Peering around the silent classroom I carefully avoided eye contact, but checked every face for acknowledgment. I thought there would be at least one grin of pure self-assurance like mine that would flash back: “I too consider this a joke”. It wasn’t to be. Looking back at that moment it would surprise me to have found someone that was similarly dead-set on wasting their time. After 3+ years away from school I found myself back in a hard plastic chair, setting off on a new journey through engineering school hell. One which I wasn’t actually convinced I should take at all.
I can say honestly that I didn’t care for engineering school. I had no real interest in getting a degree or suffering through years of complex math and physics. An engineering degree doesn’t teach you how to be an engineer and I don’t have much faith in academia. Every time a bus passes by with a banner ad for the local college promising success and fulfillment, I shudder. It’s a system of cash grabbing and politics and if you have real interest in education and professionalism you don’t get a say in how it all works, You’re just expected to start writing checks. So many professors have sheltered narrow perspectives and often care more about their research than teaching. It makes me angry and it should make everyone angry that we are forced to deal with this system. An entire industry addicted to pillaging the young dreamers and achievers of the world. It has become a cultural expectation to go out and severely in-debt yourself in order to get an education that you may not really want or need.
I’ve always wanted to build things. Back as far as I can remember I was looking for the right path to lead me to the so called “dream”. Nothing ever sounded right to me. I hated the thought of being pigeon-holed as a wrench jockey just as much as I detested the prospect of pushing papers 9-5 into perpetuity. I took aim right down the middle. After a diploma and 3 years of working in the real world, I wound up back in the classroom that I had avoided all along. I can’t say that my attitude was much improved, but my understanding of the world had been dramatically redefined. I wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Sitting amongst all of these bright eyed youngsters that had seemingly no hesitations, I found myself the cynic. You kids are all here to be engineers. I’m not one of you.
What can’t be taught in school and can’t be described on paper or imparted in a song, movie or Netflix series are the changes that happen in your mind as the experiences of life impart their unique tug on your personality. Everything changes your life. What I thought of engineering and University at the end of high school was no longer what I thought as I sat in that classroom. I still have no interest in cubicles, but engineering isn’t quite as simple as I once thought it was.
“All things can be art. It’s all about perspective, what feels right and how it hits you. The beauty of art is that there are no rules”
We can sculpt and shape our own identity from the vastness of imagination. While engineering seems an antonym to art, I would argue the opposite. I don’t see the engineering degree as education, its a process of growing and understanding yourself. The requirements for earning an engineering degree are nonsense at face value, but look between the difficulty, pain, and struggle, within it is passion, purpose, and drive. The engineering graduate has been through a journey that revealed character and toughness. They leave school with personal faith and self reliance that opens the doors to all kinds of beautiful and strange opportunities.
I don’t give much thought to becoming an engineer, but I dream of being an artist.
I’ll be my greatest work.