When life gives you lemons & you don’t want lemonade
As senior year is in full swing I have started to reflect on all the choices I have made that have helped/hindered where I am today. Usually my blogs are very German-based but I believe this one is a bit more insightful pertaining to choosing a career path and making sure that even though life gives you lemons, you don’t always have to make lemonade with them.
In my past, my lemons were being introduced to engineering at a critical time of my life, high school. High school seems like its almost inconsequential when comparing it to college…however it was in high school where I started really pondering the question “What do you want to be when you grow up.” I went to a public school and was top of my class, being top of the class opened many doors but with so many opportunities I was also very overwhelmed. I knew what I was good at and knew the classes I excelled at, but had no real experience to know what I LIKED.
During my junior year I participated in a math competition that really molded my interest in engineering. The math competition was facilitated by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I was tutored and taught new different ways to approach problems that I found really interesting…and the material was complex. My team excelled very well and through my great time working with engineering mentors and with students who had the same academic background as me, I decided to pursue a degree in engineering.
Ahhh wait, you might ask…why do you say that is a lemon? That seems like a great experience? Well, looking back now I probably would have followed any new and different subject other than the basic ones I was studying at the time. I saw engineering as a doorway to cool things…I chose the hard one, chemical engineering. I felt very elite telling people my future major and explaining that it fit me, right; I was good in math and science, right? I made lemonade…
I can say now that when I was as a senior in high school I had no idea what a chemical engineer did. I wasn’t tricked into choosing my major, but more misguided by my own ignorance. I had a whallop of a lemon…I was a good student with no real guidance. But the lemonade, chemical engineering…wasn’t what I really wanted. Oh no! Yes as a senior in college I realize that chemical engineering is not the type of job that will fit me. I don’t look forward to using any of the courses in the real world and my personality is counter-productive to a process plant. I am not motivated by my interest any longer…and now I am at a slump.
This is the surprising case for many of the young youth today. Young people unsatisfied and unhappy with their jobs. Why? Personally I believe as a senior I was motivated by my own false notions of success and happyness. I believed chemical engineers made lots of money and I was smart enough to make lots of money. Chemical engineers worked on complex and interesting things. Oh well now…I had four years to change my false notions right? Well once your in college the dynamics change. Quitting the hard major made me feel like a failure, switching to “chemistry” would be giving up. Did I have internships? Oh yes I did, every summer. I never thought, really thought about if those internships would make me happy for the rest of my life. I worked hard for a summer, learned new things and took the experience with a grain of salt. I didn’t use them as “I could be in R&D for the rest of my life, or I could synthesize polymers forever!” As a senior in chemical engineering I feel trapped…
NOW: I have made you slightly depressed and confused; let me give you a bit of light at the end of the tunnel…if only a speck of light. I have gained an array of knowledge as an engineer. I have learned how to approach situations and problems in a way far different than the average Joe. I have become the president of NSBE on my campus and have developed my skills as a leader. I don’t regret any of those things. When I graduate I will have many more doors open to me…far more than when I graduated from high school. One great thing I have learned in college: I know what I don’t want to be. I have a lifetime to choose “what I want to be in life”…I am going to take my lemonande and not throw it out. But mix it with something awesome…a little bit of sprite. Something that will put new life into the lemonade I have worked hard to make!! What is my sprite??? I’ll let you know when I figure it out 😉
What should you take away from this? Please consider how you mentor our youth, tell them the truth. Don’t mold them into a society of people who hate their jobs. Give them the tools…not the answers. We are the only ones who should decide our futures. Give me the tools to know what I don’t want…so that the doors I do want will fly open!