Happy 100th post: Who are you?

Wow it’s my 100th post… Pretty impressive! Well, I guess it would be more so if I was a bit more regular with my upkeep of this blog but hey! So I’ve decided to write a nice personal identity kind of post to er… celebrate.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in the world, and I define them as the 9 to 5’ers and the adventurers.

Which does sound incredibly cliché I know. But in four years of university I got to meet some amazing people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. I met people from England, Ireland, Romania, France, Lithuania and America. We all had completely different passions (though our love of the local pubs and bars was shared with the majority of the student population) and yet I felt as if I was the only one who enjoyed the academic side of life.

While I was in the library until 6am researching for my latest 5,000 word essay; my more creative friends were out discovering the latest news to publish on their blogs, making music with their bands or planning out new documentaries to film. I was amazed watching them using computer programs like Photoshop and drawing brilliant portraits with a pencil and paper– skills that, as hard as I tried, just seemed impossible to me.

And they would look at me in horror whenever I mentioned my latest essay topic on social policy.

The best part though was that we never judged each other for our passions. Instead I think it gave us new things to talk about, and new areas to explore. I had been friends with the same crowd for the majority of my high school-hating years, and the only feelings that we had discussed revolved around our dislike of school. We did very little besides hang out in the park, or along the promenade, waiting for our GCSEs to be over. To be ‘free’ as if high school was some form of torturous prison… But I guess it’s the same for every teenager.

None of us had any sort of ambition that I can remember.

Obviously going into sixth form at another school introduced me to a new set of people– the nerds. These were the 9-5’ers of the future; these people had gone through school with their hands shooting up before the rest of the class and gaining straight As without so much as a gasp of surprise. It was expected. They were future lawyers, and doctors, and PhD students.

I just wanted an office job.

So the mix I met at university was scary and yet a relief. Though I was more academic, and probably the only person who actually enjoyed writing essays (shock horror!), I never considered those of my friends doing arts degrees as “stupid” or “doomed”. In fact, they never failed to amaze me with their creativity.

It got even more different when the discussion of travel came up. After university, my aim was to get a job. Yes, pretty standard I guess but in the crowd that I hung around with a typical 9-5 job was nowhere on the cards. Not because of our failing economy or the amount of effort it would take, and they certainly all had the brains to get a job, but they wanted to expand their horizons. They wanted to see the world not a computer screen.

One portion had been to Cyprus, another had spent a semester in China, there had been trips to Amestardem and Poland along the way. Me? I spent three months in New Jersey and a week in Ibiza. My passport has little more use than on the rare occasion that I get ID’ed at the bar.

I was discussing this with my most travelled friend of the lot last night (check out her new travel blog Frenchie Without Borders). Though I love hearing about her adventures (given that she was one who went to China, Cyprus, and is now running off to Canada) I couldn’t do it. I don’t think I’m brave enough. But more than that, I just don’t have the same passion that she does for experiencing new things.

I’m the kind of girl who’s in the office an hour before everyone else, and awake at 8am on the weekends. I don’t even have the slightest urge to open up a travel magazine and browse holiday websites.

But I think the best thing, by far, is that even though we are all so starkly different– us 9 to 5’ers vs. the adventurers– it’s not impossible to get along and learn from each other. And even now university is over, I don’t think that’s going to change.

“Shrinking Women”

I’m not even sure how I came across this video but, after watching it, I’m in awe at this woman. Though it’s a poem– and a lengthy one at that– I think I managed to relate to it more than any poem I studied in GCSE English Literature.

Now, I don’t call myself a hardcore feminist. I enjoy films which have a “strong female lead”, and TV series like ALIAS. I don’t question the use of female spies disguising themselves as call girls though, and I don’t feel the need to judge someone for having plastic surgery– though, admittedly, I might question the quality.

But I am a girl.

The idea of women being equal to men is a strange idea sometimes, especially in this day and age. Personally, I want to become a headteacher or a vice chancellor; and I know full well that there’s a “glass ceiling” blocking my way. But I don’t forget the idea, I acknowledge it.

It adds to the challenge.

I’m not your “traditional” woman, I guess you could say. I have no idea how to cook and I dispise cleaning. I go to the gym because I enjoy working out, not because I want to look good to impress some guy. I’m sarcastic and I have a terrible habit of talking back, especially to my boss and lecturers. I wouldn’t know where to start when keeping track of calories, and my weight doesn’t concern me unless I can’t fit into my favourite pair of jeans– but that’s because I’m a poor student who can’t afford another pair of £60, perfect fitting jeans. Heels are beyond my ability.

People regularly say I’ll never be able to get married because I’ll never be a good housewife; and I have no problem with that.

But the thing which struck me about this video was the fact that she says we “inherit” these qualities. In the poem, she discusses becoming “smaller” in order to accomodate men in her life. Be quiet, to be weary of calories and to be a good woman; and she had “accidently” learned all of these qualities from her mother.

Me? Well, my mother had no problem being loud. She regularly argued with her neighbours and she’s had various boyfriends in the past 22 years, in fact she’s been engaged twice since divorcing my dad for a period of a decade and yet she’s in no rush to get married. She doesn’t drive, there’s no need because there’s a bus route to both of her jobs. My step dad cooks, while she gives us money for take aways or frozen pizza to cook.

