The Path from Philosophy to Data Analysis
I started college at Vincennes University. The plan was to major in Business there and then transfer to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University to finish my B.S. in Business Administration. The plan didn't last long. I quickly realized that I was an outsider in all of the business courses I was taking. My classmates and I did not share the same interests. We didn't like the same music, fashion, or books, and we seemed to have completely different worldviews. I felt out of place as a business major and earning a "D" in Accounting didn't help.I decided to enroll in a Philosophy class as an elective and it changed everything. It wasn't so much the content, as I was already familiar with the classics such as, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates but it was the depth of the conversations that we had that changed my whole worldview on what college was about. I still wanted to make my way to Indiana University so I began researching interesting academic programs that IU offered.
I discovered a highly ranked program in Religious Studies and Philosophy. I was agnostic at the time but had a really strong interest in learning as much about religion and philosophy that I could. I had already researched Wicca, Satanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and others, so I knew I would enjoy it. Most people don't really understand what it means to be a Religious Studies major so allow me to explain. Religious Studies is the secular study of religion from the perspective of a variety of disciplines: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology , and philosophy. I ended up focusing on early Christianity with a certificate in Jewish studies and a minor in Biblical Hebrew. I had plans on applying to grad school to earn a PhD in early Christian Heresy. For those of you who don't know, heresy, in the context of early Christianity, is any religious belief that is contrary to the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. Sounds super exciting, right? But alas, something happened that dramatically changed my academic and career aspirations.
In 2004, my son was born at only 24 1/2 weeks and was taken to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, IN to spend the first 7 months of his life. For anyone who has ever spent time in the Newborn ICU (NICU) you know that it is the worst roller coaster ride on which you could ever be. One minute your child is doing well and the very next, alarms are going off, oxygen levels are dropping dramatically, and a team of NICU nurses are rushing to save his life... and the very next minute he is stable again. The sleepless nights, the surgeries, the drugs, etc. it is almost too much for anyone to handle. I had absolutely no control over the situation we were in, I couldn't do anything to make my son's complications any less, I couldn't do anything when he became addicted to morphine and was taken off of it too fast and he was laying there, in his glass box, screaming from withdrawal. I learned a lot about myself during that seven month stay at Riley. The one thing I learned, that is relevant to this post, is that I no longer wanted to have a career in a field that had no answers.
A lifetime of researching the beliefs and culture of ancient civilizations, no longer sounded appealing as a career. I needed something more concrete, a career where when I came across problems, I could solve them. As soon as I returned to work, I began to teach myself how to code to create an employee website for my office and how to create relational databases to allow me to work more efficiently and track inventory. These skills allowed me to have some control at at time when I was surrounded by chaos and uncertainty. They provided me with a sense of accomplishment, of pride, and solace. This newly found passion for structured, logical thinking put me on a path to a new graduate program and a new career.
Let me be clear, I have absolutely no regrets about my academic choice to earn a B.A. in Religious Studies and Philosophy. I attribute my ability to think critically, analytically, and holistically, as well as my ability to communicate well and work with people from different backgrounds and beliefs, to my undergraduate program. I still keep up on the latest academic research and discoveries that enhance our understanding of early Christianity and other religions.
One of the clichés I despise the most is that "everything happens for a reason". As humans, it is our responsibility to create meaning in our own lives and the lives of others. It is up to us to find the proverbial "silver lining"in a tragic situation. I, with the love and support of my wife, took what some would consider a "tragic" situation and used it to find new strengths and abilities within myself to walk a new path. Plus, look at my kid now! The "silver lining" doesn't get much brighter than that smile!!