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Though my father decided I would study engineering, and it appeared I had no choice, I had ample opportunity to switch majors during the past few years. I could have chosen anything else. I could have aimed to be a doctor, voice actress, biologist, painter, lawyer, music teacher or chef. Literally, anything else. I agreed to engineering somewhere along the way. The logical reasons for my agreement are obvious: job stability, monetary security, professional respect. However, I am not the type to make choices based on logic alone, which has led me to ask myself this question as I enter my senior year, particularly as younger classes of engineers ask me the same thing.
There are times I hate it. I have stared at an expansive spreadsheet for so long that I memorized the values, and it occurred to me then that it is not normal to be so deeply engrossed in a problem that my brain begins to mimic computer function. I have wondered, by consequence, if pursuing engineering has made me less human: We spend years learning how to solve problems using facts and logic, surrounded by others learning to do the exact same thing. Depending on our choice of industry, many of us may not get the opportunity to appreciate how our work impacts people. Our choice of industry affords us an emotional shield, and we are given the option to distance ourselves from the very thing that makes us so uniquely human: our connection to society.
Engineering does have its upsides, though: Every now and then, I make something. The practice of making something, whether it is a new experimental design, writing a paper, fabricating a part to be sent to the machine shop, or even drawing up a diagram, can be incredibly fulfilling. It is this creativity that pulls me out of my mundanity and into a state of wonder. While it is much more natural for me to write and play music than derive a pressure-drop equation, both activities make me appreciate other facets of my life. There is a joyful, intellectual rigor in engineering, and there is a soulful depth of feeling in the arts.
If I went back in time, I would likely still major in engineering. I have cried over exams, likely aged 3-5 years due to the lack of sleep and skipped more than a few events to gain a deeper fundamental knowledge of engineering principles. But there are many opportunities, even in the arts (ironically), that would not have afforded themselves to me if I had not pursued engineering.
Engineering gave me the gift of understanding that everything can be learned.
How comforting! As I observe the world through the eyes of an awestruck child, I am safe to explore it because I know that I can figure it out. Engineering, in that respect, is not the question, but the solution.