To Be…


To be or not to be, that is the question. That was the question indeed, not by Hamlet though, but a high school girl who was on the verge of probably one of her life’s early crisis and that was finding out what course to take in college. That girl was obviously me. X years ago, I graduated with a degree of Chemical Engineering in a university that claimed to be the first school of industrial chemistry here in the country.

But the irony was that in high school I never really liked Chemistry. And I never knew I’d ended up being a Chemical engineer. When I was in high school, I was part of the drama club and the school paper. So, no wonder, my career assessment scores revealed that my top courses were mass communication, theater arts and for some reason, accountancy. I guess because I was pretty good thriving in tight budgets then. Engineering came in 4th place.

But it was also during that time that I had a cousin who was a Chemical Engineer and was then working in Nestle Magnolia. She had such great stories about her job. She would tell me how ice creams were really made, how one small plant makes astonishing buckets of ice creams in a day and how she was able to taste different and new flavors before it has gone up the market. For a high school girl, her stories were so out of this world, it’s fascinating. I don’t really get it much, but it was something new to my senses and to my imagination. So that’s my trigger point! That’s when I decided to take up that same course. It sounded really cool – BS in ChE.

Well, my curiosity got the better of me; I almost want to throw up my fascination and regretted it. It was excruciatingly hard! It was in my 3rd year were major subjects come creeping in that I came to attest how out of this world it was. Seriously, how can someone even really comprehend the different laws of thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy and mass, and someone else’s name’s laws – that of Dalton’s, Faraday’s, Gay-Lussac’s and Graham’s. Not to mention the different unit operations –filtration, gas absorption, gas adsorption, distillation, liquefaction, flotation. I don’t even remember if we had properly understood these unit operations when we had our plant design. It was a five-year whirlwind of information overload, it was crazy!

And mind you, it’s getting crazier by the minute when it got to the real deal. I thought I survived the ordeal when I graduated. But no, because I’ve just opened Pandora’s box and created an even greater mess. Second law of thermodynamics states that entropy or the magnitude of chaos, in simpler terms, always increases over time. So guess what, when I started working, and when someone would asked me about my work, I’d answer, it’s like a Facebook status, it’s complicated.

If I am talking to my 16-year old self right now, she will point out what a huge difference I’ve become from what I thought I would and she might probably get confused seeing me now. My current self would tell her, “Don’t be confused because what’s so nice about having an engineering degree is everybody thinks you’re smart.” Hah! But when I would think about it, the choice I’ve made then is the choice that I am living now and when I’ve thought I’d regret it, I didn’t. Engineering has turned my life 360 degrees.  And at some point in time somewhere, I know that what I’m doing is a contribution into turning someone else’s life 360 degrees as well. And that in itself is probably a testament of what I really want. Like in plays or any form of media where I used to aspire, I want to be a part of a grander scheme. I want to be a contributor to something wonderful and awe inspiring that affects someone else’s lives. I want to continue to learn, evolve and eventually, hopefully inspire others, to be engineers as well. So when they ask, “to be or not to be”, they will have an answer.