Unhappy, doubting myself, what should I do?

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    Hello all,

    I am 21 year old who is almost going to graduate college with a degree in civil and environmental engineering. Seems good right? Well lets just say Ive been unhappy with some of the decisions Ive made regarding major and job. Exactly one year ago I was doubting myself because I kept questioning myself if I had chosen the right major. I switched to math but then my professor introduced me to wastewater, and I thought it was awesome since it involved poop water and chemistry. She let me work in her lab and I had a great time working in there, I didn’t feel like it was a job. I liked it so much that I was considering doing a masters in environmental engineering while doing research. Well i saw a job opportunity and submitted an application to a water treatment/chemical company who does heating and cooling systems. I was like ” ill apply just cuz”. I did and they wanted an interview. Now I had a dilemma, I was already going to work on some research with my professor but now I had a job opportunity at hand. I really like research and working with chemicals but a potential full time job was tempting. I spoke to everyone and they all said I should take it, but I really wanted to do research. At the end I rejected the interview but 2 days later I told them my research was suspended when it really had not been suspended. I got a second chance and the job.

    I should have been happy right? Wrong. I was miserable after 3 weeks of working there and hated my life. I dropped out of my summer thermodynamics class because it reminded me of how much work sucked. Even though I was around chemicals, i was still unhappy. The bosses also noticed that, and called me to a meeting. I broke down, telling them that I was a hard worker and I put 100 percent in my work. Indirectly I told them I did not like to get up in the morning to go to work. So they gave me a choice to stay with them or part ways. I decided to stay with them because in the end, it was something to do. Throughout this whole summer, I have been doubting myself. I don’t know if env engineering was for me or why I chose it. Ive always loved chemistry but never pursued a career in it because a BS would not get you anywhere. Now i feel like I don’t even like chem or wastewater treatment. Things that had interested me a lot before. I was offered yet another interview with a environmental lab but I am hesitating to take it because Im afraid I won’t like it. Every decision I make now seems to have consequences, when in reality its a simple decision such as whether to cut my hair or not. Ive been down too because I haven’t had a girlfriend in awhile too and I see people with families and babies and see that they’re happy. 6 months ago I was cracking jokes but now Im not. I hate the fact I doubt myself. I feel like theres a knot inside me sometimes and feel anxious. I used to be a really positive person but now I seem really negative. I have a year left of school and don’t know what to do. (It used to be a semester but my dropped class ruined that). Ive been using this summer as a time to reflect but its almost over and there are many decision that can affect my life. I could have an interview with the lab next week if I chose to also… Any advice is appreciated!

    Buddhist Wife

    I think you need to try and relax a little. It appears to me that you are putting way too much pressure on yourself right now.

    This is the ideal time in your life for exactly the kind of experimentation that you are doing. You are trying new career avenues and that is fantastic.

    You tried one job and it didn’t work. That’s great! Now you know at least one thing that you don’t want to do. You can cross it off the list.

    I say go for the interview and do your best. If you don’t get the post, never mind, it’s all just experience. If you do get it, great, another chance to learn. Maybe you will like the job, maybe you won’t but you will never know until you try.

    I think people your age are given a lot of the wrong messages. So many in fact. When you are in academia the world of careers is presented as this imaginary field of parallel lines. You are told have to do Degree A to join Parallel Line A and this will grant you access to a career in Parallel Line A which you must and can never deviate from for ever and ever and ever (unless you come to us for further academic training which will cost £$£ sign on the dotted line please).

    I remember being told all of this stuff and it just isn’t true. The modern world of work is so different now. People switch fields all the time. I read once that it is now the norm for the average adult to change occupations at least once in their life time.

    So if I were you I wouldn’t see making a decision as closing doors to certain careers, but rather as changing your options a little. There isn’t a career ladder any more its a career jungle gym and you are just selecting one particular route up it.

    I really hope you can find some peace.


    Thank you for your response!

    I also forgot to mention that that was my second internship in the civil and environmental field and I quit the first one 8 months in, It was at a geotechnical engineering firm. Whats even more surprising is that Im not going to continue in this company and Ive only been there 3 months, whereas I was at a grocery store for 3 years pushing carts in the sun before quitting. That to me is alarming. Maybe its cuz Im burnt out and I have a decent amount of money saved up, I dunno. I also dont pay very many bills at home and feel like I should start so i know how it is in the real world when you are by yourself, paying your own bills without parents. Anyways, Im trying to relax and play my cello a little bit. I always wanted a stable job but now I have been given the concept that I should like what I am doing as work. Do what you love. And in the lab it was cool. I was greedy and in the end, its put me at a bitter state. Im feeling pretty negative about the interview so I dont think I will go for it. Even though it is a good opportunity, I think I need to see where I should go from here instead of look for a job. and this time, I know exactly how the job is. (The previous times, I kind of just jumped into the job without I think I just need time to think. Im good financially right now. And you are right, I do put a lot of pressure on myself because im just a competitive and committing person. I dont like to quit. Thank you for your kind words. I feel like Im just pouring stuff out, so this message isnt very structured. I hate this feeling of anxiety but I pray everything will be all right.

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