Friday, April 29, 2011

Changing People's Lives

In recent memory, I've had a big impact on major decisions for two people that I barely know.  In both cases, I thought I was pushing them away from a bad decision that I had made, but maybe I was just over-dramatizing the worst attributes of where I was at the time.  Like I've said before, no matter how much I complain, my life hasn't been too bad.  For some reason, that doesn't make me complain any less.  Anyway...

The first incident happened at UCLA.  An undergrad had been working with my group, and they were trying really hard to get him to stay there for grad school.  I didn't meet him until he landed an internship at U-Wisconsin-Madison and I was supposed to train him on neutronics before he left for the summer (pretty much so he could spy for us).  Anyway, the following fall he was accepted to both UCLA and Wisconsin for grad school (maybe some others, I dunno).  I wrote him a long email convincing him to get as far away from my lab as possible.  I don't know if we saw each other at all that entire school year.  However, at some point throughout the year I returned to my office with a small envelope on my desk with my name on it.  It was from this student.  He had decided to go to U-W and thanked me for being so honest about the situation at UCLA.  The whole time I was at UCLA, I regretted not accepting the offer I got from U-W.  I practically used this kid to fulfill my regret.  I truly believe it was for the better, though.  I still have his Thank You note.

The second time it happened was a week or two ago.  A bright, young, Boise State graduate interviewed at the place I work.  He got dropped off in my office for me to explain everything that I do.  As it turns out, I'm pretty much the only person doing real work on the engineering side of things at this place.  I'm sure I was just supposed to explain the documents I've drafted and the projects I've done, to show the breadth of engineering work available here.  I did that, but I spent way more time filling him in on the lousy California housing market, how the President of the company may be bipolar, how there's no room for advancement (nepotism made two 23-yr-olds Vice Presidents of the company), how I don't find the bathrooms on site acceptable, and that he'll likely be low-balled in his salary offer.  This guy seemed nice, had a wife and a kid, and was moving from ID to CA.  Maybe it's because I'm here temporarily and have no reason to make the job sound better than it is.  Maybe it's because I realize that I wouldn't be happy if I worked here for years.   He just emailed me to let me know that he found a better job in Salt Lake City, so I feel like this instance was truly for the better, too.

What I can't decide is if I helped these people out of compassion, or if I'm just a negative person that has trouble seeing the good in all situations.  I'm sure I was far from the only influence in their decisions.  Maybe they had their mind made up before I intervened.  Who knows...

Honesty certainly has its benefits, but am I just pessimistic?  Realistically,

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