Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wait, I don't have to be an ECE?

After Emma and I got back from the Take Olin Home thing at IMSA (which, despite our complete and utter improvisation of everything, went well), I brought some chocolate Culver's custard home for Jason's 17th birthday and sat around the dinner table which was full of takeout Chinese food. (Happy birthday, kid.)

So, parents. You know they'll ask you how classes are going. They've been on my case because of a few little letters that they've never seen before dotting my transcript's last two semesters. You're an electrical engineering major, my dad says, you shouldn't be getting C's in your electrical engineering classes. And I look slightly sheepish and apologize and say I'm trying. And all this is par for the course.

But this time I start talking about my other projects. I tell them about reading the entire HFID bookshelf during lunchtimes, and staying several hours overtime talking Human-Powered design with Eric and Chris and not noticing, talking about Better Bags and asking them what they think of this solution and that one and asking how bags are manufactured. (And this is a several-hours long conversation that ends with my design notebook open on the table, plastic bags strewn around, me entirely forgetting the original topic of my bad grades, and the dishes still not cleared into the sink.) "I don't think I'm going to be an electrical engineer when I graduate," I said. "It's a good thing for me to learn, and a background I want to have, and I like it, but the thing I really want to do is design."

"Well, maybe you shouldn't be an electrical engineer," my dad said. "Maybe you should switch your major to Engineering with Design." And my mom agreed.

I never actually thought I'd hear those words come out of their mouths, to be quite honest. I expected them to go into a tirade about how ECE is a nice known major, yadda yadda, I should get a strong foundation and then branch off into design, something something looks better to employers. (And in fact they have gone off on that tirade before, except replace "ECE" with "engineering" and the alternative with "art school" and transpose the conversation to my senior year of high school, or replace "art school" with "Systems" and transpose it to sophomore year of college.) But no! This was even my father (he's a MechE-turned-MBA) sitting down and outlining some course suggestions in marketing, manufacturing, psychology, art... "If you want to do design, you should take these kinds of classes." And all the classes he suggested sound wonderful.


Now the decision is back in my hands. I'd never considered not going ECE because I thought they'd kill me if I suggested an E-with-blah degree, but they won't. They're actually encouraging this. So I have to figure out what I want to do. On the one hand, I really, really like design. I mean, really, really love it. And want to do some form of it as my life's work. On the other hand, I can't help but feel like I'm copping out. ECE is "nice and rigorous," and gives you a great background that would be useful to me, especially since I want to be able to design things heavily involving electronic components. I want a nice technical grounding. All the design stuff I've done feels like Happy Fun Playtime For Mel and not "hard" at all. Then again, that's the feeling you get when you love something, no matter what it is. I mean, I got a bit of that feeling doing abstract math, and that's pain and torture for other people. And I'm a grand total of one class away from an ECE degree and it's a class I'm going to take anyhow, whereas I'd have to go Whoosh! Bang! Overhaul! Studystudystudy to go for a design degree.

This makes for an interesting mix of thoughts. Elated because I have my parents' blessing. Sinking feeling that I've discovered this too late. (Knowing that 19 is totally not "too late" to change your mind about what you want to do in life.) Fear of "wimping out." (Knowing that I don't have to prove myself to anyone, and that probably nobody will look at me and say that Mel switched majors because she was Too Dumb to be an ECE.) Worrying, as much as I hate to admit it, that, uh, an ECE degree is... more... normal and attractive to employers and grad schools and stuff (you know, the kind of things I'm not supposed to let myself care about).

Lots to think about now. At least I'm getting 10 (Yes, ten! I must be completely burnt out!) hours of sleep a night here.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Not an easy decision, but glad to hear that you finally feel like you have one to make.