Then I joined the U.S. Air Force. They chose my career path for me and it turned out to be a life-altering choice: Radio Maintenance.
They sent me to learn microwave radio maintenance at Keesler AFB, MS. In 8 months, I went from no knowledge of electronics, to a very well qualified electronic maintenance technician.
I taught myself Morse Code in about 6 weeks of study. I taped myself sending code and replayed the tapes to memorize the sounds. Armed with that, plus the electronic knowledge I learned in USAF Tech school, I went up to Rio Rancho, NM from Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM and tested in a ham's kitchen. After a hair-raising exam where they were forced to find 1 minute of error-free copy, and I had to convince them that audio frequencies are, in fact, 20Hz to 20KHz, I walked out with my novice ticket: KB5CTH.
I didn't operate under KB5CTH while I was in New Mexico. I had a serious case of "Mic Fright". I even applied for a temporary license while stationed in South Korea, HL9CTN, and never made a contact with that license either. (Sorry, MSgt Hopkins, but thanks for helping me get it!) . I finally discovered the joy of operating when I got stationed at Falcon AFB near Colorado Springs, CO. I entered the Novice Roundup and made many contacts. In fact, enough to get an award. I was hooked! Several more Novice Roundups, and I upgraded to general, N0ORN.
When I left the Air Force and returned to New York, I wanted a 2-area callsign, so I applied for a change and received N2TPA. I kept that call even after I upgraded to General Class because I wanted a true 1x2 callsign and vanity licenses hadn't been implemented yet. When vanity finally became available, I applied for my top 6 picks and was awarded W2EB.
My Bachelor's Degree was designed around Amateur Radio. SUNY Empire State College, at that time, allowed students to design their degree programs based on the programs of other more traditional colleges. I based mine on a typical BSEET, but nearly all of the technical content involved radio: systems design, Antenna Systems Theory, RF Propagation, Communication Circuits. Unofficially, I tell people I have a Bachelor's Degree in Ham Radio!
For many years of my life, Amateur Radio was simply operating in a couple of annual contests and otherwise ignoring the equipment. I preferred to design and build hardware than operate it.
Then, while operating Straight Key Night 2020, I discovered the Straight Key Century Club, SKCC. I was curious about all of these SKCC people I heard on the air and discovered they were a very active group of people that love CW, morse code to the Ham community. I signed up and began participating in their activities, and that revived my interest in all of Amateur Radio. I operate at least monthly in their "Weekend Sprint" WES gathering.
Now I have more modern equipment, operate nearly every day, and operate portable at least annually for ARRL Field Day.