Yesterday after defending a research program for renewal, one of the board members of our office asked, “What is your background?”.
I replied, “I took Chemistry as my undergraduate course, then International Health for my graduate course”.
He then replied, “Wow. I never knew you were a chemist. Do you want to go back to the lab?”.
I was so tempted to reply, “Why, do you want to pirate me?”
Hah. It’s not the first time I got this reaction in my current line of work. The project leaders of one of the studies I manage once asked me, “Do you know any chemist? I need one for the project.”
I joked, “Do you want to hire me?”
Shocked, he then replied, “You’re a chemist? We’ve been working for a while now, but I never knew!”
I am not surprised anymore by these reactions. Back in college, people seldom guessed correctly that I am a chemistry major. I often get mistaken as a Law student because of my “resting bitch face” or a varsity student because of my built. What surprised me though was the next question the project leader threw at me, “Why did you take up such a difficult course when you are just going to manage projects?”
I paused at his question, asking myself if I should be offended. But then I realized I should not be. He’s on other side of the research coin being the one implementing the study, and may not fully understand what it means to be on the side of the funding agency. Besides, I myself did not knew I would end up managing projects. I ended up telling this to him, “Sir, if I were not a chemist, how do you think I would be able to effectively manage your project, and assess other research projects as well?”
He then smiled.
Moments like these make me sometimes reflect whether I wasted my education. After all, I almost punched myself for studying molecular orbitals, quantum chemistry, etc. There were days I dreamed of working on the electromagnetic spectrum of the stars. Should have I gone to be a researcher or an analytical chemist perhaps?
But life will not always turn out the way we imagined it to be. I am now a project manger. On the other hand, some of my college friends are now medical doctors, patent agents, law students and even financial analysts. Truly, we can never put our future and life in a box. I also realized that I owe a lot of my skills to my chemistry background. My current works require me to be analytical, critical and organized. I think I would not be this way had it not been for my undergraduate training.
What did I realize from these small encounters? We cannot live in regret and be consumed by our past. Our lives can change course and 1+1 may not end to be 2. But whatever we have done served as a stepping stone to where we are now. I think what matters the most is how we deal with where we are today. Are we embracing it? Are we doing our best in the the roles we are playing? If not, why? And how do we move on?
Good day! 🙂