Use CMU lessons to pursue passions

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Coming to the end of college is bizarre. Even though I’m not leaving Pittsburgh or moving out of my house, the idea of having a future without schoolwork for the first time in my life is alien. Equally bizarre, however, is no longer writing for The Tartan as a student. The Tartan was the first club that I joined my first semester, and I’ve dutifully contributed 58 different articles to this newspaper since then, creating a library of work mostly about politics, asserting my right-leaning libertarian take on current events, but also flirting with religion, ethics, art, and music.

Reflecting on my work, it seemed fitting that my last article for The Tartan as a student would be some grand summary of all that I’ve learned in my years at Carnegie Mellon, leaving The Tartan with a Last Lecture-esque piece imparting three- and-a-half years of wisdom on the paper’s readership. Sitting down to write that article, however, proved more difficult than expected.

My experience at Carnegie Mellon has been, I feel, a relatively unique one. I’m one of the only business majors involved with either The Tartan or WRCT, and both of those clubs, especially the latter, have been the crux of my social life. I’m graduating early so that I can dedicate myself to a startup I co-founded with a group of other Carnegie Mellon students in April. I studied abroad in Dublin, and I’m self-described as being passionate about two things — music and capitalism. When I find other lovers of capitalism, they could usually care less about my passion for music. Most other lovers of music look at me like I have a second head when I tell them about my Smithian paramour.

In short, most of what I’ve learned at Carnegie Mellon would fall on deaf ears if I tried to articulate it, because my experiences have led me to a very specific way of seeing the world that’s likely not relatable to many others on campus, as would the experiences of many other graduating Carnegie Mellon students likely be foreign to me. The nature of the university (being really good at educating people in a few areas and creating a college for each area) makes the choose-your-adventure type experience of every Carnegie Mellon student incredibly different, leading each graduating class to be, in my view, far more diverse than that of many other universities.

Yet through this diversity of experience and study at Carnegie Mellon, I’m finding every day that the people who are happiest here are the ones who came into school with a vision for how they wanted to impact the world, and are honing the skills they acquire here to achieve that vision.

One of my friends, who’s a passionate DJ, is using his engineering background to design speakers that use constructive and destructive interference to create 3–D soundscapes. The research he worked on allowed him to hold a speaker right in front of my face but create sounds that seemed to be coming from 90 degrees to my right. Another friend has been working to turn her writing degree into a career in fashion by cold-calling as many potential employers in the industry as possible.

I’ve been fortunate enough to take an entrepreneurship major with a music technology minor and co-found a music technology startup, but if that opportunity hadn’t presented itself, I’d likely be working at Burger King’s Corporate HQ, where I spent my summer. As much as I loved that job, I didn’t wake up every morning feeling inspired, which is undoubtedly worth any salary cut.

At the end of my Carnegie Mellon career, I’ve gained appreciation for how well of a job the university does at shaping minds and teaching skills. While Carnegie Mellon could definitely improve in many ways, everyone who goes here will have gained an absurd level of mastery in their field, whatever it happens to be. However, while it’s easy to get funneled into typical career paths for your major, the people doing the coolest things here are usually the happiest and are usually taking the skills they’re learning here and pursuing the passions that they brought with them to Carnegie Mellon.

That can take many forms. While I would want to advise everyone to start a company because it’s been an amazing experience for me, startup life is definitely not for everyone. Passions are easily pursued by the usual major career paths for your major, or in existing industries that are outside of the usual destinations for your major. Whatever the destination is after Carnegie Mellon, the feeling of inspiration that comes with following your passion is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. In true cliché-last-article form, Carnegie Mellon has taught me that work is a gift, and no matter what work you do, your heart should be in it.