Today was a great encouragement to me...
Note: As I wrote this post, more and more thoughts came to my head, so I apologize if it's jumbled and hard to follow. And I think it ended up more personal than I intended.
A little background...
I used to have a plan - a life plan. I knew when I would graduate, where I would probably live, what kind of job I would have, who I was going to marry and when, how many kids I would have, and the shape my life would take for...well, the rest of it. For various reasons, the plan changed. The plan changed to 'no plan'.
Engineering, and specifically Mechanical Engineering, is a very diverse field. There are infinite opportunities for the up-and-coming Engineer, in all capacities, industries, and places. My parents have always told me that I can go wherever and do whatever I want - and I appreciate that, and I believe it (most of the time). But that presents a problem. Assuming I can shoot for the stars and any opportunity I want, I have to pick which star to shoot at.
I've recently discovered that I am interested in a lot more things than I thought - outside of Engineering. At first, I considered switching career paths (after my degree) to something completely different. But I've realized I do like Engineering, and the other things I am interested in can be integrated into my Engineering career (Engineering being so diverse and all). But the problem remains - what will I do, in 2 years, when I graduate, and have the whole world ahead of me.
The No-Plan Plan allows freedom - complete freedom. Freedom to do what I want, when I want, how I want - I get to choose, and I get to screw up, and I get to learn from it. I'm in charge of my life. What I do affects me - when I screw up, it affects me.
(Note - I know it affects the people around me, and my family, too; but for the most part, the major decisions I make in the No-Plan Plan only have a major influence on me.)
But - What if I choose the wrong opportunity? What if I miss out on the best opportunity? What if I turn down a job offer that I should have taken? What if I don't apply for a job that I should have? What if I accept a job I shouldn't have?
So - I've been putting pressure on myself to decide what I want to do with my life; what I want to be when I grow up. And I want to have a plan - so I don't miss out on getting to where I'm going.
Today I had a great conversation that provided great personal encouragement to me - in that I don't have to have my career picked out now.
I got a chance to talk to Avrom Salsberg; BC's Trade Representative to Japan. (He and the Osaka Gas Tokyo Office General Manager came for a tour of our lab and to see the projects we're working on). I was fortunate enough to have a couple minutes to ask him some questions, and I asked him about his career, and how he got to where he is now - was it what he planned on, or did it just evolve into what it is? He told me that he didn't plan on it, at all - it just kind of happened. One job led to the next, and that to the next - all opportunities. He kept doors open, and this is where he ended up. He took a degree and ended up doing something else completely different - but he mentioned that he still appreciates the fact that he has the degree, because it provides a background and some knowledge for understanding certain aspects of other things.
I guess I found the conversation encouraging because it assured me that I don't have to have my career picked out now. And if I pick a job after I graduate, and then move on from that to something else - that's okay. Who knows where I'll end up? And that's okay too. And if that place happens to be outside of Engineering, that's also okay.
I also found our conversation encouraging because it made me feel capable and intelligent again. My projects can be frustrating because I find them difficult to understand, sometimes, and while my supervisors are very good and patient at explaining things to me, the language barrier still makes it difficult to understand. Coupled with a lack of conversation in general, I haven't felt all that smart or capable lately. In my conversation with Mr. Salsberg (short as it was), I was able to discuss ideas, express opinions, and exchange thoughts. I feel reassured that I am a capable person, with some form of intelligence, who has something to offer to the world in general. It reassured me that I am still capable of communicating properly. I know what you're thinking - all that, out of a short and not so deep conversation? Yep. :)
Anyone who knows me knows that I need a plan. I am a planning person. I plan. It's what I do. To be honest, not having a plan scares me. It scares me because I don't know what will happen, and I don't know what I might be missing out on, because I'm not ready for it.
But do you ever just feel like you need to flounder a bit? To figure out where you are, before you can tell anyone else how to find you - how to get there? To learn how to tread water, before you decide which way to move? (Even if you know which way you want to go). I guess that's how I'm feeling.
I'm not sure what this post turned into, but it is what it is. And it's late (or early), and I'm going to bed. Tomorrow I am going on an impromptu camping trip...I was invited, but I found out about an hour ago (it's 11pm) that we're leaving tomorrow morning at 7am, and all I was told was that it's for one night and I need a blanket. Sigh. Language barriers make for adventures and surprises. Oh welll...I'm off for an adventure - tell you about it when I get back!