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MIT student blogger Nisha D. '21

Seattle by Nisha D. '21

The siren call of real adult life

This is, for the most part, a post about Seattle.

I’ve been a resident of Green Lake, Seattle for a little over a month now. There’s very little about Seattle that I don’t like. I love the weather that never really goes above 80 degrees, and enjoy the infrequent summer drizzles. I love the way the evergreens seem to stretch up to the sky, and enclosed within the forests and the mountains, I feel safe in the way that I associate with growing up in New England. There’s excellent coffee, beautiful parks and lakes, and lots of friendly neighborhood cats that love receiving the head scritches I am dying to give them.

I feel very strongly about Seattle in a way that I haven’t felt about any other city before. Last summer, in LA, I felt simultaneously as if my life was on pause but also on an infinite loop. I didn’t like LA, in retrospect. There were lots of nice things about it, but the activation energy of getting to them without a car was too high. I’ve found that the walkability of a city is, in fact, important to me. And although I do like Boston, there’s no wonder in it anymore. I grew up near by, and the city just seems01 it is, in reality, physically a very small city as well so small. I want to see new places and experience the wonder of exploring them. I don’t want to be stuck in Boston forever.

This summer, I’ve been much more satisfied with my life than I expected. I think some part of it is because I really like Seattle, and because I like my software job much more than I expected. I haven’t figured out exactly why I like it – last summer, I strove to look into different career paths because I simply did not enjoy my software job in the slightest. But after interviewing for various product management internships, I still wound up with a software one in the end…and lo and behold, my previous opinions have been thrown into question. Maybe I like it because I can see the results of my work being implemented across all Twitch production servers, and that’s super satisfying. Maybe I like it because I love my team – all the kindness they’ve shown me, and all the inside joke memes. Or maybe it’s because architecting solutions to software problems is close enough to the serotonin boost I receive from solving small, discrete problems, and we all could use a serotonin boost at this point in history.

I don’t know, and that bothers me. But what I do know is that I’m pretty satisfied, and like Powers very wisely said recently, there isn’t always a way to solve for x.

What I also know is that I could have this life, if I wanted. I could have a stable 9-5, and do whatever I desire with my time afterwards. I could have a cushy tech job and not have to worry about money. I could stop thinking about the future and live in the present. I could live in Seattle, even.

At the end of 2019, I made my yearly post where I reflected on the paths I was considering taking in my future. I’ve narrowed these paths down slightly – I don’t think I really care enough to do an MEng, although maybe I’ll change my mind about that. The decision between the remaining two, however, has gotten a lot more difficult.

Right now, there are two definite career paths that are possible for me. One, which I think I would theoretically prefer, is where I get a masters and/or PhD and go into industry research. I would get to pursue a field that I’m interested in to mastery. I would, however, need to get *accepted* to these programs, and would be in school for another, like, gajillion years. Two, I could (maybe, hopefully) get a return offer from Twitch and do interesting things with gaming software, and live a stable life with a lot of money.

If the end goal is financial security and general life happiness, one of these options seems to get there a lot faster, and I’m getting tired of planning out my future.

Somehow, though, this still feels like a cop out. I bore easily, and my biggest blocker to becoming a software engineer is my deathly fear of being bored with my life’s work. If I’m forced to subscribe to capitalism, I’m going to make damn sure that I enjoy the labor that I feed into the system.

It also feels like a big jump in the incorrect direction from the dream I’ve held onto for a long time: to make games that affect peoples’ lives in the same way that Final Fantasy VII affected mine.

But I’ve realized that I don’t really know how to get here anymore. I tried being a software person at a game studio, and didn’t enjoy it. I realized that the game industry is very highly specialized, and the people doing the really interesting work on games aren’t the software people. They have majors for game design now, and I do not possess one.

When I look at these two career paths, I always try to evaluate them against this particular dream of mine. In one, I maintain and improve upon a software that allows millions of people to participate in and enjoy gaming, but don’t really get to *create* these experiences myself. In another, I get to possibly create educational experiences and games that kids can learn from, and make contributions to the field using these things that I have created.

To me, the latter sounds closer to this dream. I really like the idea of the latter, too. But it would require years and years of hard work, and right now, the sirens of the tech world are really calling my name. Seattle and the life I’ve had here are becoming really hard to resist.

This isn’t really a post about anything. I’m still going to shoot my shot, and apply to the Media Lab and see if I’ll get in. I’m tentatively taking a semester off of school to work in my lab as a full time employee, and I guess I’ll see how much I enjoy my taste of the grad student life. These decisions for me to make are still in the future.

But I’m scared of becoming complacent, and giving up my dreams for the promise of a stable lifestyle and money. That’s not the kind of person I think I am, nor the kind of person I want to be. That’s not the Nisha that MIT admitted, nor the Nisha that I want MIT to end up outputting. Everything I’ve done to shape my career at MIT has been because I love video games, and I’m proud of myself for staying true to my passions for this long. I view giving up on my dreams as some form of defeat,02 People who know me well will know that the foundation of my entire psyche is built on the plot of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core even if reality necessitates it.

I will say, though, that chasing your dreams is really hard, and I’m getting tired. And I really, really love Seattle.

  1. it is, in reality, physically a very small city as well back to text
  2. People who know me well will know that the foundation of my entire psyche is built on the plot of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core back to text