On navigating decisions pertaining my career and life plans.
This feels ungrateful to admit, but I feel wronged about the fact that no two doors of opportunity seem to stay open at the same time—I have to actively choose to close one, before we travel down the path of time where the others doors will open.
But, I am neither well-reasoned nor justified — and have not had enough life experience to confidently pick a path and be content with my decision.
I guess the closest way to describe this would be analogous to dating and relationships: most people at any one time are either monogamously committed to one person (i.e. employed at one company), or spending time with themselves and evaluating sparks with all the other lives we cross (i.e. on the job hunt).
For whomever, wherever and however I choose, I’d like to be at peace with my decision, make the best out of all its merits and consequences. But the weight of “being wrong” and taking responsibility for how I chose to live my life feels a bit heavy.
Peering through the slivers of these incoming doors, I’m rooted by the uncertainty of the future and ruthless continuum of time. I can picture myself relishing in the fulfillment of working on open-ended technical problems similar to the ones I get to solve now.
I can envision a respectable horizon, from making connections as a software engineer on a well-regarded research team, to being referred to prestigious PhD programs, and having the privilege of taking a few years from the industry to investigate deeply and publish a thesis. Without personal goals, this sounds like a difficult, lucky, and fulfilling life.
But from that same door, I can also expect mysef working against my inexperience and poor skill-to-responsibility fit in an unsuitable role, squeezed to the point of exhaustion and overshadowed in the large pool of other bright minds.
This door boils down to gambling on the hope that the right opportunity presents itself on the team-matching roulette.
A bit afar when the first door closes lies another option: one that would foster my growth, solidify my competence in a less cut-throat and comparison-based culture, and let me be part of shaping their core functionality, sprinkled with the financial risk joining a growing unicorn company.
Maybe less technical growth, or taking on more hats with less guidance. Would I feel slightly ashamed of not working with a recognizable brand name? This might be the right financial choice; but with the unstability of the pandemic economy, it might be short-lived.
It’s too far away to tell, but I need to know now.
And yet more, I could always keep travelling forward in hopes of more fitting opportunities (i.e. school career platform in the summer term).
I know with certainty that I don’t want to hide in the safely of academia and pursue a Master’s degree in Canada right now, nor do I want to immediately commit to writing a PhD as soon as I graduate from my Bachelor’s degree. I’d like to at least fool myself into thinking that whichever I choose, I’m doing meaningful work pertaining these following qualities:
- autonomy, and
- a clear relationship between effort and reward.
I’m privileged in my situation that none of the options will end poorly. If anything, I’m glad that I’ve finally reached a point where I believe in my own competence to find myself opportunities — but I now need to build up the confidence in saying yes (and no) to opportunities.
I love the idea of trying my best to make decisions at life’s crossroads with agency: instead of letting the wave carry me wherever in a series of random die tosses until I die.
Can you imagine the confidence of:
“Yes, I want X, because Y is important to me.”
But, I’m frustrated that I can’t actively choose what I value. Or rather, I can’t tell what’s a learned value that society cares about, versus values that come from within. It’s just so much easier to sanity check how you’re doing at this life thing, using external signals.
To some extent, my inability to say yes stems from a lack of trust in oneself.
This is really just a salty write-up, k thx bye ♥