Oberlin Blogs

Who Moved My Compass?

July 17, 2011

Joe Dawson ’12

I've decided that this summer's theme is 'Career Path Orienteering.' I'm working two jobs, although one is an unpaid internship (more on being generally 'unpaid' later), and the other is an actual paying job. On my 'career path,' these jobs are helping me orient my compass to magnetic north. Eventually I hope engineering school will give me the displacement angle I need to orient my compass toward true north, and so more precisely orient my map before going out in the world of employment and visiting checkpoints on my way to the finish station. At this point, I'd like to take a step back and admire just how well that metaphor worked out. Yeah, that's a decent metaphor. Wasn't sure if it was going to work out at first. Got a little specific and morbid toward the end, but hot damn! Anyone who's been orienteering or metaphoring for any amount of time will have to agree, that was a beast.

What's that? You don't read contour maps? Guess what, LIFE is a contour map! So start paying real close attention to those index lines, bra.

Carrying on, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had a few options for work this summer, and I've decided to take on two of them, working mostly afternoons at UNC-Chapel Hill building a thermoelectrically cooled vaccine carrier that could be used in medically under-served areas to transport vaccines from one place to another when hospitals are few and far between, and working at Duke on assessing the risk of having manufactured nanoparticles in water systems. The work at UNC is hands-on, building, cutting, testing, and problem solving; the work at Duke is computer science, modeling, and spreadsheet work, thinking more along the lines of systems and organisms. I enjoy both, but I sort of wish the job at UNC was paying and the Duke one wasn't, since I like playing around with the cooler and have to make myself work on the spreadsheets for the Duke project.

On Wednesday the four UNC group members visited RTI, one of the world's leading nonprofit research organizations. We met with Mike who is an engineer and one of the earliest contributors to the project. He had quite a lot to say about the project, North Carolina sports teams, and energy policy in the United States and abroad. It turns out that the project has been in the works for almost ten years, but never got as far as a working model because it was never given any funding, so it was never given any attention.

After talking about the project, carnivorous plants, and the classic Nickelodeon show Guts, Mike walked us back to his lab. His office adjoined his lab and as I walked into this windowless room, I realized something: this is what I want my office to look like some day. Shelves with electronic and mechanical bits and bobs went to the ceiling, remote controlled airplanes rested on high perches, grant proposals and patent applications sat on the small table next to his desk, 3-D models of the cooler were on his computer screen. It was great. Admittedly, I'm a geek. But so was this guy. He seemed to be doing well for himself. Sigh, a kid can dream.

In addition to drooling over an engineer's office, I've been in touch with Obehave! quite a lot this summer, planning out things for the coming year. We've got some exciting decisions to make, including whether to hold auditions and get some new blood in here, or just keep the old blood hanging around in bags in the rehearsal room, same as always. Ethan graduated this past spring, and Lexie and Megan are both going abroad in the spring to study, so we will be down a few members. In addition, we've planned an orientation show to show our stuff and shake off a little bit of the rust we may have accumulated over the summer. I had planned on taking some improv classes this summer, but time and money restraints have made it hard to do. I do hate being broke. Conversations often end up like this:

Friend: Hey Joe, want to go get dinner?

Joe: Ummm, maybe. Where are you going?

Friend: Just to the taco truck down the road.

Joe: Ohhh, taco truck? Sounds kind of pricey...

Again, my job at Duke is a paid gig, technically speaking, but it took a while to get properly set up with the payroll department, so it's been all work and no pay so far. Liz and I have been cooking a lot, eating a decent amount of rice/bean combo dishes, and staring slack-jawed at how fast a grocery total can climb when we go shopping. It's actually been fun, since we are cooking a lot together and eating relatively healthy meals with very little eating out to speak of.

My summer job expedition is showing me a little more about myself. I am enjoying having a 9 to 5 job and simulating real adult life. I'm a little apprehensive about starting actually real adult life, but summer jobs seem like a way to ease into it. One of the foreign things about adulthood to me is the general slowing down that seems to happen as you get older. When you are young, there's never a span of 4 or 5 years that you stay in the same place doing the same thing. You move from 1st grade to 5th grade, elementary school to middle school, high school to college. I can see how staying in one place, working the same job, even if you liked the job a lot, could start to feel like stagnating after spending your whole life changing surroundings every few years. I suppose I could end by returning to a really top-notch metaphor I once used: An old man can reach all the same checkpoints and gather the same two-letter codes a young man can, it just takes the old orienteer a little longer to do it.

Similar Blog Entries