My Ambition in Life- A Response

This post is a response to a post on Harrison’s blog titled “What is your ambition in life?” go read it to get the whole picture, although this quote mostly sums up what it is about.

“I may be on my own on this but does anyone else feel that ambition is sometimes lacking in the Christian community? Not publicly in sermons or from preachers rhetoric but by individuals in their own unique situation. It can produce thoughts of climbing ladders, reaching above your means, trampling on people and putting yourself first. Do these thoughts have to go hand in hand with ambition?”

Rather than try and argue a particular thought, I am responding with an example from my own life in which I guess I “discovered” my ambition, or at least a rough direction I would like my life to go career wise.

Never being someone who plans (or wants to plan) too far ahead I’ve found that usually when my life needs to take a different direction I’ve received fairly clear guidiance at the points I need it.

The biggest example of this is the story behind whhy I am not currently about to go into final year of Technology with Design, instead I am now doing IMD (Interactive Multimedia Design).

In some ways it is a bit of a Jonah story because at one point I knew what way I needed to go but through a combination of, just not seeing the point in a lot of school work (call it laziness if you want) and a not so helpful careers department at school, I picked what I thought was easier. But ended up back were I was meant to be anyway, kinda funny.

That doesn’t makes much sense, so here’s what I thought would be the brief story behind it.

From getting my first computer till about fourth and fifth year in school I developed an interest in a number of things.

Websites, helped by Harrison (remember the old camp sites Harrison?.

Image manipulation (remember the spoof B-Movies posters from teen camp?)

Animation-I painstakingly created a 2 min stop motion animation instead of doing G.C.S.E revision.

Flash- Did a terrible splash page animation for a desktop wallpapers website I made.

Illustration and graphic design- I made loads of desktop wallpapers and designed posters for the Butchers I worked in at the time.

Photography- I got my first digital camera and developed an interest in Photography.

3D Modelling- Taught myself basic use of a 3D package.

Now all of the above are taught in my current course IMD, so how the heck did I end up doing Technology with Design at Uni, a subject which had about one module a year that I actually was any good at and scraping 40s in every single exam.

I think it was a combination of things really.
Firstly I wasn’t aware that a course existed that allowed you do do all of the above. I thought it was just Web Design, or just Animation, I blame the careers department for this. So I decided that Computer Science was the way forward.

Also due to the snobby attitude in my school towards the more vocational University of Ulster and people who went there, I didn’t even go to the open day.
After all at this point I wanted to go a real University like Queens and do computer science.
One Queens Computer Science department tour later and I decided in no way was it for me.

Doing ICT for A-level further put me off doing any computer based course as it was two boring years of learning Microsoft Office.
In fact I hated it so much I did no work in upper sixth, instead played flash games in every class.
I ended up submitting my coursework from the year previous as my A-level work, just changed the title.
How I even got a C I have no idea.

When it came to picking courses for University I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do and just made choices that matched my A-level subjects (which I had picked because they were the subjects I enjoyed the most at G.C.S.E).

Biology (which I enjoyed but wasn’t that good at)
ICT (because it was fun at G.C.S.E and I got a A* in it.
Technology and Design (which I enjoyed and thought I was good at)

From these I applied for Computer Science, Business Information Technology, Technology with Design, Zoology, Primary school teaching, Secondary School teaching Technology.

Yes I was so confused I even toyed with being a teacher, even did two days work shadowing in  my old primary school were I was told I was “born to be a teacher”.

Ironicly I was the most use during this work shadowing when I was designing worksheets for the kids on the class computer.
A terrible interview at Stranmillis (teaching college),  put an end to that notion.

Eventually I just picked Technology with Design because it was the easiest to get into, requiring CC at A-Level.

A year of not doing much work later and I was on my way to University of Ulster, Jordanstown campus having convinced myself that Technology was the course for me.

Convincing myself was something I did a lot the year and a half I did the course and it was partially the realisation that I was deceiving myself that led me to rethink things.

Anyway in first year I lived in a student flat about two kilometers from the University. A combination of not getting sleep, general apathy, a lack of transport and lots of rain meant that I missed a lot of classes and made the course seem harder as a result.
As I was finding it tough I really didn’t enjoy the course but convinced myself that the only reason I wasn’t enjoying it was because I had missed too much of the course and convinced myself that second year would be better. (breath)

Second year came and I was in a house in Belfast with friends and had no excuse for not enjoying the course but this time I hated it. The maths stuff went straight over my head, I hated the precise manufacturing drawings, the electrical and mechanical engineering and did rubbish in all the modules, this time even failing some.
One of the guys I was living with was the guitar welding, ginger haired Mr Adam Turtle who was studying Interactive Multimedia Design (IMD) at Jordanstown.  All though the year I started to realise that I would have been much better suited to do IMD.

However a year and a half into a degree is a bad time to realise you made the wrong choice and for a while convinced myself Technology would get better. That and I knew my parents would be pretty upset if I changed course, they did take some convincing in the end.

Technology didn’t get better and I got more miserable (yes I know I complain a lot).
Eventually I started praying about it and reading my bible more, which to be honest was something I should have done three years previous when deciding my University courses.

At the same time I started to investigate the possibility of switching courses so late in the day. Several phone calls and emails later and I had a rough idea of how to go about changing the course.

Although at this stage I still wasn’t sure that I was wanting to go through with it, a part of me was wanting to avoid the hassle of changing course and besides I might not enjoy IMD anyway.
One night while I was really tying to decided to go ahead with it or not I came across the verse,

Proverbs 16:3 (New Living Translation)

3 Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.

