My school and job is sucking the life out of me. I'm 23 and in the same situation I was 5 years ago. If you are press for time, feel free to skip the auto-biography to the dashes below.
It's not specifically the classes, and not specifically the job (which is at school). The entire situation is sucking the life out of me. I donít even know why I am here.
In the Spring of 2005, I enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). It is a large 4-year commuter college in the heart of Arkansas. At the time, I was 18 and modeling in Anim8or and trying to texture in Paint Shop Pro(!). I had made a few simple creatures and dabbled a little with a demo of 3D World Studio A4. I was also making small Unreal Tournament and Half Life levels. Back then I wasnít sure what I wanted to do and figured even a career programming would make me happy.
My mother was always proud of my knowledge of computers, and I did a lot of repairs for family members and friends. Everyone in the family said that I was going somewhere... mom even suggested a few times that I could become rich if I set my mind to it. It was a nice idea - especially for a kid with no ideas. At the time, I was just doing what interested me as a hobby. Mapping in Unreal Editor 2, modeling in Anim8or 0.85, drawing crazy things with my itty bitty Wacom Graphire..
And so, I enrolled at UALR.
Up to that point I had brief stints working at Dennys, Burger King and a video warehouse - and believed that in order to move beyond these dead end jobs, one would need to go to college. I enrolled thinking Iíd become a programmer. Any kind of programming job would do, so I majored in Computer Science. Clearly I had no idea what lay ahead.
After taking my core courses, I began some of my programming intro courses. Programming I was easy enough. I learned how to make simple procedural programs in C++. It wasnít that hard for me, especially since I already had experience with BASIC. The logic and organization were the same, the only difference up to that point was the syntax.
I hit my first wall with Programming II. Object oriented programming was something totally different from what I was used to. It just wasnít clicking for me, and I simply did not understand what to do. Part of this was due to the fact that while I was in school, I was becoming increasingly distracted by 3D modeling.
I even got a job at a CAVE lab
here on campus called the Virtual Reality Center (VRC). If you donít know what a CAVE is, a short definition is that itís a modern StarTrek holodeck. There arenít very many CAVEs, and at the time I thought it would be great to put my budding skills to use and earn money. Unfortunately, I didn't balance school demands with the whole 3D thing very well.
So... I changed my major to Studio Art. It is during my art classes (which were practically the same as the classes I took as a High School Junior and Senior), I began to feel this frustration and ask myself, "Why am I here." The character in my avatar, "Toki" was made at about this time. I felt like I was onto something and that I finally knew what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, the school could not possibly cater to this interest and if I wanted a degree, I had to keep myself buckled down and do meaningless class after meaningless class.
Having said that, programming was my first real hobby, so even though I had become increasingly interested and good at 3D modeling, I was still really bothered about my failure to understand object oriented programming. As a result of that - and the fact that in my view a Studio Art degree is useless - I changed my major once again and entered Information Science.
In the Information Science department, I enthusiastically took the Java programming course for two reasons. I wanted to conquer the problem I had with objects, and that class was being taught by an old graduate student friend.
I excelled in that class, ending it with a neat project that takes 3D objects inside a VRML file and duplicates them randomly on a grid to create a Ďcityí. In order to do that, I had to learn how to make a dynamic array of objects (which were themselves an Ďarrayí consisting of the lines in each VRML object declaration). Of the students who chose to do class projects instead of final exams - my project was the most interesting. I got an A and conquered my problem with objects.
However, while I took that class, I also had some others that were part of the Information Science curriculum. I had five in all, and dropped two of them. Discrete Math (which I hated but took to avoid Calculus), and Intro to Business (which I loved, put a lot of effort into, but still feared failing thanks to a poor decision I had made earlier) As a result, I ended up on academic probation. So if I wanted to keep my financial aid I would need to pass all of my classes the next semester.
I should point out that in order to work in the wonderful Virtual Reality Center, I needed to stay in school. Thus, in order to buy food and pay bills (I lived on my own at the time in a cheap rent-house), I needed
to keep that job.
Knowing that more math was right around the corner and that I was 100% sure that I didnít want to work in IT anyway, I changed majors and entered Studio Art once again, this time with a focus on Graphic Design. Why? Because of all the BA degrees, Graphic Design is the closest to what I'm interested in. It's just in 2D rather than 3D - Illustrator and splines instead of 3DSMax and polygons.
Iíve completed a semester under this major already, and I have quite a few more to go. All classes considered I have two years worth left before I can graduate. I have taken care of my Ďliberal artsí requirements and it is as if I graduated from a 2 year community college - except without the graduating part.
I have also wasted a lot of time and money taking classes that simply donít apply to the current major... Thus, I have spent 4 years here and can only account for half of that time (the missing year was obliterated by a Ďfinancial aid problemí, which I will spare you the agony of reading about, and myself the agony of writing about).
Iíve spent a lot of time this summer wondering about just what it is Iím doing. Last summer I went to driving school and got my license. I also bought a car. I didnít need to go to UALR to do those things, and yet that had the largest impact on my adult life so far. I had a wreck earlier this year, losing the car (get it? impact?! ha!
) - but I hope to buy another soon.
I could have bought another by now too. But what am I doing? Since then I moved in with my mother and I still work at the VRC. I canít save because everything goes to bills and food. When I do manage to save - something bad happens and Iím forced to spend it. I earn $600 a month at the Virtual Reality Center, and I can only work for 15 hours a week.
Never-mind why Iím in school.... why do I want this job? Why havenít I looked for another? Why am I simply waiting for another loan to solve my problems?
Iím tired of sitting on my butt, waiting for things to happen. A Graphic Design degree is useless to me since Iím not interested in Graphic Design. Instead of going through these classes and living off this crappy wage I should be working at Walmart and honing my 3d modeling skills on my own like I want to do anyway. Sure itís not what the family expects, but itís what I want.
Iím tired of the VRC
. Iím tired of UALR. Iím going nowhere fast, and I wonít wait another two years before I can focus on starting my real career.
I want to drop out of college.
So tell me Polycount, should I? Am I making some grave mistake here? As always, please be brutal. I'm sure there is a lot of room here for criticism, especially about the fact that I could have gotten a second job during this summer, or the fact that Polycount is not a blog.