In 1988, I was fresh out of Texas A&M University, with bachelor of science in civil engineering. I was very lucky to have a job upon graduation: a recession had just begun in the United States, so even though the job I had wasn't my dream job of building skyscrapers and suspension bridges, who cared if instead I was designing foundations for refinery piperacks and vessels? I was making $28,000 a year, an astronomical sum in my 21-year-old mind, so it really didn't matter that I was somewhat bored with my job.
Until it did.
I eventually quit engineering to go to law school, knowing that I had no intention to go back to practicing as an engineer. And even so, even as I left engineering behind, I knew there were things about that career that I loved, and still continue to love: I love the analytical thinking required to determine how to make sure a structure stays erect. I love the problem-solving. I love the logic that the mathematics required.
I practiced law for much longer than I practiced engineering, and my law career was incredibly varied: first, I worked in a litigation firm; then, for an oil & gas company. I finally ended up at a software company, where I was responsible for writing increasingly more complex software license and development agreements. And I positively loved it: writing these 50-page (or more!) contracts required the analytical thinking and problem-solving of engineering, but even more awesome, it required writing -- something that I'd never even really considered would be of interest to me. I was writing documents that required analytical thinking, and traveling all over the world to do it (all the while taking my camera along, a hobby which had become a passion). It was a great life.
What ended up happening was unexpected: I got promoted. It was incredibly flattering, and I was grateful for the opportunities; however, it meant that I was less and less responsible for drafting contracts, and more and more responsible for managing the folks who did the drafting. My new positions had the new duty of doing some public speaking (which I discovered I loved), but instead of crafting deals that always ended in celebrations, more and more I was dealing with conflicts: employee relations issues, defending the company against potential lawsuits or dealing with difficult opposing counsel. I know this is incredibly weird for an attorney to say, but there's no denying it: the truth is, I'm a lawyer who really abhors conflict.
So eventually I decided to quit my job, to pursue writing, photography and public speaking full time, which is where I am today.
And honestly, I love what I do: I love grabbing my camera and shooting whatever I want, often in really amazing places. I love meeting folks when I speak at conferences or seminars, and I so enjoy writing, particularly books. I have no intention of working for a law firm or legal department again, if I can help it.
But you know what? I miss the problem-solving. And the analytical thinking -- particularly in law.
A friend emailed me yesterday, one with whom I hadn't spoken in a while, and she said, "From your posts and tweets, it seems like you are in reinvention mode!"
Hmm. I don't know about reinvention. I love what I do a bit too much to give it up.
Perhaps my future is more about integration. Because it feels like it's time to put together all the stuff I've loved about all my previous lives, and see where they take me.