Where Did the Magic Go?

No, no, I'm not talking about me and Juliette. We're doing just great. No, the question in the title has to do with my career.

The HR manager at my office brought her son in with her on Friday. That's not a particularly unusual situation--lots of my coworkers bring in their kids for a few hours at a time when other childcare is scarce. What made this time different was that the day before, this mom had stopped by my friend T's desk and asked if he wouldn't mind showing her son around the lab or something. Her son, she explained, is fascinated with science and technology, and wants to be an engineer when he grows up. T, being the nice guy that he is, said it would be no problem.

Friday morning rolled around as it always does, and when T showed up to the office he brought with him an assortment of odds and ends that he'd brought from home. It turned out that rather than just show the kid what we do, T stayed up late rigging up some simple but cool electricity demonstrations. When the boy got there, T showed him how to make an electromagnet out of a battery and a coil of wire, then proceeded to make a simple DC motor out of a battery, a small screw, a short length of wire, and a small permanent magnet. And if that weren't enough, T's pièce de résistance was a working speaker, made out of a Dixie cup, a length of thread, a magnet, and a coil of wire--he demonstrated how it worked by plugging it into the headphone jack of his computer.

Watching the two of them, I couldn't tell who was enjoying it more, T or the kid. As you might expect, the kid watched raptly and was quite impressed, but what I really noticed was the sheer joy in T's voice as he explained it all.

I used to get excited like that about things like electricity. When I was in the 8th grade, my friend Lee and I built a working telegraph out of some spare parts from our science class, for no other reason than that we thought it would be cool. And it was. Later on, in high school, Lee and I taught ourselves how to solder, and tinkered with basic circuits just for fun. The summer before our senior year we taught ourselves how to program, and stayed up late into the night just talking about code.

Where did all that passion go? I mean, I still have a lot of passion, but none of it seems to be left for my chosen field: engineering. I'm grateful to have a steady job and I like the people I work with. I try to do well in my work, and I'd even say I succeed. But somehow it's just not exciting or even particularly interesting anymore.

When I stop and think about it, though, perhaps it's just that the shine has worn off the job and not the field as a whole. Maybe I've just channeled those same impulses in a different direction. After all, tinkering with photos isn't really so different from tinkering with circuits, when you get right down to it.

I'll say this, too: watching T show off his little homemade creations to that boy really makes me look forward to when I can share that kind of thing with Jason. I just hope that by the time he's old enough to understand it, he's still interested enough in me to listen.