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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Educational · #2248888
Prompt: How did you choose your career? Did you consider any others?
Music or Engineering?

Music or Engineering Clip Art

Prompt: How did you choose your career? Did you consider any others?

         Every man lives in his own time, shaped by the world before him, shaping the world to follow. Decisions and choices along the way all predicated upon the first — career choice.

         Some don't decide at all, merely falling into the first available opportunity. Others agonize, trying to make the perfect choice that will serve them for a lifetime. However it happens, the timing could not be worse — the time of supreme overconfidence, total lack of experience, and raging hormones; add to that family pressure to ‘be like your father’ or ‘don’t be like your father.’

         It started in eighth grade with a mandatory five-minute 'high school selection session' with a 4' 8" tall, ugly as sin math teacher whose additional duty was to counsel students on high school choices.

         “What high school do you want to attend?” she asked.

         I didn't know I had a choice or what schools were available, but I knew that all the Jewish kids went to 'West Philly,' and everyone else went to 'John Bartram,' or so I believed.

         “Bartram,” I replied.

         “What do you want to do after high school?” she continued.

         “Not sure, maybe college,” I said, without a clue about what college, what I would study, or how I would pay for it.

         What followed turned out to be the most crucial moment of my young life. That ugly little old lady took out a 3 x 5 card, wrote on it for a moment, then handed it to me.

         "Make sure you take these courses and don't let anyone stop you," she said in a firm voice and a steel hard gaze that cut through me like a knife.

         Miss Atmore. Bless her soul.

         I kept that 3 x 5 card with me throughout high school. My curriculum was, known as 'Industrial Arts.' It was the complete academic program plus shops and mechanical drawing (drafting). To that, I added 'Band.'

         Band came about because I had convinced my parents, while I was in seventh grade, to let me learn to play drums. Yes, drums are a real instrument. There is a body of knowledge to master and a physical skill set to develop. My first teacher was the drummer with Billy Eckstine (July 8, 1914 – March 8, 1993), an American jazz and pop singer and a bandleader during the swing era. My second teacher was the Percussionist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. In high school, I played in the marching band, the concert band, the orchestra, and the jazz band.

         All of this to set up the answer to the prompt question of choosing a career. At my time and place, the world was conditioned by compulsory military service, otherwise known as 'the draft.' The draft was 100%, and it was immediate. Marriage, college, or the Army — now! My choice was college — but what?

         For me, college was a dream without a plan. I didn't shop and compare colleges. I didn't take the SAT or ACT. I had no money set aside for college. Actually, I didn’t have a choice, but I did not yet know that.

         I was torn between engineering and music. My skill set leaned heavily toward mechanical/technical, while my heart screamed music. I got a lot of advice, mostly from people who didn't know what they were talking about.

         “Drexel is the best engineering school in the country,” from my barber.

         “All musicians take drugs,” from my mother.

         As I recall, my final take was that as a musician, you had to be famous or starve. I didn't think I was good enough for the former, and I was not fond of the latter. Engineering it was.

         Drexel University, which was then Drexel Institute of Technology, offered an engineering program built around a five-year co-op plan where the student attended class six months and worked in industry for six months. There was no summer vacation.

         Those were simpler times. You filled out an application form, attached your high school transcript and a letter of recommendation from your high school principal, and showed up with the money. There was no essay or SAT or ACT.

         Ah yes, the money. That’s a story that almost destroyed our family and not to be told here. In short, my grandfather covered the cost of the first year, though I was never supposed to know about that. I paid the remaining with my earnings from my co-op job assignments.

         So that is my story of career choice. I walked in the front door of Drexel in September 1955, the month of my eighteenth birthday, to study engineering, without a clue that before my graduation, the Space Age would begin.


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