Another moment in the making

When I was a kid, friends at school would call me “Chu Chu”, a cute onomatopoeia for a wee train navigating its way through many of life’s courses. I was a relentless conductor of this train, reaching success in speech and debate, absorbing more and more AP courses, captaining the tennis team, intent on pushing myself to beat the system and come out the winner of the constant zero sum game of competitive high school achievements.

Being a woman in engineering was no different. I went into computer science knowing I would be one of the few women in class. I knew it made the mere existence of me unique and special. As my mother would tease me, I was “a flower in a sea of grass”, pleased I would have no problem finding a husband who had a 401K and a million-dollar home. In addition to that, my odds of obtaining a well-paying job was through the roof.

Except all throughout college, I was fighting not to be different. I wanted to be just like the guys. I wanted to obsess over the newest tech gadgets, play League of Legends, and throw around buzzwords like machine learning and AI. I was the same way when I started working in tech. I perfected resume writing, elevator pitches, and tactical business propositions. But quickly within the next year, I realized I wasn’t in full control of the trajectory of my train. It takes about a mile for a train to completely come to a stop. I pulled the brakes on, knowing I was burning out, slowing down my output and putting in a vacation. The problem was that when I returned, I didn’t want to put the train back in gear.

I battled through a lot of external concerns to quit my job as a woman in engineering. Because I was the only woman engineer on my team, I was often called for to have an opinion in meetings in the same way I was called upon to answer questions in class, even when I didn’t particularly think it was necessary. Engineers I never talked to already knew my name in the same way my professors already knew before I ever raised my hand in class. I had benefitted greatly from being a woman in the tech sphere. Leaving was really hard for this reason. I had it so good; everybody else and myself expected me to love this life of naturally given attention. I would be a nobody, derailed from my grand scheme of life, if I left.

Perhaps, that was the number one reason why I left. Perhaps I don’t want to have this false sense of being somebody in the grand corporate scheme or the girl in the great auditorium of male engineers. Perhaps I simply want to be the greatest version of me in this tiny body, as full of Karen as possible in a world where there is no greater individual of me. There is no train, no journey, just a series of moments that lead up to the next curious idea for Karen.

Think of life as a series of dots. If you look through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is actually a series of dots; in other words, life is a series of moments.

Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage To Be Disliked

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