My English class this quarter requires us to create a résumé and write a cover letter to a company we could potentially work for. The résumé was fine and almost fun to make, and thank goodness I was forced to write one! Now I have one lying around that I can just pull up and print out whenever I need to. I’m also quite proud of it: it’s formatted nicely and looks really good.
However, the cover letter was not as easy to come up with. After struggling for an hour with trying to write one to an interesting non-profit group that I learned about last quarter, I searched the internet a bit more. I had a terrible time deciding what company to pick, since I’m not really looking for an internship right now and didn’t really know who would be interested in me (and who I’d be interested in back). Finally, after seeing their job listings, I decided on one: Walt Disney Imagineering.
Sounds like it would be awesome, right? That’s what I used to think too. It was this very company that shaped my life and gave it the direction it’s going today.
A little background of me and them… I was raised on Disney. My dad works for Disney, so I’ve been watching their movies and TV shows for as long as I can remember. I know all the words to probably 90% of their songs. When I was little, my mom would take me to Disneyland when she didn’t know what else to do with me, just so I could look at people (which we could – and still can – do for free because of my dad’s job). Everything about me and my family has somehow or another been shaped and influenced by Disney.
When I was eleven or so, I went to this awesome pre-engineering summer school class where we built roller coasters for marbles out of popsicle sticks (among other things, including making a camera, which was also pretty cool). I remember very distinctly one of my teammates saying, “Wouldn’t designing roller coasters be the coolest job ever?” “Yeah,” I thought. “Yeah, it would be.” Since then it’s been floating around in my brain, and when I seriously started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, there seemed to only be one answer: I would be a roller coaster designer. My ultimate goal: working for Disney.
This dream helped me pick my major. It steered so much of my life and became a mantra I’d repeat to myself: I must do well so I can work for Disney someday. I’d tell people that that was what I wanted to do with my life, and people always seemed interested. I felt fascinating, I felt different, I felt special.
But after a while my goal lost some of its luster. I wasn’t doing as well in classes as I had in high school. Most of my major classes were boring, and even when I looked ahead, there wasn’t really anything that I wanted to do in mechanical engineering. Heat Transfer, Vibrations, Intermediate Thermodynamics – none of these sounded interesting. Instead, they sounded difficult, boring, and just something I would have to get through so I could get my ME degree and design roller coasters.
After a year and a half of struggling in mechanical engineering and getting grades just good enough to pass, I decided to change my major. The thought hadn’t occurred to me until my mom suggested it one night after I called her, sobbing because I got a 26% on a midterm in Dynamics and wasn’t understanding anything in the class. In thinking about changing majors, I realized that recently, I really didn’t like ME, that it was just a means to an end for me, and more importantly, that I wouldn’t be happy at Disney designing rides, since I didn’t really like what I was doing now and would have to implement it daily in a future job with them. In the span of a week I went from someone with specific goals that wouldn’t change to a girl headed in an entirely different direction who had no idea where her life was going.
At first this was a little unsettling (read: hugely terrifying), but after a few days I realized all the possibilities that I had in front of me. Without these structured plans, I could really do anything I wanted with my life. With my degree I can do anything from being a manufacturing line engineer or an ergonomist to a consulant or a manager at a company. What I really hope to do is find a way to change people’s lives for the better by using engineering concepts. People aren’t machines, that’s for sure, but I think engineers can somehow use technology and design to enhance people’s lives and make them happier. In changing majors, I realized that I don’t need one set goal; instead, I have to wander and find my own path, learning as I go along.
So back to my letter, back to Disney, after I massively digressed…
Reading the job description, seeing that there’s an internship open that I could potentially fill (though admittedly I’m not entirely qualified for it) makes me miss my dream. It makes me want to apply anyway, just to see if they would take me, if I’m good enough, so that my yearnings from long ago could somehow be fulfilled. Every once in a while I’d catch myself glancing back at the description, going through each of the qualifications that they’re looking for and saying to myself, “Yeah, I could do that… yeah, that sounds good…” even though the job doesn’t sound particularly interesting to me at all. It’s more the title I want; that little part of me still wants to be able to say, “I worked for WDI.”
But in writing the letter I know that it isn’t want I really want. No, it isn’t at all. I want something different now, something more applicable to me. I want to work with people, to find a way to really influence people’s lives for the better. In name having this internship would be amazing; as to who I am today, it could very well be torture.
I’m not writing off Disney completely though. They never did anything to me; instead, they benefited my life in so many ways. I still love their movies, their theme parks, their songs, and maybe, if the opportunity arises, I’d love a job with them too. But for now I know that I’d rather have it stumble into my life than to have it be the pinnacle of it.