Welcome to my blog. I am Simon Hradil-Kasseckert. When I introduce myself, I usually say “I’m a mechanical engineering student” without hesitation. I’ve started thinking more about the validity of that statement recently, though, and have come to terms with it not accounting for all of who I am. So for the moment, I’ll say “I’m interested in human-powered adventure, self-discovery, and emotional wellbeing and am pursuing a mechanical engineering degree”. Like everyone else’s, my story is filled with successes that I am proud to be associate with, and difficulties and heartaches I don’t often talk about.
I am grateful to have been raised by two very loving and supportive parents who have a diverse range of skills and beliefs. Both of them prioritized my brother and me above everything else as they helped us build character and progress through school before we moved out of the house and into university dormitories. My parents’ skills and beliefs diverged so strongly that they decided to separate three years after I was born, which introduced incongruencies in the ways they supported us. Moving back and forth between them every week, the anxiety I was experiencing as a kid went, for the most part, unnoticed.
Socializing was difficult for me throughout school. I frequently used my fascination with how things work, how they were designed, and how they were made to escape the social interactions that made me feel nervous. The curiosity that my parents reinforced during this time has turned out to be one of my greatest assets, always encouraging me to learn about and understand new things. Several months before my high school graduation, I finally found a name for the emotion I’d been fighting to avoid for most of my life. Amidst agonizing over which engineering program to commit to, while my parents were fighting over child support in court, I started having panic attacks. What stays with me, four years after that difficult time is gratitude for the self-awareness it has afforded me.
My nerves settled over the summer and I started my mechanical engineering undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria in the fall that followed. I’ve enjoyed learning about new methods of analysis, design, and manufacturing in my classes and applying those skills during internships. For the most part, the evolution of my emotional intelligence has paralleled my progress in engineering, as I’ve sought out information about personal development and emotional wellbeing in books and therapy. I attribute the progress I’ve made building conventional and emotional intelligence to the strong ambition and determination I was born with and that was taught to me by my parents.
I’m sure there is a different perspective to see this from, but it’s been my experience over the last four years that intense study and emotional wellbeing contradict each other. When I’m in school, a constant, nearly unachievable, mandatory list of assignments allows me to stop asking myself “how do I want to spend my time, energy, and skills?” until, eventually, I forget to ask altogether. All of the sudden, my ability to make those decisions has completely evaporated and I need to recultivate it to feel whole again. Yet if I spend all my time and energy cultivating creativity and autonomy, I don’t have enough left to finish all my assignments. In the everlasting pursuit of balance and clarity, I decided to take a year away from the classroom in September 2020. And, in May, pandemic permitting, I will be embarking on a rather large four-month self-supported human-powered adventure (more to come in future blog posts) before returning to finish the last year of my degree.
I’m not sure if you’ve identified the same paradoxical theme between beliefs about achievement and wellbeing reading this that I have while writing it, but the idea provides a good segue into what you can expect from continuing to read my blog. My blog is a way for me to cultivate creativity writing about my adventures and is a way for me to express myself authentically in my search for equanimity where there is currently contradiction. I plan on building a routine around writing during my adventure this summer, documenting and sharing my experiences on a regular basis. And, I’d like to share my journey of self-discovery and emotional wellbeing. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into quenching the frustration that anxiety and professional identity have caused me, and there have been times when the pursuit of answers has not only been exhausting but has also felt selfish. I hope that by sharing the evergreen concepts that catalyze personal growth during my journey, I can give the person who finds themself in similar situations to my own something valuable beyond an entertaining adventure story.