping, it's like having a second full time job. But the street cred! In my current position where I work with and advise mechanics all the time, it's an obvious mark against me to not have it.
When I had time to further my education, I chose instead to get a masters in electrical engineering, which has been absolutely no use to me. I was nervous about getting too ingrained in aviation, I wasn't sure if I'd stick with the industry or not.
My supervisor at that time told me not to get the masters, he said I should get an MBA because I was good with people and would be more valuable as a leader than a designer. I told him to stick it, I'm a serious scientist. He was right though. I've given this advice to a few new engineers, who also didn't listen to me. Quite a tradition.
My current supervisor doesn't think any of this matters. While degrees are important to a point, he says we all bring whatever we have to the table, so I shouldn't be hung up on whether I'm missing an A&P or MBA, what's important is the job I'm doing today. Does somebody else on my team have an A&P? Yes. Okay so I don't need one. Fine.
I have spent some chunks of my furlough time doing a healthy scan of the FAA's advisory circular on aircraft repair, it's 1000 pages and I started with metal fasteners.
I also listen to the Harvard Business Review podcast to make up for my lack of an MBA, and try to hit a best seller or two each year to hear with the "smart" business people are saying.
At least I have a pilot's license, even if I don't use that much, it's a more relevant show of street cred than the engineering masters.
I should really learn how to weld once the makerspace starts up again. That would help me.
Now for what I did right...
Career-wise, I was patient and hard-working. I took new fun assignments. One of my early supervisors warned me to never settle into the trap of doing the same basic assignment a few programs in a row - good advice. Do not settle to the comfort zones. It is funny to me now that I could have had a role in customer service about ten years earlier than I did, but I don't regret passing it up then because I got to sink my teeth into a variety of interesting things. I moved around a lot. I started building up mentors and relationships at my company. My first group lead positioned happened because I emailed a director and hinted that my current project as at a bit of a stopping point and I'd be willing to change to anything, didn't have to be leadership, I had several ideas. A promotion came out of that.
And the biggest thing that worked out was my family life. Getting married to Marc, having babies. This is funny because those were all decisions that I AGONIZED over and really doubted. There is no going back. The night before my wedding I wrote a livejournal entry basically asking wtf I was thinking, I doubted my ability to make a relationship work forever. We'd been together two years... what was that, even? But that was almost 13 years ago and we've only gotten better. It's still funny, I still can't say what makes us work as a couple, we're a little weird together.
Similarly, when I learned I was pregnant I was immediately not sure if it was a good idea. I liked my life. Would I like my life with babies?
Maybe in both cases, what I'd say back to myself is that yes, life changes, but you are still you. These family members are just more people to bring along with you on journey. Well, with the babies it takes a few years... that's a dark forest, no getting around it. So I'd show pregnant me a video of when I taught my six year old to solder at the makerspace. It was so perfect and she was so absorbed in it. I'd show her my nine-year-old making silly powerpoints about ferrets. They are great people. Who doesn't want to hang out with more great people? And I'd reassure her that the husband was a good pick.
To 16-year-old me, all of this would be way too hard to explain. I'd tell her to buy bitcoin and don't lose the wallet, but after that I'd be out. All the little decisions will bring us someplace that is probably fine. As Joanna Barsh wrote, you're not going to accidentally live the wrong life. Maybe there's an alternative universe spacefem who went into plastics or physics, or went to a different aviation company, or got hired as a technical writer first, or just went into freelance web design forever, or moved to a coast and never looked back. Maybe she never had kids or adopted an eight year old or joined a commune. Maybe she married a boring corporate guy with a mega-career, maybe she got divorced and moved back in with her parents, I don't know. But something tells me that most of the scenarios resulted in me accomplishing a few good things and learning a lot, and whatever track I'm on is on par with any of the others.
As the Flaming Lips once wrote:
I don't know where the sun beams end and the star lights begins it's all a mystery
And I don't know how a man decides what right for his own life, it's all a mystery