For a long time now, probably even since the beginning of high school, I have struggled with the notion of a goal. What do I strive for? Why does everyone else seem to be in control of their lives and working in or towards a career they enjoy, seemingly knowing what the job would entail.
Since childhood my parents had always pushed for us to work towards medicine. Being a doctor had always seemed high esteemed and it was believed that the moment you received your license to practice you would be set for life. Financially stable, relatively luxurious and relaxed lifestyle. This was also what I believed and worked towards at that time.
As I entered college, I'd begun to have a little more exposure to people closer to the field, and those who were more educated in what was required to succeed in such a field. Not to mention TV shows such as Scrubs, and House MD. Ok, I can't recall what House MD taught me in terms of what goes on in the field since they were such a specialized team in what I'd call a fantasy environment. A doctor who can shift a mountain and part the sea while overruling the hospital administration is just unheard of. Scrubs did, however, teach me the life as a medical practitioner. I'm talking about the amount of paperwork, the malpractice lawsuits, the constant fear of your first kill and any subsequent ones. As college went on, I found myself less and less enamored with the idea of being a doctor. So instead of medicine, I shifted my focus slightly and went into research.
Research was fun. During the summer of my Junior year and the year of my Senior year I participated in work study at a genetics lab studying the aging process. The job called for some maintenance work such has keeping growth plates stocked, minimal cleaning and what not. Research aside from coming up with hypotheses and the reading research, is actually not too different from cooking. The steps being preparation, execution and clean up. Of course, in science you just have to log every step of the way. Thinking this was the path I would take from now on, I joined a lab in my hometown upon graduation.
Now, every lab is run differently, and there are pros and cons for each lab and a lot depends on funding and the Principal Investigator (PI, boss). In this lab I did a fair amount of maintenance, ranging from preparing reagents for the lab and taking inventory. I was also given the task of performing experiments for a side project my PI had. It's no exaggeration if I said I worked about 60 hours per week, and only reporting 40. This was because we weren't supposed to work overtime, but experiments run late, and time points have to be honored. After two years, My PI was unable to get funding and transferred me to another lab. In this lab, I mainly did maintenance work and specimen collection. All I do is menial work and no research. From these 4 years I have spent in the laboratory, I found myself questioning my path. I could see how stressful it was for graduate students. Governmental funding for academic research has also been dwindling and many labs have closed down due to the economy.
I learned a lot thorough out this time period about technology too. After getting home from high school I would try installing Linux on a Pentium II computer, creating html websites which would never be used, nor were aesthetically pleasing. However, there was a purpose, the website was created to represent a small group of 'outcasts' in a large organization. It was a group which ended up becoming the leadership of said organization. It was gaming, a guild in gaming, in reality, probably nothing major. Let it be said though, at that point in my life, this was something that shaped my teenage years.
During college, I joined Texas A&M Unix/Linux User Group (TAMULUG) and Texas A&M Computing Society (TACS). My participation was hindered by school work, but I managed to still do graphics as the publishing chair in TACS. I was also part of Undergraduate Science Research Club (USRC), for which I was the IT officer and ran their website and PSA graphics for promoting the student organization.
The path I walked was never sure. I was never sure if I wanted to be a doctor, I was never sure if I wanted to become a professor. Today, I figured out a new path to walk, incorporating the scientific method to the web development. We'll see where this takes us.