An Engineer’s Biggest Challenge: Writing
As someone who is nearing the tail end of my engineering degree program, the things I have learned in these few years range from incredibly important, like working in groups to develop a product, to things that, frankly, feel like wasted space in my brain. Looking at you, “heat transfer.”
But one thing that engineering universities seldom teach their students is how to think. Well, we are taught to think about the tangible problems around us, like how to design a new robot to complete some definite task, not more of these abstract problems and issues that dictate the flow of the world around us. This stems from the fact that social science classes are far and few in between with any engineering curriculum. Most engineering students at Georgia Tech are required to take 2 English courses and 1 Ethics course, and that’s basically as far as we go. And that’s for good reason I suppose. Engineers may not construct our societies in an abstract sense, but we, literally, construct our societies in the physical sense. Our jobs are to make sure the world around us runs, whether you are overseeing construction of a highway overpass, designing a new airplane, or managing a transformer power station. It makes sense that our curriculum is much more practical.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that I have somewhat lost my ability to critically think as I was once able to back when I was reading and writing regularly in high school. Sometimes it would feel like I just didn’t know how to respond or feel about some huge world events. I’ll be honest: the last book I read was in Spring of 2020, before the pandemic hit, while I was still taking my English 1102 class. So to say I have not been an avid reader would be quite an understatement. Recently though, I’ve decided to devote some more time to the pen (well, I guess keyboard now) to help convey my thoughts better. Partially as an exercise to keep the critical thinking part of my brain active, but also to get back into the habit of reading and writing. Those two things pretty much overlap now that I read it out loud, so I guess I have some improving to do.
While I don’t read many books nowadays (and frankly have never been a huge bookworm), I have always been hooked into television and movies. It was during the pandemic phase that I really dug deep into that passion and watched many of the great movies and shows I had missed over the years: Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, and Shinichirō Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop to name a few.
Watching these works really sparked my interest in writing again. Seeing many of the themes and character arcs in these shows really would spark my interest in making a video or essay on the work. Embarassingly enough, I have been writing about them on probably the worst platform to do so: on a second Instagram account. In my defense, it started out in high school as a quick summary on the movie I just watched, but over the past years it has quickly evolved to cover more and more content, and nowadays, I frequently end up running out of space to fit my thoughts.
And as time went on, these long posts went from just movie reviews to literally everything I was remotely interested in. Though I was not writing all of them out anymore due to the character limit, I realized I still had a lot to say. This Spring, I was working at a company that involved a 30–40 minute commute (almost always worse with Atlanta traffic). Some days, I would just get tired of music on my ride home and begin racing through my mind about different things. Sometimes I would just be glad I was alone in the car, cause I would end up talking to myself for the entire car ride. And it finally clicked the other day. I thought, “why not kill all three birds with one stone?” Create a Medium blog to 1) have no character limit, 2) keep a place to store the thoughts and opinions I have, and 3) to become a better thinker about the world around me by writing and reading more often.
As a future engineer, I don’t know how long I will keep this up. But god damnit, I definitely want to try and continue to grow as much as I can, and hopefully that drive will keep me coming back to my keyboard.