As I was deciding what to write for today’s blog post I scrolled through some old freewrites and came across this gem. I wrote it during those strange four months following the termination of a three year relationship and before graduating with plans to move halfway across the country for a fancy job in a steel mill. My life leading up to this point had always been orderly and structured and, if not easy, at least manageable with a killer game plan and tremendous support team. Suddenly, for the first time, there was no game plan beyond the next four months and I’d just utterly upended the status quo that had seen me through the better part of a difficult engineering degree.
Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made. I had no idea what was in store for me when I set up shop in Valparaiso, IN. Since then, I have happily embraced my inner Elle Woods although I still need the occasional reminder to let her shine. We’ve all wondered if we’re on the right path, if what we’re doing is what we’re meant to be doing, if where we are is where we’re supposed to be. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away completely. To be human is to walk through life with your head held high, knowing full well that you’ll never have all the answers. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself is to cease all of that meticulous planning, take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.
Looking back at my terrified, sleep deprived, boyfriendless, 21 year old self, I’d tell her to hang in there because things are about to get so much better.
Often I feel like the Elle Woods of engineering school, the dumb blond that tags along after all the smart people because I didn’t have anything better to do. I didn’t always want this. I decided one day that it was a good idea and I’ve been working at it ever since. To be fair, my Warner wasn’t a complete jerk but that doesn’t excuse all the things he did (and didn’t do). Still, I occasionally wonder at exactly how my engineering career began. I did it because I wanted to make my parents proud and there’s a chance that I stuck with it because I wanted some guy to think I was smart, good enough. I worked so hard to be and he never really rewarded my efforts. Not that I regret it. I’ve found success, with and without him.
Now, I’m single with no desire to get him back. I’m about to graduate from a prestigious engineering school with a great job lined up that I can’t wait to start. Everything is amazing but I still can’t help feeling like I don’t quite belong. I still feel like the dumb blond along for the ride. That’s not to say that I think I’m an idiot. I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without at least some smarts. But I look around and I see a bunch of other people doing it so much better, people who are so much more well versed in this world. My mom says I need to grow some confidence and she’s right of course. But it’s difficult when I keep fumbling my elevator pitch.
That was one problem that Elle never had. She was a people person, even if they didn’t like her. She always said hello and goodbye and dolled out compliments to the competition. She had an amazing capacity to forgive people, even Vivian, and managed to win nearly everyone over. She was good at making friends. I met my best friend because she introduced herself on the playground in third grade even though she was the new kid at the time. I only had to say hi and follow her to the swing set. Now, I read books on how to talk to new acquaintances. Approaching people I don’t know well and fostering friendship does not come naturally. In fact, it is appallingly unnatural. I like people and I like getting to know them but I can’t stand failing at it.
I need to be more like the Legally Blonde star. I need to unleash my inner Elle. I know that deep down, it’s in there. I’ve just never been brave enough to let it out. She can be incredibly thoughtless and naive and yet she manages to make friends wherever she goes and does it with a splash. I need a little more of that.