What to expect from 2014.

It is funny this time of year, don’t you think? Everyone starts looking back on the previous year, or rather wishing they could fast forward to the next depending on how it went. But most of them end up judging it on a handful of significant events- a death, a marriage, a birth or a holiday. Out of the 365 days of the year, I could probably mention about a dozen off the top of my head… maybe a few more.

I guess that’s why I enjoy social media, despite all it’s downfalls, at least it allows us a reference to look back.

So that’s what I did. Using the fancy Facebook gimmicks that it has now, I went back to December 29, 2012 (same as I did on this blog this time last year, even if it was for tomorrow rather than today.) Last year, I couldn’t find anything for December 30, 2011… This time I had a bit more luck. Tonight, one year ago, was a weird night– though it doesn’t say that on my Facebook, but I remember it clearly now I know what happened. It was a night where I went out with one of my oldest coursemates, Anya, to Warehouse. There we met another couple of friends, and then I ran off to another club to meet another friend. From that second club I lost Anya, and ended up in Loft- the only club open in Preston after 4am- with a whole new bunch of people. We got harrassed by a drunk homeless man who claimed to have been in the Navy, spent £6 to get into the club which charged almost £10 for drinks to leave within half an hour.

I don’t really talk to Anya anymore since she graduated, though I still see her here and there. I became a lot closer to one of the friends we met in Warehouse, though she’s also left Preston now. The people I met in the second club well, that’s a bit more complicated but recently it’s been less rocky.

As for my social life, tonight I doubt I’ll be leaving the library.

Now for a quick recap on 2013, as I predicted it in my previous blog post.

Third year

I survived. And actually graduated (though in December rather than with my peers in the summer, since I was in America as I’ve mentioned). I’m proud of my 2:1 though it’s not the first that I really wanted– at the end of the day, I knew that I had put in nowhere near enough effort to get a first, but I was proud that I passed my dissertation with minimum input from my supervisor.

America

In June I flew over to America to work three months at a summer camp. I loved it, though I won’t be going back again this year like I planned to– it’s too expensive, and I don’t want to go to a different camp. Once in a lifetime though was certainly one of those significant events that I’ll always treasure. I got to travel to America, I watched a baseball game, I watched an NFL pre season game in the same stadium that the Superbowl will be held, I even started a short relationship with an American. In all honesty, I probably learned more about myself in that one summer than I’ve learned in the past two decades of my life.

Great Manchester Run 2013

Unfortunately I didn’t end up running this event due to my knee injury– and lack of training. Instead, I gave my number to a friend who did well and signed up to run in the 2014 event. I am training now, though I’ve been out for the past six weeks with a sprained ankle, so hopefully I’m off to a better start!

Moving home

Well, this didn’t quite pan out as I had expected. By now I thought that I would be living at home, under a curfew with no friends and working full time. Instead, I chose to apply for a masters in Social Policy at the same university that I’d been studying at for three years. I don’t think it’s a decision I’ll ever regret.

So next year…

I have no idea what to expect for 2014 now. This time last year I had so many milestones, so many significant events to look forward to. Now I’m struggling through– though I don’t know if that’s because I’ve become less optimistic (I don’t think I have) or because I have less motivation. Again, I imagine this time next year I will have left university and I’ll be working full time. Though I don’t plan to move home, this would probably be a suitable idea if I don’t find the money to move to a city like Manchester or find a job over here. I’ll have completed the Great Manchester Run for the NSPCC and I’ll have graduated from my masters degree.

Honestly, I feel very confused thinking about the future. But I think I’d prefer that right now than having a solid idea, because at the end of the day I’d rather leave myself open to opportunities instead of restricting myself.

Taking Chances (cliché I know)

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So, this weekend I took the GRE exam. Now if you don’t know what the GRE test is then here you go:

The Graduate Record Examination is, obviously, for those applying for graduate school (a university’s postgraduate programme for us British). They use all the British kind of things on their application scheme- references, a personal state, a research proposal for those going onto a research degree as well as a small fee; but they throw in an exam.

