- I have a loud voice.
- I listen to what people say, and formulate interesting follow-up questions.
- I am funny, which means even if the panelists are boring, the event will still be somewhat engaging.
- I am mean, which means I will interrupt people who talk on too long about one question.
- I do not embarass easily, which means I can talk in front of a room of very important people, and not really give a damn.
That said, there have been times where I wished I was asked to be on a panel, rather than just moderate for one. This happen to me most recently last summer during a middle-school-girls-in-computer-science event that my College of Engineering hosted. The panel consisted of a group of women in computer science who were gathered together to inform young women about the ins and outs of computer science.
Even if no one was interested in my own life stories, it was nice to be in the room. The panelists themselves were quite good, ranging from undergrads at my university, to recent undergrads, from graduate students to tenured professors. After the panel, the panelists were asked to mingle with the students. I met Isis, Alex, and Jocelyn. I especially identified with Alex, who said she came from a very poor family. When I asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said, "I want to be a doctor when I grow up so that I have enough money to follow my other dreams." I replied, "I did that exact thing. I was very poor growing up. I went into engineering so that I'd have a high-paying job, so that I could write a book..." Isis, Alex, and Jocelyn were all writers. Alex was writing screenplays, Isis was writing novels, and Jocelyn was writing poetry. I was instantly reminded of myself at that age, when I carried a little notebook around filled with my little stories.
Thing is, I'm still working towards that "job so that I have enough money" and I haven't written that book yet. Last night, I was flipping through the pages of my writing journal, seeing all of the little stories and ideas that I've recorded over the last eight years. Some of the notes are sketches of entire novels, some sketch chapters or short stories, and some are just two sentences describing a woman eating lunch. I think I have something in that big book of mine, and I think I owe it to myself to sit down and try.
I turn 30 in five days. Some people wrestle with 30, feeling that they are officially "an adult." I feel the opposite. I feel like I've earned 30. I've gone through all the self-doubting, body-hating, self-sacrificing crap. Since entering engineering, I've been mistaken for a business major, fired, mistaken for an account manager, laid-off, mistaken for a project manager, sexually harassed, and told I'm not creative enough as a Ph.D. candidate. And I'm still here. I've successfully made it through the bastions hidden within the dark and dank pipeline, yet having forgotten some of who I was before all this began.
But because I'm only 30, it is definitely not too late for me to do as Alex said; to "follow my other dreams." To that end, I definitely need to do a better job of carving time out for myself. I've been good at making sure to swim and go to yoga, to make healthy meals and spend time with friends, but I also need to make sure I sit down in front of the lappy and get started on something that's been a long time coming.