I love to tinker and write technical reports like the best of my ilk. But I also have a secret life. I write novels.
When I was an engineering student, back before Microsoft existed (that’s right, before you were probably born), I used to think my novel writing was strange. Yeah I put in my time in the lab, wrangling greasy diesel engines back to life but I had interests in poetry and English literature and even fine art. Unlike my classmates my engineering vocabulary of friction coefficients and enthalpy was augmented with words like pentameter, intaglio, and gouache.
Over time, I realized that being multifaceted in this way was super cool. I found out it was good for my mental health and it made me a better engineering student.
I can hear your excuses from here. Hobbies are expensive. Hobbies are hard. Hobbies are boring. Hobbies take time. My response: Cue the violins. The worst of all excuses for not pursuing a hobby: I’m not talented that way. That’s a cop out and reveals the crippling fixation that the do-it-quick developed world has with perfection. Hobbies aren’t made for perfecting; they are made for developing … slowly … over time.
I’ve noticed that my secret life feeds my introversion. Yes, I’m an introvert. No surprise there. But hobbies are not only for introverts. Extroverts benefit from having a fulfilling secret life as well. Mechanical engineer, PBS show host, inventor, and human beat box Nate Ball is one example of that. Introversion is not just for introverts.
The picture above shows UNC Charlotte civil engineering student, Timothy Dinsmore, with his guitar. Timothy’s secret life, playing the classical guitar, led him to a double major in music performance. Read more about him and hear him play. His secret life gives him structure and harmony.
Okay, I know hobbies take time away from working and studying but that’s the point. The brain needs, yes even craves, time away from our beloved analytical left-brained activity. As we drive ourselves to technological achievement, we’ve taught ourselves to quiet that still small voice that cries out for satisfying, creative diversion.
For a little fun reading about the secret lives of other engineers, visit PBS Nova.