Statement of Purpose

I came across my grad school Statement of Purpose today. I wrote this over a decade ago, when I was applying for PhD programs. I was reminded of my dumb rationale for going into academia:

I want the freedom of research as well as the ability to share my work and knowledge with others.

Shut the f— up, 20-year-old Elaine. That’s such a boilerplate statement; I wouldn’t be surprised if I had scavenged it from some Statement of Purpose template on the web. I didn’t give two shits about sharing my work and knowledge with others; nobody does. I wanted the prestige and validation associated with having my name at the top of journal publications.

I then spout off about how much I love Caltech, computers, electrical engineering, and other nonsense. Apologies to the admissions staff who had to read this drivel. But the first sentence of my Statement of Purpose was indeed sincere:

When it comes right down to it, all I really want to do is build cool stuff.

The only difference between then and now is that my focus shifted from pleasing the world to pleasing myself. I no longer need to qualify my desire to build cool stuff with peer-reviewed papers. Cool things won’t happen if you try too hard to give the world what it wants.

For some reason, I have an odd desire to smoke a joint right now, so I’ll let Ricky Nelson close this one out.


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