When I was younger I wanted to be an architect. I wanted to build houses and create things with my hands. I would drive past houses and wonder what the layout was. I would wonder how many windows belonged to a room and imagine where the doors and walls were. Victorian homes always fascinated me. Now, I look on and wonder, but it’s no longer what I want to do.
What I want to do has changed so much that I wish trying to figure out what you want to do with your life was a paid gig. It’s not. I checked.
When I entered college at 20 years old, I pursued a career that my brother told me was a good one. Electrical engineering. My feminine sensitivities¹ would prove that a bad idea and I’d quickly move on to the next interest.
why psychology isn’t for me
Psychology was that interest. I’d spent so long trying to fit in and understand why I didn’t that to find out how NT people behave was a treat. I took sociology as well and took to both subjects like a fish to water. I was called a natural psychologist. Mr. Anderson, my psych 100 and 206 teacher, even said, “you naturally have what many psychologists will go to school for 12 years to learn and never learn. Some would even be jealous of your gifts.” And yet, the prospect of employment as a research psychologist being limited turned me off to the idea of being a psychologist. I didn’t want to treat people. I just wanted to see how they worked.
When I was 5, I took my mothers mechanical alarm clock apart. It worked just as well as it did before I took it apart, but I just wanted to see how it worked. I wanted to look inside, see how the pieces fit and, as I reassembled it, see how the pieces worked together to create a working clock. I have learned that figuring out how things work is my passion. I create for the joy of working through problems and make a vision real. I sew, crochet, sculpt and carve to make things fit together and work out an idea. Drawing is just a fun side effect. ;)
habitual mind changer or indecisive, I can’t decide
In the past 10 years, I’ve changed my major again to engineering. But again because someone said it was a good idea. I don’t know if this is the Aspergers, but I seem to take the gentle nudging of someone I respect as full on lobs into that direction. I can’t remember who suggested Civil Engineering, but once the idea stuck, I was all in. Except, I had no idea how to get there. That alone is what got me where I am today.
Because I don’t have an innate understanding about how to ask the right questions to get the answers I need, I tend to miss a lot. AND because I don’t understand a lot of nuance and am limited in my understanding of hyperbole, I don’t always catch when someone is exaggerating or lying.
Now, I do understand how to ask questions. I don’t want you to misunderstand that. My questions tend to be the ones no else asks though. I ask the hard hitters, the major leaguers. I swing for the fence when all I need is to run the ball down center field. Any nuance or hyperbole I DO understand is because of walking into walls and loving friends and strangers explaining to me why I can’t walk through that particular wall. Most of my knowledge is empirical. Good thing I have a lot of it, eh?
Not enough, though, to know what I want to be when I grow up at 37 years old. Circumstances have brought me to this point, but I’m now at a culmination in my basic understanding of how things (and by things I mean society) works to get to work on what I need to do to be successful. I’m in a learning process that most teens go through. Some even experience it as late as their early 20’s. I was 31 when I started on this path of understanding. I just happened to take a 5 year hiatus to have a family and another year to recover from domestic abuse. I’m in process though, so that’s what matters right now.
where does that leave me
Let’s see, I started with electrical engineering, then psychology, then civil engineering, then mother, then business owner, then back to civil engineering. That’s a lot of indecision. I hate indecision. And yet, there it is.
A couple months ago when the civil engineering seemed too daunting, I looked into what could be wrong² with me. I checked my chakras, my aura, my emotional health and well being. It was all screwed up, so I figured, why not help others while I heal myself? Take a massage therapy course, do some reiki and energy healing and in the process learn how to better take care of myself. Ah, well… there’s a huge human aspect to that that I’m just not comfortable with (see above ‘why psychology isn’t for me’). I realized it’d be way more work to stay employed as a masseuse and what’s the likelihood of being happy only massaging comatose patients? So, energy healer is off the table (ba-dum-tssh).
Giving it more thought, I realized looking at the UW courses available (because my degree IS transferable) would give me a clue as to what might work. Business management offered a leap up the corporate ladder from where I started in my career path. I’ve been a shipping and receiving clerk, a junior buyer, a logistics coordinator, a warehouse worker, a trainer and a general laborer. I’ve done almost every job related to business management in my 9-5 jobs as well as running my own business. My experience screams BUSINESS MANAGEMENT. And yet, the schooling and high competition of the program turns me off. It seems like a no brainer, but there’s a lot I’d still have to do and I’m not sure if I want to be the boss of people. Oh you people!
So, I took my transcripts to an adviser and asked her to look into her crystal ball (tall stack of majors) and find a path that fit my current degree the best. Liberal arts. No, I’m not shitting you. My degree is all over the place. It’s embarrassing. But I also found out that I can get another AS at that school. This time the prereqs are done and I can specialize. I can specialize! Do you know what that means?
For 18 years I’ve been studying nutrition and paying close attention to my own physiology. I’ve been diagnosed (mostly misdiagnosed) over the years because of food intolerances. I’ve been very interested in the way food and drugs, but more specifically lipids and sugars work in the liver and interact with our own body chemistry. I’ve been told I should be a nutritionist (ah, human aspect. It’s so pervasive!) or dietitian. But my interest lies in how this stuff works. How the body adjusts and thrives with certain chemical reactions.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Back in the engineering program, when we were deciding our course of action for our degrees, chemical engineering came up. The presenters at the lecture told us it’s not a good idea/that we’d struggle/it’s a lot of school/it’s too hard. Wow, way to stifle a whole class of freshmen! I remained interested in the subject, but found it to be too daunting. I kept being told to hurry up/I need to finish a program now/get it over with, you can always do what you really want later. I’m 37. I was 31 when this went down. How much time do I actually have? Last I checked I’m a finite human being. Didn’t realize I was immortal! Sheesh!
So, I came to the realization that I want to be a biochemist. The push to make all the money in the world doesn’t faze me any more. Not like it used to. I can be perfectly happy making $20,000 a year, as long as I’m doing what makes me happy. Synthesizing chemicals, hormones and researching the relationship between foods and our own chemistry is what interests me. It’s why I watch all those food and psych shows. It’s why I love House. It’s why I have hung onto nutrition for so long³.
So, I’m not settling anymore. I’m not letting other peoples expectations rule my life. If I’m 50 graduating med school with a doctorate in biochemistry, then so fucking be it. I’m already fighting the uphill battle of ageism, may as well do it in style.
1 Feminine sensitivities is a condensed metaphor for my being a feminist and the complete and utter lack of support for feminine women in engineering programs. I didn’t have the wherewithal to withstand the discrimination.
2 Wrong is used very lightly here. It’s simply to imply something was off not bad.
3 Nutrition is so cut and dry, you can learn all you need to know in 5 mins. Honestly. It doesn’t take years to learn it, but it does take years to unlearn all the bullshit the media tells you. Email me (hedgehogandrabbit on gmail). I do $50 consults. In an hour (through skype or phone), I’ll have your diet fixed and full of awesome and win.