I am sitting beside my teenage daughter while she agonizes over yet another essay for a scholarship. Her struggles have more to do with how difficult it is for her to express to the world what an amazing and unique person she is. She wants to be an engineer. To build things that make the world better and more beautiful. I think she is eminently qualified to do that, if I may say so as a totally partial and biased observer.
But really, she is.
Quirky, sideways thinkers are so needed in this complicated world. Women who are quirky, sideways thinkers especially. Oh, we need to have people who build regular roads and cars and refrigerators, but we need, we have ALWAYS needed, people who think it would be so COOL to invent wings that would really work. Not a 9-year-old thinking it'd be cool to grow wings, but an almost-adult thinking that she could figure out how to really design something elegant and wonderful and truly usable.
Notice I didn't say "useful". That would imply a judgement. Who knows in what direction her design could take her? Why does she need to limit herself to "useful"? Simply "usable" is a lot to achieve.
She dreams. Sometimes it seems like crazy things.
Everyone tells our kids to dream big. But somewhere along the line, they start telling them in a myriad of small ways to scale that back. To take the classes that would apply to their goals, to put into writing what you want to study and what kind of degree you want, or what kind of job will be waiting for you when you graduate. To have a backup plan.
I know, and she knows, that studying engineering in college, taking the classes like Physics and Chemistry and Calculus and English Composition, is not only necessary, but has its own attraction. It's a process, it's rather plebeian compared to dreaming about wings and energy and inventions, but it's not drudgery for her.
She really GETS that college will be about learning and gaining understanding and physical capabilities that she will spin into marvelous things.