Although I know that Proverbs should be taking in context as just good advice, this verse just jumped out at me and my heart was pounding (honestly was, not just saying that to be dramatic).
To me that verse was Gods promise that I was doing the right thing to change course. I stopped worrying and made the decision to go ahead and didn’t look back.

It wasn’t easy to change course at the time I did, to even get into the course I had to prove myself as my A-level grades were not high enough so I spent about two months doing about a years worth of IMD coursework on my own using notes off the IMD university website.

Thankfully the portfolio impressed the interviewers and they let me in.

My other problem was money as the student loans company didn’t look favourably on me and withdrew my last loan installment. This meant that four months of house rent had to come out of an ever increasing overdraft, which I’m still trying to pay off.
This year they gave me a smaller loan and made me pay fees out of it which meant I had to live at home for a year and work 20 hours a week in a part-time job to afford to be able to run a car to drive to Uni. (Public transport wasn’t an option as there just isn’t a good enough network from home, would never have made it to 9am classes).
Thankfully everything financial should be back to normal next year but I’m going to owe a fortune, lets hope I get a well paid placement.

A year on and I’ve finished first year of IMD and got the best results I’ve seen since my G.C.S.Es, only one result was under 70.

Areas covered in first year of my course include:

Websites- We had to keep a blog website of all our work throughout the year as well as design a CV website.

Image manipulation-We did a module in Photoshop and designed posters for Translink, these posters were entered into a (PR stunt) competition by Translink out of which I came third.

Animation-I animated some characters for the flash project as well as some 3D .

Flash- We had to create a flash website for a movie, mine was on Spongebob Squarepants.

Illustration and graphic design- I had a module at the Art college in Belfast entitled “An Introduction to Communication design” and I hand drew all the artwork for the Spongebob website.

Photography- We did a photography module at the art college second semester, where at the group critique my work received the comment “some of the best photographs I’ve seen in three years of this module” . Which for me was a huge boost as I rarely did any praiseworthy work while in school.

3D Modelling- I re-created the end of the first Starwars movie using 3D text for a typography video project for my design module. YouTube link to the video.

Yes I did just copy and paste the section from the top of the post and edit it.

Un flipping believable, still kicking myself when I realise how much of a directional black-hole the last two years of school became for me.
If you had asked me in fifth year what I wanted to do, I would have listed off the above but somehow I lost the will to work and didn’t really care about what I ended up doing.
But regardless, that’s what I ended up doing.

God does indeed have a sense of ironic humour.

One thought that comes back to me is that perhaps I was too immature to be going in the right direction and I needed two years of harsh reality to wise me up a bit. Because there’s no way I would have worked very hard in first year of IMD had I started it in 2005.
On the ambition side of things (to get back on topic) I have found myself wanting to work and wanting to do really well and succeed, to the point of making sure I was in at least the top ten in the year in all the modules (there’s about eighty five students in the course).

Its a new experience for me to be doing something I really enjoy and am good at, that drive was sorely lacking in most of my subjects at school.
I’m not trying to boast, just saying how I now feel about things and if I’m honest I could have done better in a few modules.

I feel that God has given me a second chance at this career thing, he has guided me to a place were I am actually using the gifts I have been given.
I feel that I seriously owe him to do well at it.
Could that be a bad thing?
I dunno, maybe if it gets to the point were I am making my own decisions again without looking for guidance first.

As for my ambitions for the future, I hope to get a placement in the Industry in 2009 in Northern Ireland, graduate in 2011 with a good result.
After that I hope to get a job in a design company for a few years learning the ropes, and would like someday to go out on my own starting my own design company with friends.

Or course it all depends if that’s what God wants for me, if it isn’t I’ll either find out the easy way by making sure my relationship with God is in good shape.

Or if I start to think I can do it on my own, then I’ve no doubt I’ll get a wake up call to bring me back again.

As for how I can serve God with my career ambitions, there’s no end of possibilities as far as multimedia goes. In fact a certain animator friend has plans to be involved in creating short videos for kids with a Christian message. I would love to be involved in something like that.

But we shall see won’t we.

Another verse in Proverbs 16 really sums up how I feel about ambition.

Proverbs 16:9 (New Living Translation)

9 We can make our plans,

but the Lord determines our steps.

This is probably a good point to thank all my friends to whom I constantly moaned to and complained while trying to make up my mind what to do.  So thanks guys you have no idea how helpful you were.
Especially big thanks to my girlfriend Louise who had troubles of her own to deal with while all this was going on, she was a major support.

Hmm well this is my official first proper pretentious serious post, its also nearly 2500 words long, think I deserve a medal.

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2 thoughts on “My Ambition in Life- A Response

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Stephen. I’m glad I’m not the only one who went a bizarre route to university, and may have to share my story of course changing on my blog…!

    Your point about maybe not being mature enough to go in the right direction is a good point. I don’t think I’d have been able to focus and do as well until I knew for sure and could really appreciate my place at uni – it was more of a gift, where when I first started uni it was something I did because ‘that’s what you do’.

    I too never applied to the more ‘vocational’ universities because of the snobbish attitude people had to them – it was expected that I’d go to one of the old universities – Edinburgh, St Andrews, Aberdeen or Glasgow…! I wish there had been a better careers department at my school, but then I had a lovely careers advisor. Just not sure I would have listened to her.

  2. Thanks very much for the post, its quite a revealing insight into your path and mindset so I thank you very much.

    This ties in very beautifully with what my bro is on about when it comes to ambition and direction in life and linking that to a service to God. Naturally with me now going into my 2nd year of only a 3 year degree, i can’t help but sit up and seriously pay attention to these ambition questions.

    Lets say that its going to be interesting how God works these things out in us broken folk,

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