Ever wonder why you done something? What was it all for? You've managed to reach that milestone, that ultimate challenge and your standing with the reward and a mind filled with memories. You fought your battle and achieved everything that was once a distant dream. How does that feel?
I studied for 19 years of my life. I finished my GCSE exams at the age of sixteen and choose willingly to continue with education, I done what I felt I had to, I just needed two more years of school and then college was mine for the taking. I struggled with the work, I had every opportunity to bail, there was nothing that said I had to continue, no one who said if I didn't finish higher education that there wasn't another way of getting to university. I battled through the next two years and found out once I was finished school that I had to take a foundation degree in art in order to pursue my design degree...
What now? I had to take one year at tech and then I would be off to college to study design, the only subject I ever really felt I had a chance at, it was my passion it was everything I loved. Although I couldn't help but feel incredible sorry for myself having not got accepted into university the first time, I had convinced myself for two years that if I suffered I would get what I wanted. After spending a summer both happy that I had finished school but confused of what I should do. I applied to my local tech/community college for a year of foundation art and design. This course brought me down a path that I had never considered before, it opened my eyes up to a whole new world, I struggled again with work and the idea that all my friends who were in the same position the previous year were now living the student, that no parents lifestyle.
In May 2012 I received an offer like no other; I was accepted to Ulster University to study design! I was one year behind my age group but I felt that this was my time, I was ready for this. I started classes in September and lived away from home in halls, allowing me to make friends and really live the student life, the first semester was fun I was thankfully living with a friend who had been by my side the previous three years and now studying the same course. I noticed from day one that classes were few, I had three classes over the course of two days in a week and the rest of the time nothing, I possibly could have done some of the assignments that I was given but I think we know the answer there. I decided to stay in my student apartment the nights before my class and at home the rest of the week, I worked full time hours in my job at home and found myself spending more time at home; which might I add was not a problem, I love my family but it was such a waste to spend money on something I wasn't getting full use of.
By the end of the year I had really slipped up, I was passing my classes barely and the love I once had for my work was gone. I remember being in school and thinking, what would it be like if all I done was design? I could spend all day working on a project that I loved. I was now in that position and I wasn't happy. I decided for second year of college I would travel to college from home; sharing lifts and saving my money. Within a short space of time I realised that I wasn't happy. I was only going to class because I had to, I was on the verge of dropping out. All my hard work and all the SUFFERING in the beginning, for what?
I stumbled across a programme to study in america and jumped at the idea to do something different and really get away and be independent; I now had a target to reach for, I was working more hours in my job to save and had a goal getting me through another year of college which was close to being a drop out year.
I went to america, now really living my student life as there was no coming home at the weekend, no feeling sorry for myself, no parents, no job to distract me. I wanted to find my passion again and although I had this goal and I had no real expectations, whatever happened was happening for a reason. I hit the ground running literally, registered for my design classes even signed up for a running class and joined the international club. I could talk for hours about america but that would take this whole blog (I have older posts from my experiences in the states).
I came home from america raring to go, I was excited to start final year (yes, you better believe it) I understood the work load would be heaps more than that of america but I understood that students were given free run on designing their projects which had my mind running in all directions. I decided in that moment that I wanted the best result possible, I wanted everything that I could get my hands on, top marks, what ever! I had put so much work into the previous six years that I desired it for no other reason than for myself.
I began the year with high hopes, as the weeks ticked by my feelings never changed, I was surprising myself at the work I could create and my ideas, I entered a photography competition on the sideline and thankfully won, earning me a trip to Japan. The year was going so well but as I entered the second semester the work load pilled up, my social life disappeared (for obvious reasons) and the pressure was intense. I would spend hours and hours in my room designing, researching; one day I spent 16 hours working, I started getting migraines and sever headaches, my arms broke out in rashes, I kept up my running to help shower my head rather than taking it out on family members but lord knows they were caught in the firing line every now and then.
This went on for four months until one day it was all over.
My work was submitted, my presentation was done and I was planning my end of year show, the buzz of being finished took over from the mayhem of that year and still so much was happening. I woke the morning of my show and knew that the results were there, all I had to do was make a phone call. I was shaking, dialled the number and just before it started to ring I ended the call, I wasn't ready for this, I wasn't ready to know. Compose yourself. Redialled and let it ring this time. After some polite but hurry with the short talk talk I asked the all important question. With a pause for effect the answer rung in my year;
Me: "sorry Sir, can you repeat that again"
My Lecture: "Yes Clare, you got it. You got a first"
I ran downstairs screaming and kee hoeing grabbed dads wrist and without words he knew to drop everything and follow, I took off running to mums business at the back of our house in bare feet, running over stones like I had trainers on. Through the door like a tornado and screamed:
"I GOT IT!"
"WE GOT IT GUYS"
The end of year show was one not to forget, surrounded by friends and lectures who were more than entitled to the open bar that night and the celebrations that continued into the wee hours. One thing after another I had a summer packed with travelling and working, day trips here, spending time with family and friends who through I had went into a deep hibernation and finally a family wedding to finish the summer off.
September 2016. Part time job, no ties, no major responsibilities, a degree under my belt and Silence. Something that I hadn't experience in quit a long time. It rang so loud in my head that I was almost confused. I started to feel annoyed at myself, why did I not have a job set up for straight after college? Why do I feel as if I reached the ultimate goal and I was dropped from the top? I wanted to work on the next goal, a career but my subconscious was crying out for peace although it was wrecking my head to have it. After being surrounded by so much busyness and activity I didn't know how to handle it.
Now as I sit here without a plan, a desire to travel the world and 19 years of education. Where next?
And yes, college was worth it. I got there in a completely different way than I would recommend anyone but that was the path that I choose.
College is not for everyone, when you choose to go, go because you want to or because you are passionate about your degree not because all your friends are or "if I don't I will be letting my family down."
It is your decision, make it count.