- Academic Departments
- Et al. Journal
- Volume VI: In My Own Words 2016/2017
- A Secret Identity
A Secret Identity
It was the first day of my sophomore year of high school. As a cheerleader, it was
tradition to wear our uniforms on that day. So naturally, I looked considerably out of place as I
walked into room 143, the engineering room. I came face to face with a six-foot blonde, bearded
man who cringed his bushy eyebrows together and flashed me a puzzled look as he sat down to
take attendance. I quickly glanced around the room and realized that I was one of two girls in the
class. I had never been to a place so far out of my comfort zone. I could feel the assumptions
being made all around me: what is she doing in here? Is she in the right class?
My parents raised me to be whatever I want to be, they encouraged me to challenge
myself and try new things even if they didn't quite align with the status quo. Growing up, I
learned so many practical skills from them; everything from cooking and cleaning to mowing the
grass and finishing our basement.They taught me the feeling of pride after accomplishing
something on my own. I wanted to know everything, I had an unquenchable thirst for
knowledge. Not once did I consider stereotypical gender roles as an obstacle or a limit to my
accomplishments, not until that day however. The pressures of fitting in with everyone else in
this world had never felt so real.
It truly came as a surprise to me that there were so few girls in a class titled,
" intro to
engineering and design." Never had it crossed my mind that it was unusual for a girl to want to
be an engineer. It was like the progressive world we live in had been flipped upside down. I felt
the need to prove myself not only to the rather intimidating teacher who reeked of coffee, but
also to everyone else who only knew the peppy, blonde cheerleader that meets the eye. The class
wasn't easy, I'll admit. There was no such thing as an online answer key or teacher's edition
textbook, it consisted mostly of innovative learning. I quickly began to understand that
engineering is about finding an infinite number of solutions to a problem and choosing the best
one. The tall bearded man known as Mr. Deshetler, eventually realized the wrongs of his
assumptions, and even became somebody I could come to for guidance and advice.
Throughout my childhood I went from wanting to be an astronaut, to a surgeon to a
sports medicine Doctor, without a clue what I was really interested in. My father and I used to
come up with wild ideas such as slippers that would vacuum the floor as you walk around, or a
fan that would light up and spell words as it spun. But I never knew the term "Engineer" until my
cousin Joe's wedding shower. At the time, Joe was working on a power plant in California. He
gave fascinating details of the type of work he did which lit a fire in the eleven-year-old me.
Several years later in my biology class, a guest speaker from Nationwide Children's Hospital
Explained how the hospital was using STEM cells to grow replacement heart valves. After the
presentation, my classmates appeared as if they had just woken up from a nap, yawning and
stretching all around me. I on the other hand, went home and researched other discoveries similar
to the one I had learned about that day. I soon came across the term "Biomedical Engineering"
and became obsessed with the idea of engineering in medicine. I guess you could say that after
that day, I had a much more definite response for the signature, " what do you want to be when
you grow up?" question.
It wasn't long before I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was as if
one thousand doors had just been opened as I entered high school and somehow, I managed to
pick the right one. I lived in two separate worlds. In one, I cheered at the football games and
worked at a smoothie bar. In the other, I learned about simple machines and how to use Inventor,
a 3D design software. Despite the initial discomfort, I felt as if I belonged in the engineering
room. I felt like I had a purpose. I met so many people with similar interests to me that I wouldn't
have met otherwise. We often gathered in the engineering room during lunch to obsess over
anything from the latest drone-advancements to biomedical breakthroughs. These people
motivated me to thrive in school, and challenged me intellectually like I never had been before.
Being able to find yourself so early in life isn't something that happens very often. This is
because in order to find yourself, you must be willing to be uncomfortable, to struggle, and of
course face the inevitable failures. Because of my experience, I have more confidence in myself,
I no longer fear going against social norms or doing something that is considered masculine.
Rather, I am afraid of regretting opportunities that I never took advantage of. I constantly
challenge myself to be adventurous and try new things, because the destination they lead to often
comes as a welcoming surprise.