We are born kicking and screaming into this complicated world, without a choice otherwise. But as soon as we learn how to speak, we are forced to make decisions for which we are held accountable. We start our line of dominoes with the smallest choices, such as choosing what toy we want to play with. The line extends and complicated structures emerge with every decision we make as time passes, with some pieces threatening to topple everything else. Although we may want some time to pause, to think at each and every step and the possible directions it may take us in life, it’s too late for us to stop the collapse. At this point, it is an avalanche, and we are just stymied in a pile of mistakes and regrets.
As a second year student, I have recently made a crucial life decision: choosing my major. Although I have had a major in mind since middle school, it was the toughest decision I’ve had to make thus far. Before I entered KAIST and took General Physics I (the very first physics course in KAIST), I had my mind set on mechanical engineering. After getting embarrassingly crushed in that course, however, I changed my mind to nuclear engineering, as its introductory seminar seemed interesting. Nevertheless, when I took the first few classes of the course, I realized that introductory seminars, as they should, had omitted all the uninteresting parts. In fact, as Korea is a strong advocate for safe power production methods, nuclear engineering seemed a risky choice in terms of future employment.
"I realized that every decision I make is simply a choice of which path to take; the destination is not fixed and therefore the path can never be wrong."
After taking countless seminars for a myriad of majors and, unsurprisingly, finding them uninteresting, I found myself in the Department of Electrical Engineering — the largest department in KAIST. Up until this point, I have always based my decisions on the popular aphorism “Do what you enjoy”. But this time, my decision was foundationless. I had no particular reason for choosing that major.
I was lost. I was lost not only for a lack of preference for a particular department, but also because I found too many subjects across different departments interesting. I wanted an eclectic amalgam of courses, but that was not an option for me. It came as a surprise that there were many students in the same confused boat that ended up in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Its size and reputation were justifications for our otherwise baseless choice to study electrical engineering.
I started the year doubting my choice, but having spent roughly two months in this major and taking classes from renowned professors, I started to discover new interests. First year classes were mostly based on pure theoretical knowledge with no application to modern scientific developments. The Schrödinger equation was a jumble of meaningless jargon before, but I found myself linking such theories to applications in my second-year classes. The initially foreign equation gradually found its way to semiconductors, which builds up to devices, surgical devices, and to the larger domain of bio-technology. Bio-technology was never within my radar of interest. Not only has my major helped me discover a new passion, but it has also surprisingly shed light on a potential career path.
It initially seemed like there was no way out, and every step I took would take me back to the start. But I realized that every decision I make is simply a choice of which path to take; the destination is not fixed and therefore the path can never be wrong. When it comes to larger life decisions, such as a new path to take or a new direction in a relationship, many people spend too much time worrying about facing a dead-end. But every decision calls in new people and circumstances that may help find an undiscovered track into the future.
The domino effect of decision-making may be stressful. But we must remember that there will always be a next piece that eventually will fall into place.