'Ambition' by our Deputy Head Girl

'Ambition' by our Deputy Head Girl


Those of you who know me well will know that I am an ambitious person. 
For example, aged 5, I wanted to be the first female Prime Minister, without even knowing that the late Mrs Thatcher had beaten me to it. Of course, at times I’ve been over-ambitious, and let arrogance or complacency get in the way of achieving my goals, but I have actually learnt faster due to these failures. Nelson Mandela once said “don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by the number of times I fell down and got back up again”. That, to me, is true wisdom! 
Ambition does not mean you aim high and you get there bruise-free: nothing gets in your way, you aimed, you scored! No. Ambition is when you keep going and grow from all the bumps on the way. Problems won’t let you look away from your goals, you won’t tame them, nor aim lower; you may have to take the longer route but you don’t give up. 
On the other hand, it’s so easy to underestimate yourself, and let your doubts get in the way of your ambition. Although ambitious and self-motivated, I’ve always struggled with low-self esteem, until I realised; there is no shame in being proud of your achievements. There is no shame in acknowledging that you have reached your goals, and overcome your failures to do so. As nice as it is to get prizes, or applause, the most important approval comes from within. What do you want? What do you really want? 

When I’m feeling like I’m far off from achieving my goals, I think back to this time two years ago. I was making my application for College’s Sixth Form, and I was terrified. I had so many questions in my head, making me doubt myself. What if they don’t want me? What if I don’t make friends? What if everyone’s more intelligent than me, sportier than me, more talented than me? What if I leave the familiarity of my old school, and all for nothing? Finally, interview day arrived, and again, I was terrified. The same questions popped up in my head: What do they want me to say? What if I’m not good enough? What am I doing here? When do I speak? When do I not? Am I natural enough? Am I fake? I won’t go into detail, but clearly it wasn’t as disastrous as I’d thought, and I lived to tell the tale today. 

1st September arrived; the dreaded first day of school, and guess what; the same questions came back to me. What if I don’t fit in? Who shall I have lunch with? Why did they let me in?Walking into Queen’s on that first day, I was relieved to find five other similarly nervous girls, none of whom disliked me, or asked me what I was doing there. Staff and older girls were welcoming and wanting to know us for who we are. Within my first two weeks of College, my fears disappeared, and I felt like I’d never been anywhere else. This wasn’t the “new me”, this was the “real me” - the mask and fears could drop.

Compared to the stories of other people, like Emily’s Godfather of whom she spoke about on Tuesday, my tale of going to a new school seems pretty insignificant. And that little voice in my head pops up again. What about girls like Malala, who’s just four days younger than me, and has survived the Taliban, addressed the United Nations and won a Nobel Prize? Compared to the likes of her, my ambitions seem, well, not even like ambitions. But, when I think back to the shy, quiet, mousy girl lacking in confidence two years ago, about to walk through those Chapel doors for the first time, a little bit of me deep down feels proud. This is my motivation that drives my ambition. 

Another motivation of mine is my family. My mum comes from Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean where many of you have probably been on holiday, but the reality of life for those who live there is a world away from the tourist tracks and the Four Seasons. She grew up as the youngest in a family of 8 with little money and commuted 4 hours a day to her school where she gained an academic scholarship. Her ambition was to get a job in Europe as a doctor and to provide the best education she could for her family. She made it and I’ve made it. College may sound like a chore for some of you but to me, coming here was ambitious. I praise myself for pushing myself out of my comfort zone, performing on stage in my first term and debating when, before, I would have preferred to blend into the background. Two years ago, I would have never even imagined myself standing up here talking to the entire school. I would never have imagined I would be trusted to be Deputy Head Girl. But we are not ambitious on our own, we are made of people’s trust and beliefs too. I am incredibly grateful to the College community for allowing me to not only achieve, but surpass my ambitions. 

And that is, I think, what is so special about College. We have a supportive environment where we can try our hand at anything, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed if it doesn’t go too well. There is a very unique culture of pride here, that doesn’t cross the line to arrogance. Think of your motivation, whatever it may be, and your pride in achieving your ambition. 

In short, my message to you is simple: grab every opportunity you can and take advantage of it with the drive and ambition that you know you have.

Sophie Caws 
Deputy Head Girl

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