My father yells “What you gonna do with your life?”
Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one
But girls they wanna have fun
With less than 48 hours to my next 6.006 midterm, I sit here contemplating the future and what is to come.
This past four day weekend I treated myself. After a hard week of advocating for myself and my class and begging the 6.006 instructors to move our midterm (which they did), I was able to relax from Friday to Tuesday.
I found myself picking up a book, Red, White, and Royal Blue, (which will now be referred to as RWRB) a romance novel about the son of the president of the United States falling in love with the prince of Wales.
I devoured the book in two days, and after I finished, I couldn’t think about anything else. I felt an emptiness as I read the last page, a pang in my heart that signaled that it was over and my journey with the book was done. But being the obsessive fool that I am, I was determined not to let the book die like that, and I joined a Discord server dedicated to the novel, viciously and hungrily reading any bit of well-written of fanfiction I could find on AO3, and even cracking open my old Tumblr to find fanart to satisfy my RWRB needs.
And it was so refreshing and nostalgic to go absolutely feral over a piece of media again. I’m currently taking CMS.621, a class that has allowed me to really sit back and evaluate my fan experience and my life as a fan. I recently had to give a presentation on a fan experience of mine and I was able to reflect on my time as a hardcore One Direction fan from 2015-2018. I was perhaps unhealthily obsessed with the band, but there was something so powerful and so invigorating in having that much energy and excitement over a group. As I wrote up the presentation, there was a part of me that ached for that same fervor again, the very same one that had me up reading Larry and Ziam fanfics until 3 in the morning or deep-diving into carefully curated alternate universes featuring the band.
It felt like forever until I had experienced that…until I finished RWRB. And I felt that giddiness again, where this piece of media took up every square foot of my brain and resided there, consuming my every thought. It was exciting and fun again.
But another side effect of falling back into these fandom clutches is this doubt in my career and what I’m doing with my life.
As a kid, I never really knew what I wanted to do. In elementary school, I’d write short stories and novels constantly, falling in love with these fantastical worlds I’d create, no matter how cliche or poorly written they were. I also bounced around with the idea of being a veterinarian, having a passion for animal conservation efforts and growing up around the San Diego Zoo. As I grew up, I always felt torn between these two parts of myself. There was a side of myself that wanted to full send it and dedicate myself to writing and world creation and fantasy, but another part that loved the idea of being surrounded by science and animals and medicine.
Eventually, in middle school, I realized I was good at STEM, or as good as you could be at that age, and I abandoned my dreams of creative writing in favor of narrowing my job prospects to solely STEM.
In my sophomore year, I took a biomedical engineering class and loved learning about prosthetics and enjoyed hearing about the different devices created to make life easier for people and provide much needed technology and medicine for those who needed it. I then tried to figure out a way to mesh these two ideas together, wanting to marry my love for veterinary studies with this newfound interest in biomedical engineering. I told my teacher this, but she said it was too niche and I should probably just choose one.
To which I then decided on BME because it made more money, required less years of school, and ultimately made more sense.
And it felt like I was letting someone down, like my younger self would see future me and feel…disappointed or heartbroken in a way that I dropped it just like that.
I felt guilty, so guilty, in fact, that I applied to UC Davis for Animal Studies instead of BME like I did everywhere else just to leave it open as an option. I don’t think I’ve ever really told anyone out loud, but I really did consider UC Davis. Heavily. I thought about just letting MIT go and 100% committing to my dream of being a veterinarian and not looking back.
But once again, I thought about the money and the debt and the labor and I chose MIT.
Now, I’m some flavor of a computer science major sitting here on a Wednesday night with half of my brain thinking about a gay prince and bi FSOTUS in love and the other half thinking “Oh god what are you gonna do with your life?”
For the past couple months, I’ve been doing fairly well in the CS world. I’ve done a variety of finance and CS programs, I have an internship lined up for the summer, and I have interviews for summer 2022. But the more and more I talk to Ray about it and the more I look into my internship prospects and converting those to full time offers, I think to myself: Is this what I’m going to do for the next five, ten, fifteen, and so on years?
There are a couple things I know about the job I want in the future. Or the things I like. I like leading projects, I like seeing projects and products through. I like seeing tangible changes, I need them to know if progress is being done. I don’t think I want tech to be my primary focus for my job, but instead, I want it to be a tool to help me accomplish my main job, or a secondary aspect to the job. (I don’t quite know this, it’s just a hunch. I’ll have more of an answer after my internship and 6.031 this fall to see if SWE life is for me.)
In terms of CS, I think it’s neat. I think algorithms are really cool and I like making things pretty. I like making websites and I want to learn how to make apps. But…that’s really it.
I’ve been trying to see if there’s a life for me in media, and reading RWRB reminded me of how much I love media, but I don’t really know what that would entail. I think a lot about Ceri, an old blogger who majored in biology and media studies and is now the content manager of Crash Course and also co hosts SciShow Tangents and edits for comic Monstress. Subtle plug for Ceri she’s very cool.
And this….this is my ideal. I want to be in it, I want to be involved and do cool things in media and manage content creation and lead the team in very cool directions. But I don’t know how? Or where I can do things like this?
Then there’s also questions like, Can I make a living off of this? And will I be happy knowing down I turned down big boy tech and finance jobs to do something media based?
There’s a lot of thoughts and questions in my head, but it really just lies in: Where can I start and how do I know?
I’ve tried my hand in media studies before, doing research at the Education Arcade and I wasn’t really sure if I liked it or not. I am just… so lost.
I think another fear I have is that I’m being ungrateful or bratty. I’ve had so many doors opened for me through computer science and I am in such a privileged and great position, with amazing jobs I have a higher chance of getting because of my education and university, yet even with all that’s offered, I’m still unsure.
There’s also a fear that I’m not actually going to be good at the media thing, and I’m just using it as a crutch for myself whenever I’m bad at CS. Whenever algorithms hurts me or I struggle in coding, I comfort myself by telling myself that at least I’m good at media studies. But I haven’t really…worked in media. Or done anything significant in it. I don’t know what it means to work in media. I think these fears are partially compounded by the fact I got rejected by Harvard’s creative writing classes. It felt kind of like John Harvard himself came down and smacked me in the face and told me I shouldn’t try writing. And I think my ego and love for writing was really wounded afterwards because if I wasn’t good at writing like I thought I was, maybe I’m not all that good at the other stuff I think I’m good at. Like media. Or management.
I make this same post every couple of months, but that’s because every couple months I’m reminded of some past daydream of mine or that summer 2022 comes scarily closer with every day that passes.
Really, the ideal is to just work as some product or project lead for something that requires some coding in it for some media person or media company. I’ve been trying to build a list of cool companies that I think align with what I want to do. But it’s just so exhausting.
At the end of the day, I just hope I’m happy and doing something I love. Every day of 7.014 that passes by, I think about just dropping CS and pursuing veterinary school after undergrad, but then the debt hits again, and I think perhaps not. It’s still a fantasy of mine to work SWE for a couple years and use the money saved from that to pay for vet school. But that’s a long time away.
I understand I have many years, and that in the grand scheme of things, college is merely a blip in my life and an MIT education nearly guarantees me job security. But there’s that lingering fear that I will become subject to the sellout’s curse and spend my years in a job I hate for the sake of financial security, sacrificing my own mental for the physical.
Maybe one day I’ll read back on this blogpost, a couple years from now, say May 2023 or 2024, as I’m graduating, and laugh at my stupid anxiety since everything all worked out in the end.
Or at least I hope so.
playlist that inspired this post: