Sunday, April 3, 2011

Plans

Movie time!


Ok, so twenty one seconds of movie time. Still counts!

For one reason or another (but mostly one reason, ask if you're curious) I have thought quite a bit about this question in the last few days. Full blown existential crises are not exactly "my thing," and getting all bent out of shape about not being able to see into the future has always seemed worthless in the grand scheme of things, but taking some time to actually think about what my actual plan is has been a bit disconcerting.

To people who actually know me this fact is old news, but I actually have taken quite a bit of pride in my fulfillment of my "master plan." That title is less codename and more apt description than it sounds. At no point in middle school did I sit down and write out what I would be doing for the next ten years of my life and write "MASTER PLAN" in big, bold, sharpie letters at the top. I did go around telling people about my plan though. It was actually pretty simple:
  1. Get into Calvin College
  2. Attend Calvin College
  3. Get a degree in Computer Engineering
  4. Possibly double major or minor in math
  5. Get into the University of Michigan
  6. Attend the University of Michigan
  7. Get a masters degree in Computer Science/Engineering
You can imagine what people probably thought when I told them this. (My guess: "Wow, that's pretty ambitious, but he seems like a relatively smart kid. At least he's got a plan." Either that or, "Hah, oh yeah? And what if life happens?")

Good question. What if life happens?

Well, either I happen to be a great guesser about the future or I was a little bit stubborn while making decisions. I would say the fact that I have checked numbers 1-6 off the list and am under a year from putting a giant X through the whole thing without really ever taking the time to actually sit down and make a decision probably supports the latter. I managed to get through all these steps without allowing the reality of myself influence my path.

As I finally begin to take some personal inventory, some of those choices come into question. I cannot say that I regret crossing the items off that list, but there are certainly places where it would have made a lot of sense to step back and assess. Some of the questions I should have asked:
  • Does a masters degree in Computer Science make sense? (Financially, yes, if I find a job I like.)
  • Is coding what I want to do for the rest of my life? (Probably not.)
  • Would I be better served going into the human computer interface field? (Maybe. I would have enjoyed the courses more, but I'm learning a lot of fundamentals I would have missed out on.)
  • What types of jobs do my strengths and weaknesses line up well with? (Still not entirely sure.)
I am learning a lot, and I think things will work out just fine, but it is a little hard to look at the requirements and sample interview questions for what I once considered dream jobs and realize, "You know what, I'm actually terrible at a lot of those things." I am not a "superstar coder." I have a hard time keeping laser focus on anything for more than a half hour at a time. I would much rather take an idea and get it to work than put in all the extra time to make sure it is flawless. Kludges get me really excited, and I happen to be good at putting them together in software. I would rather talk about a project, formulate a plan, and get involved in design than be the one to actually implement it. I want to lead people.

Some of those things fit great when looking for a computer engineering job. Others, not so much.

Luckily, God has a good handle on my type of mental state, and He provides some stunning words of encouragement:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11
That is a good thing, because regardless of what my track record might say, I still have quite a bit to learn about plans.

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