5 YEARS AGO
I realized that 5 years ago I have wrote about the processes of getting into my first choice design course, Industrial Design at Monash University. But since the completion of the course 5 months ago, I haven’t written a thing about the aftermath of it all.
5 years ago, anything I wanted to do, I could do so effortlessly. I was naturally a high achiever. I got the highest scores in my school for Vietnamese, Studio Arts and Visual Communication and Design despite not studying. I wanted to be accepted into my course, and I was, with a B letter. It felt like anything was possible.
I even had everything thought out: I am going to work hard, get HD’s, design an awesome vehicle, graduate, get a job and move out with my boyfriend who I will have met some time in the duration of my course.
Reality decided to finally sneak up on me in my first year. University standards were so high. The gap between my high-school standards and university level was overwhelming, I had many doubts about even completing this ‘dream course’ at all. I settled with Passes and Credits – grades no longer mattered to me. I realized I couldn’t just design cars just because my brain knows how to spell ‘design’ and ‘cars’. It really made me think whether or not I can make it into the industry.
In second year I learned some CAD programs. I really enjoyed battling with SolidWorks and Maya and decided then that at the end of this course, I will become a CAD monkey. Sitting in front of the computer all day, doing my own thing. I gave myself until the end of this year to decide whether or not to continue. After much thought and struggle, I decided to stay.
Third year, for me, was to gauge whether or not I can handle fourth year. By now a lot of people have already dropped out and moved on, and I was left wondering whether or not I should too. I worked hard on my projects, but worked harder with CAD work, thinking that at the end of this course I will be a 3D modeller. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with clients and politics surrounding a design. I’ll just be that quiet invisible one in the corner of the studio clicking away.
Fourth year. I was determined to finish this course off to move on and focus on my CAD skills. I struggled to justify my ‘robot pet’ project, but after intensive research and resisting the urge to pound my head onto a brick wall, I emerged victorious . Or so I thought. Whatever I came up with wasn’t good enough – it didn’t solve a big enough social issue; it was just another toy to fuel consumerism. I convinced myself not to care, because in the end, I only want to prove my CAD skills, not my ideation or my bullshitting skills.
During the heat of my final semester, my grandfather had passed away. I attended his funeral and followed up every procession after that, all while trying to finish my thesis on time to get it published, and my model that I built and finished singlehandedly. I didn’t give myself any time off – I was too close to the end to let anything – even my grandfather’s death, stop me. I was full of guilt, I should have given my grandfather a bit more thought and prayer… but I was too stubborn, even to ask for special consideration or an extension. I told myself that can make it up to myself later on in the future.
A few weeks later, everything was finally due. I was so glad that everything was over. No more furious sanding and polishing. No more unhealthy habits and hobo lifestyles at uni (showers in H building are the best). We had our exhibition and that marked the official end of the 4 year struggle. I was glad that it’s all over.
AFTER UNIVERSITY (2013)
At the exhibition, about 150 of my cards were taken from my stand. I considered that to be a good indication, thinking that sooner or later someone will call me offering me a job. Now, looking back I don’t know what made me so optimistic about landing a job that way. I decided to start applying for junior design roles – still no one called me back.
My boyfriend had recently got an internship at GM Holden Design. I was extremely supportive and happy for him. But then I began to feel bad about myself. I’m fresh out of uni and I still haven’t got a job offer.
I would get angry or depressed from obsessing over the fact that I am still a NEET. I would get angry at others who have obtained a kick start in their career but did little to deserve it. I would get angry at employers who won’t give a chance to an honest hardworking person like me. Finally, I would get angry at myself for being so insistent on doing everything by my own hands – my thesis, my 3D model and my display model. I should have thrown money at people, outsource my work to lessen the workload if I had known that honest sweat and tears meant so little to people in the real world.
I went back to my old waitressing job, only to be fired two weeks later. I couldn’t understand why – I was unconditionally hard working and I got along with my workmates. It made me feel even worse because since I couldn’t manage to stay at such a low-level job… how was I meant to manage in a professional environment? But seriously… I willingly let people use me and pay me peanuts and yet… WHY WON’T ANYONE HIRE ME?
All that was left for me to do was to keep applying for other jobs and try new things. I remembered that I wanted to become a CAD monkey, but as soon as I began to work on my 3D folio, I could no longer feel the passion I had for 3D back then. I got a couple of offers to work for people my friends know, but in the end, I didn’t pursue them. I thought of entering design competitions to get my name out there, but I gave that up too. I thought of starting an online business, selling products instead of designing them, and leave everything I had learnt behind… but I knew nothing about business.
I begin to realize my self worth. I know I can make anything I want happen, happen, without counting on anyone else. I shouldn’t wait around for the future to happen. And I certainly wasn’t going to lose my self respect and kiss someone else’s ass for a job. I knew if I were an employer, I would so employ myself. Then it hit me…
WHY DON’T I JUST WORK FOR MYSELF?
No kissing asses, no incompetent workmates, no worries about getting fired for reasons unknown… this is perfect for me!
I am now in the process of designing my own line of products and about to order my own laser cutter for manufacturing purposes. I can’t wait to get into design again!
P.S – If there is one thing I can take away from this course, it would be the relationships I have formed during my time at Monash. Some of these friendships are still going strong, some have faded with time; some I met randomly, some who inevitably became my friends after breathing in the same horrible computer lab air for hours on end; some of my classmates who I still talk to, some I’ve never connected with… Everyone that I have met has brought something unique into my life, and helped to shape me into the person I am today. All the skills that I have can be learnt or relearned, but the experiences with people from various walks of life will prove to be so much more worthwhile and valuable. So at the risk of sounding so embarassingly corny… Thanks for being a part of my life.
P.P.S – I love you, Pooky.