Dichotomies are dubious, but so is alliteration

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“So, your degree is in Computer Engineering and…Creative Writing?” — every recruiter / university-admin / random-person-making-small-talk

I have two very different degrees. I acquired them simultaneously, not entirely intentionally, and I don’t always tell people this fact. More often, I fib by omission and simply choose one. Or the other. Getting to decide whether I’m stereotyped as an Artist or as an Engineer is kind of fun sometimes, but that’s not the reason I fib.

The truth just trips people up too much.

After all, people ask what you studied as a way of getting a conversation going. Thanks to the current ubiquity of a college education (in some countries), asking about your degree has become a modern version of “So how’s the weather over there?” Not too intrusive, but enough to show polite interest. Better, it moves the conversation onto a familiar foundation. Everyone knows how to talk about the weather. It’s sunny or rainy, hot or cold. You like it or you don’t. If one drew a flowchart of a Weather-Chat, the branches would be very limited. This is good; by the end of a properly executed Weather-Chat, both parties will have gained enough information to categorize the other as either an outdoor-person, an indoor-person, or a wannabe-Brit. …


Timothy Chia

Novelist. Programmer. Global foreigner. Currently studying Artificial Intelligence and revising a Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel. www.timothychia.com

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