The meandering path forward


So I might be in a melodramatic mood with the title and summary of this post.

But really, things are fine, maybe even good.

Since my last update (was that really 8 months ago? damn, time flies), I've started both a new job and a new project along the lines of the software stack idea from my last post. In some ways, I have a much clearer direction now. The new job is my first as a bona fide software engineer, something that fits well with my move away from the "user" side of engineering software and towards the "developer" one. My new project, which I'm thinking of naming Cadmium once I'm ready to publish it, is progressing well, considering I've never built anything like it before.

But in other ways I can't help but feel a bit lost. So often I feel like the expectation is for our lives to proceed in a straight line. The career pipeline is a common one (for those of us fortunate enough to dream such dreams), but I feel a similar pressure for the topics I've written about here. Will people take me seriously for bouncing around from Fortran, to unums, to Julia controls, to now this new CAD project? Why can't I just pick one and stick with it? Am I on the right path with software engineering? On a 20,000 foot view, am I blazing my own path, or simply going off the rails?

The photo I picked for this post really sums up my feelings the more I look at it. Paths diverge in front of me, and my ability to see where they lead is limited. None are linear because life is a complicated and gnarled thing. Perhaps the best I can do is take the path that's right for me at the time, enjoy the richness of the journey, not get discouraged by its difficulties, and maybe most importantly, treasure the people I meet along the way.

Before I start sounding too cliché, this isn't my way of saying "do what you love". One of the hardest, and most frequent, questions I've ever had to answer is such a simple one: "what do you want?" I've done my best to listen to the answer of that question, and it's taken me to some unexpected, sometimes painful, places. And it's an answer that has changed over time in equally unexpected ways. I've been extremely fortunate in my life to be able to follow those answers wherever they led, and they've become an inexorable part of who I am today.

At the time I'm writing this, I realize that very few people may read it. And that's fine. The internet has no shortage of people waxing philosophical about life. Still, I hope if you have, you've at least found it thought provoking. And as to my original question: am I making progress or just going off the rails? I don't know. Maybe it's impossible for me to know. And maybe, just maybe, that's ok.

Be safe, wrestle with the hard questions, and, when the opportunity presents itself, be happy. I'll catch you all later.