One woman's path through doula training, childrearing, and a computer science Ph. D. program

Friday, March 26, 2010

Identity crisis

Two paths diverged in a long, white hallway, and sorry I could not travel both. One led to an open door in the architecture lab, and the other to an open door in the assistive technology lab.

Architecture is the love of my life. She and I have spent years, beautiful years, together. Broadly, I know her every gesture. Openly, she calls to me, arms outstretched, and whispers: you can perfect me. And I know I can. I know I can squeeze 5% more efficiency out of her. I know I can come to know her not only well, but also intimately. I know that we make a time-tested couple. A gorgeous couple.

For the past year, I have been biding my time in the assistive technology lab, waiting for a spot to open up for me in the architecture lab. I was promised that if I hang out for a year, the following year there would be a Ph. D. spot, and funding.

But in the past year, something unexpected happened. I have done significant work towards a Masters degree, and mobilized dozens of people across different sciences --- because I am doing real work. Because I can make a difference, and it is not just about efficiency. It is about people's lives. And what I am doing barely feels like work at all: it just feels right.

Now, that time has come. It is time to make a choice. To both labs, the door is open, and here I am, standing at the crossroads of two engineering fields. This is the identity crisis.

On the one hand, there is the architecture lab. This is the field that I have identified with; that has defined me. I am an architect; I have wanted to be an architect. I teach architecture. On the other hand, there is the assistive technology lab, where I have been working (and which funds me). Can I come to identify with human-computer interaction? Can I become an HCI expert?

Do I give up on my dream, on my true love, to pursue this project that has become more than the sum of its parts?

The answer is obvious.
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