Rereading “Dear Engineering” One Year Later
I feel like this deserves some kind of introduction since not everyone will know what “Dear Engineering” is. Basically at the end of my studies, I wrote a piece called Dear Engineering (which you should probably read before this for things to make sense if you haven’t already). It was an honest reflection on my experience with my engineering degree and everything that I was feeling after having just finished it.
It’s been exactly a year since I wrote that and made it public. I haven’t read it since then. I pretty much hit publish the first time around and let it be. But I thought it might be interesting to reread it a year later and see how I felt about what I wrote. How much of it would I still connect with? Would it feel like I wrote it yesterday or would the words feel foreign?
One of the main driving factors of this curiosity was actually a message that I received from one of my peers – but we’ll get back to that later. For now, this is how the reread went…
Okay so first off…I cried pretty much straight away.
It’s difficult to describe feeling everything exactly the way it was but still noticing the major difference. I don’t know why I expected to relate to the emotions less now but it’s honestly still very fresh when I read it. Maybe I wanted the words to feel foreign because, in my mind, that would signify some sort of growth and progress.
But that’s the thing with these sore spots. They aren’t linear and it’s kind of silly to expect them to be. I guess you don’t expect water to just dive down the drain. Maybe sometimes you gotta do a few loops before you find the exit.
And don’t get me wrong, I can definitely acknowledge the difference between myself now and myself then. No one is the same person they were a year ago but especially for me, this past year has been the catalyst for a massive shift.
But as much as there is a stark difference, I am still dealing with the aftermath of that mentality that I ran for so many years – and still run now sometimes. The one of constantly pushing to achieve, no matter the cost. A mentality of consistently doing what needs to be done and never faltering, even when it damages your own wellbeing.
Something that seems to run very steadily throughout engineering as a whole.
So now onto why I was so curious about this reread in the first place.
When I wrote “Dear Engineering”, I received two different responses from the people around me. One being supportive: whether it was close friends who hadn’t realised just how much it had taken out of me, or even peers who could simply relate to some of the things I wrote.
The other response came from someone I studied with in the form of a direct message. Saying that what I had written was a bit dramatic – sorry…it was “Abit dramatic” – and that university was mild compared to working life. So first of all… you okay bro? Because that does not sound like a vibe.
And second of all, I couldn’t have come up with a better example of why (at least in my opinion) so many people in engineering never breathe a word about their struggles.
Engineering students are notorious for complaining about their workload but, in my experience, few genuinely speak up about being in a really dark place. Who is going to admit struggle in an environment where there is the risk of not only the department staff, but also your peers deeming you “dramatic”?
And of course, this isn’t exclusive to engineering.
And I kind of get it. I’ve been that person before. So much so that a close friend of mine didn’t open up about their struggles with depression because they expected that exact same response from me. And even after that, when I swore I’d never be that person again, I’ve been that person again.
So why do we do this? Why do we associate struggle with weakness and incapability? Because they are clearly not the same thing.
Did I not finish the exact same degree as him, in the same amount of time? Whether I did it frowning and he did it smiling has nothing to do with us having the ability, dedication, work ethic, intelligence, discipline, or whatever else you think is required to finish something like that.
But I was curious: was I being dramatic? Someone saying something that you don’t like doesn’t mean that they don’t potentially have a point.
Going into this, I fully expected to reread “Dear Engineering” and partly agree that it was dramatic. Because well everything was still so fresh at the time and I was just going through the most when I wrote it. But when I read it now, honestly no. No, I don’t think I was being dramatic. I was literally just telling the truth, the way I perceived it at the same.
So, engineering-dude-who-might-never-even-see-this…one day you might be in the pit. It happens to the best of us. And if you end up there, I sincerely hope that the people in your life react better to you than the way you’ve reacted to me. And better than the way I’ve reacted to the people around me…