Monday Thoughts: Did I make the right choices after University

Last week my Monday thoughts brought up things I notice and think about on my walk into work each day and during one of those walks in I thought about Graduations (I work at a University and Graduations are happening as we speak) it made me think, back when I went to University, did I do right by myself after I graduated?

For a good while, I loved art and I loved helping people improve with their learning and enhancing their abilities, especially in art. So, after my art foundation degree, it made all the sense in the world to take on a course that represented that. I applied very late on and happily got accepted onto the art and design with education course at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. I know it sounds like a weird ass sounding fake University but back when I joined it was a University College and quite small. I remember telling Victoria the name of the place and she just looked at me as if I was making it up… Anyway, as I was living in England at the time I thought I would do a course in England still, just somewhere else than where I was. Got to mix it up and all that jazz you know?

I had a lot of ups and downs during my time at University, but I did enjoy it and I did enjoy living in Lincoln, but as the years (jeez years really?) go by I do think back and wonder if I made the right choice. Should I have gone for a graphic design course? Should I have taken up my interest in web design earlier? Should I even have gone to college for another year and got the correct qualifications to go for my original dream job of an architect? I know this is such a first world issue, but our futures are important and little things like this add up. To help break it down for myself I thought I would start at the present, what is my situation now?

At the minute I am in a great job that provides me with the opportunity to use my creative juices while at the same time to write, and create in my spare time. It isn’t a role I would have immediately jumped at, but for the present, I am more than happy and comfortable in the role. Previously I worked shifts (full-time mind you) in mainstream and then independent cinema and it was grand, I was able to make decent money and I was moving nicely up the ladder. But, working in a cinema for over 10 years and especially in shift work is a hard thing for your social life and life in general. The move to 9-5 has been great for me and after a year I feel I have finally got it structured (it messed with my weight etc).

Working in cinemas also allowed me and countless others to continue their study and I completed my Masters in Educational Multimedia a few years ago. What is Educational Multimedia? Effectively it is E-Learning and it is something that I have kind of let slip a little, but I have been slowly getting back into it again! I do see that as my future career if I am honest and I hope to have my art history website created over the next year that I can use as an example of my work! The reason why I took up that Masters course was that I was still heavily interested in Education, but it simply wasn’t financially viable for me at that time. I wanted to continue the dream of becoming a teacher and I felt that if I had that Masters then I would have a pretty strong string to my bow and also that I could get onto a certain PGCE course and teach in IT.

But didn’t you want to teach in Art? Yes, I did, but when I was in my final year of University I looked for courses to apply to for the PGCE which meant just a cheeky year getting the qualification and voila I am a teacher and England and Wales desperately needed teachers. But, and it is a pretty giant but. There was next to no funding for Secondary School Art and Design teachers as Art and Design isn’t seen as an essential skill, in fact, you could only get enough support to pay for your fees. Living in a different country from my family meant that I didn’t exactly have enough financial support to ask my dad to help me out.

What also scuppered these chances was that even if I moved back to Northern Ireland I would have worse funding and I would almost certainly have to take out a loan. Plus I wouldn’t even be able to live at home as the course was in the North Coast. The options were not looking good for me if I am honest. I did apply and get interviews for a few courses that were targeted towards teacher training, but you got paid on the job. Sadly, I was unsuccessful at those and I had to deal with the idea that I had spent years getting ready to be as good an art teacher as I could be and it wasn’t going to happen. Not yet anyway…

I left England and returned home, more than a little defeated if I am honest. I had all the intentions of being a teacher, yet here I was living at home working in a cinema. So that summer I tried to make the plan. I am not going to sit idly by and do nothing. Thus the Masters, funnily enough, I did have another option that September, I also applied for a Fine Art Masters course that was 2 years long. I had to decide, go with my passion for art and see what happens as the art sector isn’t exactly known for being booming. Or be practical and learn coding etc, and use my creativity in a digital way and see if that can get me onto a PGCE for next year or maybe even a career in Computing. I also wonder what could have been with that Fine Art course you know… I had got accepted because of my work even after an interview of me noting that I knew next to nothing about the Northern Irish art scene as I had been living in England for over 6 years. They still liked my work, but I spoke to my dad and annoyingly he was supportive on either choice, but said what I thought… If I am spending £6,000 plus on two years at an art school, I have to be confident something was going to come from it and I simply wasn’t. I couldn’t will myself to take that bold belief and say yes. I went practical.

As I said, the course was meant to be a stepping stone to me going onto teaching, yet for some reason, I never replied. I think a lot of it was to do with my dad. My mother had passed away when I was in my second year after a long battle with cancer and I felt horrible for not being there during it and it became quite hard to think that I could just up and leave him again to go and study in England. He probably wouldn’t have minded, but I did. I wanted to be there when I never was previously, I was a bit of a neglectful son and I wanted and still want to make up for it. Can I full pin all of that on him? Of course not, I was afraid to go. I was comfortable back home, with okay money coming in, I had started to shift serious amounts of weight, and my running was improving every day.

Life was getting better for me. But I yearned for it. I know I could have been a good teacher and so when I thought of travelling up to the North West and completing my PGCE in Northern Ireland, I realised that it just wouldn’t be practical. I saw others do it while working in the cinema and they taught in Belfast on placements. How was I going to be able to go up there and then come back and work? It wasn’t an effective balancing act. Also, I knew a few teachers from Northern Ireland who could not get a full-time job for love nor money. Did I really want to throw myself back into that world of doubt? If I was going to do it I would expect a full-time permanent job out of it. I couldn’t afford to take risks like I did years before.

So time went on and I would actually apply for the PGCE in England every year, just in case things went bad or I felt I needed to move on. I even went to interviews etc. I never went through and stayed I did.

I made my choices and for the most part, I am happy I did the things I did. Imagining what alternate universe Scott would have done if he had taken that graduate loan and stayed in England is a little fun. Where would he be living? Would he have gone to Canada or America as he planned to down the line because he had a teaching qualification? Would he have taken that year or two to go to Asia and teach and make a good chunk of money there? Would he own a home, or have a family already? Would he still have his gloriously thick full head of hair? Lots of questions to ask him.

All I know is that I eventually lost all of my weight (put half of it back on) bought my families home, met great people, went on brilliant long holidays first on my own and then with the best partner in crime a guy could ask for in Victoria. Would I have met someone like her in England or where ever? I am not so sure. For now, I am happy and I am still young enough to dictate what I want to do with my life, even with these extra responsibilities. We will see what the future holds, as we all go on different journeys in this world. This one is just the one fated for me. Until next time.

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