Why?

Well that’s what I wondered too- I mean, we’ve survived three years (four years for some) of coursework and exams, why add some more?

The way I had it explained was that it offers more equal grounds for comparison.

Americans apparently enjoy being over enthusiastic with their references so that’s obviously bias and everyone is coming from different universities and different degrees. Your lecturers could have been very helpful or left you on your own. You might have just had a lucky day.

So they give you an exam.

It took a bit of persuading, especially given that I hate exams. Seriously. It’s the reason I failed my exams for A Level: I can’t memorise that much stuff in my head. Essentially I can’t learn a textbook, I love reading about everything around it instead of learning to a test.

But for the GRE there’s no learning to the test. Well… ok there’s a vocabulary section which you need to know long, complicated words. For the quantitative sections (numbers and statistics for those who might not know what that means) you need to know about triangles and algebra. For the writing section you can learn a structure.

Besides that it is pure luck on the day.

Of course they do consider everything else and it all has to round up to a good application. A bad GRE score (unless you want to go to an Ivy League school of course) can be balanced out by an excellent undergraduate degree grade. On the same thought, a great GRE score can be knocked off by an overall pathetic application.

And if you’re like me, and by that I mean average, then it might not do anything.

So a quick note about how my try at the exam went. I got the results back tonight and they’re nicely average. For someone who didn’t practice beforehand in any way I’m happy it wasn’t straight zeros– in fact I even got 100 per cent in a couple of topics. Of course,  the majority of my correct answers were in the low section (the questions are ranked in difficulty as low, medium and hard which you don’t know when you took the exam). There’s a high possibility that the topics I got 100 per cent in only had two questions in.

But at the end of the day I did it. And it hasn’t terrified me from applying for this PhD.

Just goes to prove taking chances sometimes doesn’t end in tears. That’s without me actually doing amazingly,  getting what I want or even getting a present!

Inspiration from Surprising People

While watching the Channel 4 coverage of the New York Giants vs Washington Redskins game, one of the questions which was asked in the #ASKMIKE hashtag was:

“What was the best piece of advice that you have ever received?”

Obviously, in this context they meant within sport. However, what they answered with could be mirrored into any other concept. For example, one of replies was:

“There are two types of people in the world: those who do, and those who stand on the sidelines and snigger.”

It’s nothing new– I’m sure many of you have been told exactly the same thing, or at least a paraphrased version. I have too, though mine normally went along the lines of walking in their shoes.

But it got me thinking– what was my best piece of advice?

Immediately, I have my mum pop into my head ranting about that fact I only have one sister. Of course she would say this after me and my little sister had been fighting and arguing over whatever the latest conflict was about. Not that that is probably the most important piece of advice, but it’s the one which sticks with me. 

Maybe it’s the fact that Christmas is coming up.

I come from a large family. Though I only grew up with my mum and my sister, I actually have a half sister and three half brothers on my dad’s side of the family. For personal reasons, I don’t associate with that side of the family and probably haven’t seen any of them since we moved when I was three– though the joys of social media meant that a few years ago my niece (now in her thirties with children of her own) tried to reconnect. That ended badly as well, so yes, in my eyes I do only have one sister.

But the fact that it was that sentence came into my head when considering the question proves a lot to me. Family is extremely important, and my sister was by far the first friend I ever had (ignoring the fact that when I first saw her when she was born, I was horrified that I was supposed to play with this squidgy, wriggly baby).

Not that we see eye to eye all the time, even now that she’s in her late teens and I’m in my early twenties. We’re both young adults, though mature would probably be a bit of a stretch in terms of her life… In my opinion! And yet the majority of time we still argue about every little thing.

Then you realise that I’m the one who’s unemployed while at university studying for my masters… And she’s the only working 50 hours a week, juggling two jobs (one full time and one weekend cafe job) and yet successfully paving her career in childcare.

The roles, by far, have been reversed. My sister is probably my biggest inspiration– but tell her that, and I’ll deny it.