One year and one day ago, I was just over a week out of Microsoft, and sitting in my first day of class in the Aviation Maintenance program at South Seattle Community College. I was thrilled to be there, but apprehensive about the program, my classmates, the quality of the coffee and, though I hate to admit it, the loss of status inherent in leaving a fairly high-level corporate job and becoming a student again. I went into it willingly, and with my eyes wide open, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous and ambivalent.
One year into this project to reboot my life, I am mostly happy with my choice. There have been some bumps in the road. In my third quarter my grade dropped a notch, which upset me more that maybe it should have. After hearing me deride myself for the drop, two friends told me, in separate conversations, to quit being my own Tiger Mother. The grade was fair, but I was kicking myself for not staying on top of things better. On the other hand, that was the quarter in which I finalized revisions on my novel, Raising John and got it ready to release in January, so there’s that.
As for my classmates, most have been great. Sometimes I feel as if I’m there to provide a service: “Go to School with your Mom.” It’s both funny and awkward to attend school with people who are young enough to be my offspring, but the good news is, most of them are friendly, helpful, motivated, and funny. There are a few bad apples, but they’re easy to avoid and will probably have a hard time getting good jobs in the industry anyway, since the instructors are pretty influential in that regard, and they don’t take kindly to jerks.
Another bump is that I have no way of knowing what’s going to happen after graduation. Last week I participated in the Aerospace Maintenance Competition, which was also a great opportunity to network with people in the industry. Based on my conversations, I think I’ll be able to find a job once I’ve completed my certifications, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to achieve my ultimate dream of becoming a crash investigator. (There, I just told the Internet what I really want – eeek!)
From what I’ve been able to learn, the first step is to get a good job in the industry, then do that job well for some number of years. I think I’m on track for that, and I know from my various field trips to Delta and Alaska, that working as a line mechanic would be a dream come true in and of itself – to be able to spend time with those planes every day, and to have the ongoing challenge of troubleshooting pilot “squawks” and getting the planes safely back into the air – it almost seems too good to be possible.
By next year at this time I’ll be within weeks of having my certificates. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!