Lately, I've been thinking of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a novel I've read many years ago. The main character, Santiago, goes on a journey to find his "personal legend", only to return where he started. I think what I have done is very similar.
Do what you love?
Since computers were a big part of my life and I was comfortable with them, I mostly wanted to become a computer engineer (actually scientist, but I did not know the difference then) even though I didn't know much about what computer engineers do. The society was supportive too, so I never questioned my motivations until I was 17. As I started to think about it, I just couldn't find any legitimate reason why I had to study engineering. I was doing well at school for someone without genuine motivations, but I was so bored of things that I learned and didn't use much in real life, especially mathematics. I was spending my free time with playing guitar and fiddling with Photoshop. I felt like I wouldn't be able to spare time for those and my skills would be wasted, so I decided to study something that I thought I would like and something that would teach me things that I was interested in. So, I chose to study Communication & Design at Bilkent University. I don't particularly try to be the defiant one, but I frequently find myself going in the opposite direction. That was one of those moments, I was a bit scared, but I had confidence that I was doing the right thing. Do what you love, right? That was a bold yet naive move.
I didn't have thorough plans and the program was quite "a little bit of everything". I was also considering being a professional musician and supporting myself with what I would learn from there, for example I could produce my own music videos. At least, courses were interesting and I was willing to learn. I was hungry for information and I wanted to spend my time in an efficient way, learning new things. I learned much more than the curriculum promised. Many introductory courses enabled me to learn more by myself and I did. But it was not enough. I wanted to test my drawing skills with an entrance exam and I was accepted to the graphic design program in the same university. I didn't change my major, but I started my minor in graphic design. It was still not as challenging, so I created my own challenges by taking additional courses that I found complementary. I started to take 7-8 courses per semester. Also, at some point, I was taking guitar, piano and drum lessons, all at the same time.
Eventually, I became much more successful than I could imagine (since I had no real self-expectations). I learned things that I never thought I could. I was really having fun, but I realized it was not the case when those were not school or personal projects anymore. Because:
- Art and design have a methodological ambiguity. It's fine when it's a hobby, but I'd like to work with more objective things. When you try to explain why making the logo bigger and changing the colors won't work, the customer never understands and insists you to make awful designs. Not to mention racing against time while dealing with that ambiguity. So, it's not enjoyable anymore. Something that has room for creativity, but doesn't necessarily rely on creativity itself seems like a better choice now.
- I didn't want to specialize because I felt like that would waste my other skills, but the industry forces you to specialize and I couldn't find anything particular that I would like to do for the rest of my life.
- Apart from other reasons, I don't feel like what I was doing had an impact. I lost my faith. Graphic design is more about polishing what's already there, rather than building something and solving real problems. For me, it's more important that a button works. I don't care as much if that button is here or there, red and rectangle. Form follows function. I know that the presentation is sometimes more important for people, I just do not care as much as I did before (maybe because all I knew back then was the design aspect).
- In my third year, I took a course in which I learned Processing. It blew my mind and broadened my perspective. I started to learn more by myself. The next year, I was sure about my doubts and I realized, professionally, I didn't want to do anything with art and design. It might be the right thing for someone else, but not for me. I learned more about software development (like Java, relational databases, web technologies, etc.) and applied to a graduate program in information systems. It was a long shot, but I got accepted to one of the best universities in Turkey.