1. How Did I Get Here? or When Dreams Become Nightmares

I sat quietly on a couch in a dimly lit room, the only light being a faint glow of whatever was on TV; I wasn’t paying attention.  My foot kept tapping impatiently as I stared blankly at the wall.  As the muffled sound of the TV droned on, my thoughts swirled yet always arrived back at the same conclusion: “I should drop out”.

I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a professional baseball player. But, as I didn’t even make my high school’s baseball team, I figured that scouts wouldn’t exactly be beating down my door for the opportunity to sign me. So, going into college, I didn’t really know what to do. My first major was athletic training; I figured that if I couldn’t be on the team, I could at least support the team. A very reasonable thought, but one that was quickly derailed by the fact that I find bodily fluids to be yucky, and that’s not typically a trait you’re looking for in an athletic trainer. As I was floundering, looking for a path forward, I was in a group project for a Government/Politics class. When we were introducing ourselves to one another, I discovered a major that I did not know my college even offered: Digital Filmmaking.

Filmmaking was like a breath of fresh air. You mean that instead of sitting in a dark room doing derivatives, I can write stories, film interesting scenes, and work together with other like-minded people? SIGN ME UP! And so I did, and I gotta tell you, I had an incredible time. I got to be a part of so many unique shoots, create one of a kind memories, and not only that, but I got to have something to show to my friends and family. Something to point to and say, “I did that”. That sense of accomplishment and pride for having created something is intoxicating. I was hooked: this was going to be my life.

After I graduated, I applied for many filmmaking jobs, both in my home state and around the country. Then, I sat back and waited for the offers to start rolling in. After all, I had a hefty resume of film experiences, long demo reels showing off my work, and many films that I worked on received awards. But then, nothing. No offers, no interview requests, heck, no rejections even. It was like my resumes got lost in the void, sent to the ether never to return. I didn’t understand: what were they looking for that I didn’t have? But I wouldn’t let that get in the way of my dreams, so I worked part time jobs while applying to graduate schools. After a long and arduous application and interview process, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to three of the top film programs in the country, and set off to do my MFA in Film and Media Production. But then…

Graduate school was, let’s say, subpar. I was there for just under two years, and this is not hyperbole when I say that they were the worst two years of my life.

It’s a funny thing when your dream turns into a nightmare. It really makes you stop and question, well, everything. Was this really not my dream after all? How was I so misguided in my belief? If this isn’t my dream, then what is? And what the heck am I going to do now? These were all the thoughts swirling through my head on that fateful day. The only conclusion that I kept reaching was: “I should drop out”. And so, I did.

Of course, then I was presented with a new problem: I am a guy with a degree and a half in a field that I do not want to work in. What am I supposed to do for a career? I tried to find jobs that would take me, but once again, my applications were seemingly being intercepted by a black hole where career aspirations go to die. I knew I had to make some sort of change. I sat down and really thought about how I wanted my life to be and what can I do to make that a reality. The answer that I came up with was clear: I had to go back to school and get a degree in Computer Science.

I had taken a CS class in high school and really enjoyed it. I am a guy who enjoys puzzles and logic problems, so I took to CS like a duck to water. I took one other class in undergrad, but did not enjoy it nearly as much, as it felt like the professor was playing a game to see how many students he could make fall asleep in an hour. But, CS was always in the back of my head as a possibility, and so when I was presented with the scenario of changing career paths, the choice was obvious.

It has definitely been an unusual path for me to get to this point. But despite all of these ‘missteps’ and ‘mistakes’ that I have made along the way, I don’t regret anything. Sure, it would have been a lot nicer and cost me a lot less money to just get a CS degree in the first place, but what’s the point in dwelling on past decisions? Experiencing these successes and failures, these surprises and letdowns helped me learn a lot about myself and who I want to be. And right now, who I want to be is the best programmer that I can be, someone who others can rely on. And I’d like to think that I’m well on the way to that goal.

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