Hello readers, thank you for choosing to read the fourth issue of the spring term. Just under three weeks until classes are done. I can’t express how quickly this term has flown by. There’s only one more issue of The Iron Warrior left to publish. It just blows my mind. I’ve heard time seems to pass by more quickly as you grow older, but I didn’t realize things accelerated so quickly. It feels like just yesterday my father and I were driving down to Waterloo to drop me off at Village 1 and I was starting my university career. In less than two years, which will no doubt feel like a few days, I will (hopefully) be moving onto the “real world,” scary thought. I will finally become an engineer, but what does that mean? I will not change as a person, I won’t magically have more knowledge in my head once I put on an Iron Ring and receive my diploma. So, what will change?
In short, nothing. The instant I become an engineer, nothing will change. I will be the same person, with the same annoying habits, pet peeves and passions. What is confusing to me sometimes is that I am certainly not the same person that I was one year ago, three years ago, let alone five. I don’t feel myself changing day-to-day, how have I evolved into the person I am today? It’s through small decisions I make everyday, new habits I form, old habits I try to break. These small, seemingly insignificant incremental changes result in the big change I have observed over the years.
You must be thinking, “why is this guy rambling on about changing, but not changing. What does this have to do about anything?” Well, today I wanted to talk about a few things, one being what I think it means to be an engineer and the small changes I have been making each day to try to become the engineer that I think I should be.
We all know that engineering students, in general, have a bit of a superiority complex. Its not surprising giving the amount our ego is massaged during Orientation week and the stigma that persists on campus. The issue of people viewing themselves better than other students is something that needs to be fixed; how this happens I am not entirely sure. For one, we need to remind ourselves that engineering is not the only hard degree to acquire in university. The engineering superiority complex wouldn’t bother me as much as it does if we weren’t such whiny, entitled twits. Rarely can I go a week without hearing an engineering student complain about a professor, test or any other situation around campus. I realize that we need to be critical about our environment, but the way we address the issues is pathetic. We are going to be engineers, do something about it rather than complaining to your friends! Whenever I hear the phrase “I can’t do X, I am an engineering student, not an X student,” I get so angry. We shouldn’t cower away from challenges, using the fact that we are engineering students as an excuse. We need to say “I can do ANYTHING, I am an engineering student.” If we are going to continue to think we are so awesome, our actions and mindset should reflect that. Don’t use being an engineering student to absolve yourself from tough situation, use it to embrace demanding situations.
To be honest, I used to be one of those stereotypical engineering students, always critical of other degrees, feeling better than other people merely because I went to Waterloo for engineering. I was an ass-hat. Then, I started to realize that mindset was becoming detrimental to who I wanted to become. It was affecting my current relationships and was extremely detrimental to any potential relationship in the future. I started to be very aware of what I was saying and tried to stop myself before saying anything that was superficially critical of others or just plain mean. It became apparent quickly that I wasn’t talking much any more. A lot of my default conversations were those based around making fun of others and pointing out their faults to make a cheap joke. That’s not the person that I want to be and over the past few years I have tried to change my habits. Things did not start out very well, like I said I was very quiet for a long time, I had to relearn how to interact with other without being an ass.
Along with active changes to how I spoke with others, I started thinking about empathy. Empathy is something I think everyone struggles with, but I find it incredibly difficult to even comprehend. There are over seven billion people on this earth, each living out their life in a different way, experiencing the world through their own lens, manipulated by their previous experiences. For me, this realization was both one of comfort and terror. It is likely that many people experience the same insecurities and self-doubt that I experience every day but that same realization paralyzes me. Thinking about the amount of people each day that aren’t confident about who they are makes me sad. It makes me feel even worse when I think that I may have instigated those thoughts in others. After this realization, I initiated the second personality change. I want to be someone who doesn’t make other people feel bad about themselves, I don’t want to spread hate or judgement, I just want people to feel good about themselves.
On a regular basis, my past-self and present-self fight. My past self want to go back to what feels comfortable, falling into old habits present-me despises. I still struggle with the fact that I can be cruel to other people, being the source of judgement and shame. I have to work everyday to veer off my old path and start steering myself towards who I want to be. It’s not easy, and some days I fail, but I hope that one day it won’t be such a struggle.
I have been sitting at my computer for a good 45 minutes trying to dump the last few paragraphs onto the screen. I have written and erased at least 10 paragraphs already in attempts to wrap up this editorial. What I really want to say is be proud of who you are. If you aren’t proud of who you are, do something about it. Today can be your first step toward that person you want to be. It might not be a very big step, but at least its a step in the right direction. It sounds cliché but I want everyone reading this to feel good about themselves, to be free of shame and not worry about what other people think of them. Shame is one of the most ridiculous human emotions. The fact that someone can feel bad about themselves for liking a certain TV show or wearing a brand of clothing is crazy! As long as what you are doing isn’t hurting anyone or anything, people should be able to go on with their day without feeling embarrassed.
It took me a long time to be proud of who I am. I was always told it was ‘uncool’ to be a nerd, a guy who liked video games, played board games and didn’t want to go partying every night. Then I started to watch StarCraft II games online and saw people truly passionate about something others would find childish and silly. It made me realize that I was focusing too much on what other people thought of me, that I wasn’t paying attention to how I valued myself. It turns out, once you stop worrying about what everyone else thinks about you and just do things that make you happy, you start to feel a lot better about yourself and it encourages you to do more things that make you happy. Forget about that stupid feeling of shame, chase that happiness and of course, don’t forget to be awesome (DFTBA).