Introspective Musings About Life, Engineering, and Writing

I know I say this almost every post that’s not a short story post or another scene for Black-Heart, but boy it’s been a while since I’ve actually put anything on here.  And as you probably guessed it from the title, this post is going to be a little philosophical.  Just a bit.  There will be stuff about writing too, hopefully.  Don’t worry.

You know how in high school how the advisers and teachers and everyone else is asking what we want do or be when we grow up?  How they start pushing all us young students to choose a career path and decide who we are and want to be?  I remember it.  And call me a late bloomer, I’m still thinking about it.  But, I have a feeling we all are still asking ourselves that deep down.

For most they push those questions of careers and future onto us around senior year of high school.  Currently, it’s my senior year of college, so I’ve already made my decision in that regard.  I thought I knew what I wanted to do.  And I remember saying, “I’m going to go into Aerospace Engineering so I can go to space!”  Then things changed.  I missed the deadline for applying to University of Washington and instead got accepted to Oregon State University and University of Nevada, Reno.  Both good engineering colleges, but not for Aerospace.

Ok, so maybe Mechanical Engineering is where I would want to start.  It provides a good base for me to head into Aerospace.  Sounds good to me, I’ll start with Mechanical, get a Bachelors, and then head up to UW to get a Masters in Aerospace.  Good, I have a plan for the future.

Well, through the ups and downs of college.  The hard work, long nights and repeated struggle to keep my GPA above water, mindset’s change and with them goals.  Which keeps bringing me back to the question of what I want to be when I grow up.

It’s difficult to keep your goals and the reasons you started off with in sight when faced with repeated challenges that can seem rather daunting.  I wanted to design and build spaceships.  I wanted to be able to sit down at the drawing board and pull from my experience and knowledge the design for a ship that would best the space shuttle and bring the future of space travel into the now.  That was my reason for starting into Mechanical and wanting to head for Aerospace.

Reality hits hard however and a decent dose of it can open eyes and turn heads.  I learned that we’ve hit a bit of a wall with space travel.  Monetary wise and technology wise.  NASA no longer gets the funding it needs to put some of it’s far reaching ideas to work, and the technology to get us out there hasn’t changed in a while.  We’ve optimized it down to the best of our current knowledge.  Granted, SpaceX and the rest of the private industry are working their magic to take the next step and figure out how to go above and beyond what we currently have.

Where does that leave me however?  Sitting at the library studying my ass off in hopes I don’t fail my next test completely.  And it’s the fact that I’ve been doing that for several years now that’s gotten me thinking:  Am I cut out for Engineering?  I’ve made it this far, so why not?  Am I going to ever get to go to space, to experience the worlds that I write about?  Probably not in this lifetime– unless I want to become an astronaut and be a part of the crew on the International Space Station.  Granted, that would be cool, but I want to go farther.  But then, if I do want to go into Aerospace and try to get with a company like SpaceX, do I have the drive and dedication to stick it out for several more years to get my Masters?  Even then will I still be able to get in with SpaceX?  Do I even want to go to Grad School?  What would I research if I did?  Am I even interested in a specific area of Mechanical, or Aerospace Engineering to even want to get that in-depth with it?

That seems to be the one thing that’s been plaguing me the most.  Am I interested enough in my chosen major or even specific aspects of that major that I want to work with it the rest of my life?  So far I’ve encountered many things in engineering that have been “neat” and “cool” and “interesting”, but I haven’t found anything that stands out enough to me where I could say, “This is the coolest thing ever!  I want to learn everything I can about this one thing and I would be happy doing this for the rest of my life!”  And that troubles me.  I look at everyone else around me and the majority of them have something that they want to do in engineering, some goal that they are working toward.

And this brings me full circle:  What is my goal?  What do I want to do with my life, with my degree?  Well, I know the reason I got into engineering in the first place: to head up into space.  Maybe that’s all well and good, but what’s the core of that want?

Let’s refine it a little bit:  Ever since I can remember I’ve been obsessed (I guess you could call it that maybe) with science fiction, mainly the space opera genre.  I love seeing the amazing star-ship concepts that people come up with to traverse the vast darkness of space and all the little technical details of those ships.

Ok, that’s a start.  Let’s refine it some more:  Well, I want to see those ships and everything that makes them work become a reality.

Good.  Superb.  That’s a helluva good reason to get into engineering.  And that takes into account more than just Aerospace, right?

Sure, let’s follow that train of thought for a moment and make it a slightly more general statement, something to build off of:  The reason I’m working to become a Mechanical Engineer is to see science fiction become a reality.

Let’s get building then.

When I see others’ goals in engineering, I feel they’re more geared toward the industry.  “We’re going to revolutionize it and make it better, faster, more efficient with this component or gizmo.”  This seems to be the driving statement behind everything in engineering.

That’s cool.  But I’m not sold, completely.  How about this?  Let’s take this ridiculous, fantasmical concept that everyone thinks is fantasy and make it a reality.  Screw optimization, lets get our hands dirty.  Trial and error!  Let’s build something from science fiction!

Now that I can get behind.  Maybe that statement was there at the beginning when I started out in Engineering, but as the end of college nears, it’s all “specialize in this”, “learn how to do that”, “you’ll need it in the industry.”  What if sitting behind a desk isn’t what I want?  What if the reason I’m learning all this stuff isn’t to go out and be “successful” in life?  Frankly I could care less about being successful in the industry.  As long as I can build myself a ship that will traverse the stars, I could be the poorest man on the Earth and still be happy when I woke up every day.

Next question:  How I am I going to go about achieving that?

Well, back to square one, I guess.  At least I’ve determined a goal I can get behind.  Maybe this is why I like writing so much.  I get to create all this fantasmical tech and then put it into a universe where I can play with it.

I guess as long as I can write and keep making up crazy ideas for technology that I would like to see happen, I would be alright with living a mild-mannered life as long as I have someone to share it with, and a decent pay rate to keep myself elbow deep in my random hobbies and entertainment.

Well, that makes for an uplifting and slightly depressing blog post.  At least, for me that is.  Even being back at square one, I guess it helps that I can start somewhere with a better idea of what I want.

And the tl;dr version:  Bit of an existential crisis.  I’m a writer trying to be an engineer and an engineer trying to be a writer and it’s not doing me any favors with the choices that I’ve made.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Introspective Musings About Life, Engineering, and Writing

  1. Use your engineering background to add depth to your writing. Remember how much science fiction inspires real life advancements in technology.

    • No worries there! Recently my Intro to Aerospace Engineering class had gotten me thinking about wing designs for atmospheric/exo-atmospheric capable starfighters and how that would work. I just have to be careful not to add too much engineering depth to it or else I loose the story.

      Thanks for the comment! =]

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