So I definitely agree with Lily Myers, we do inherit our traits by watching our parents. So I guess I should be glad that my mum brought me up against the “traditional” role of a woman… Because, if she hadn’t, I’d probably be at home with two children now and zero motivation to break through that glass ceiling.

Which I will. One day.

22 going on 16

moody My boss is officially worried about me. He is, he even told me so today at work. But he’s not worried about my late nights in the library which mean that I’m dragging myself into work; he’s not even worried about the (rare) hangovers which I endure through work (though they’ve been essentially non-existance since I started back).

No, he’s worried about my lack of ambition.

Ambition!

The conversation started when I mentioned that my landlord had been showing the house to potential new renters– students will typically start looking at houses in October for the following September so I saw nothing unusually in what I was saying. My supervisor on the other hand, panicked that I would be leaving immeniantly. My boss simply wanted to know what my plans were– graduation is only nine months away after all!

What plans, I laugh.

I shouldn’t laugh, it is a serious matter after all. The job market for my generation looks more terrifying than facing the Niagra Falls with my phobia of water. There’s simply nothing for anyone and even with my prestige Masters degree (the prestige being in the fact that I’ll have one degree more than the majority of the British population rather than the degree itself) I feel like I’m drowning.

But I’ll stop with the water metaphors, I’m making myself anxious.

The concept of needing a plan at my age is daunting. To me, it feels like 22 is simply too young to even be considering a career– I mean, aren’t us 20-somethings supposed to be racking up our list of one night stands and taking our teenage sheninagens to the next extreme? Every blog tells us that this is the time that we should go travelling, to jump out of an airoplane; that these are the years where we can be reckless.

This is the last decade we can justify hungover shifts at work and still living with our parents.

So why do I feel like I’m the only person who’s not in a long term relationship and a secure job before I’ve hit 25? Many of my friends and peers back home were engaged and pregnant soon after they hit 16, many are onto their second (whether that’s child or engagement ring doesn’t matter). I know people who have travelled the world on their own and with friends, while others have managed to keep a job for more than a year. It’s all quite daunting to me because everyone seems to have some idea of what they’re doing while I just want to hide away in my studies and never leave university.

The feeling is quite ironic actually. When it came to me and my sister, I was always the “smarter” older sibling and the responsible one. I had the plans while my sister preferred playing in the mud. But it wasn’t until I was talking about this to one of my coursemates that they suggested their own theory for this:

We all mature at different ages.

An odd concept of course, I don’t see myself as de-maturing. I still seem to be the agony aunt and take on the role of older sister at every opportunity, even when the other person is a few years older than me. More than anything I enjoy being right and having all the answers– even if I don’t listen to my own advice at the best of times.

But I guess that’s the problem, or not: I’m at the same maturity level that I was when I was 16. Even then I was responsible but I much prefered helping other people achieve than gain any limelight for myself; though if you knew me you might argue otherwise. I freak out if I’m made the centre of attention– and I think that follows with my idea of a career. I wanted to be a lawyer from a young age but my main argument for not pursuing it was because I wasn’t smart enough.

I was smart enough, or at least I had the potential to be. Looking back, I was just being lazy and by setting a standard like becoming a successful lawyer was a risk. I could fail and people could see me fail. I don’t want to apply for jobs which I’m more than able to do because I don’t feel that I should be given such a job. There are a huge amount of people who I know that are more motivated than me who have no problems, there are also many who are smarter than me who have the qualifications to do as they please. There are people I know who should be acing a masters degree but aren’t able to afford to do it.

And here I am complaining despite the opportunities that I’ve been lucky enough to get.

chances

In all honesty, I think my boss is right– my lack of ambition at 22 is probably a bad sign. But not because that means that I’ve potentially ruined any chance of gaining a relatively decent career and building a life for myself– I have plenty of time for that. But I think I need to do something out of my comfort zone, and to take advantage of the fact that I am still able to learn so much about myself.

After all, your twenties are supposed to be the most memorable years of your life. And I need to make up for my teens.

New Year: Make some memories.

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photo.elsoar.com

 I always find December 31st and January 1st particularly odd times of the year– or rather, two years depending on how you look at it. This whole concept of a new year automatically brings with the a guise of hope, that everything will be better once the clock hits midnight. 

A new year, a new you.

It’s kind of like not being able to start a diet on a Wednesday, it has to be a Monday because that’s the beginning of the week– a new week, a new diet. I remember two friends in high school who were always on and off new diets and eating fads, and they just could not (or would not) start a diet on any day other than a Monday. Ironically, this also allowed them plenty of leeway to forget about the new challenge after a few days had passed waiting for Monday to arrive.

Of course, I don’t think it’s a way of generally putting off a new commitment. Personally, I enjoy the tradition. Having a specific date gives people a target and, in many cases, some credibility. There’s always people who want to know– questions “go on, what’s your new year’s resolution?” or “so, made any resolutions?” are commonplace on January 1st. 

I’d go as far too say in many cases they suppress the typical “how are you?”.

Last new years day I didn’t make any resolutions though apparently. I wrote on Facebook that I might make some drunken commitments at midnight– resolutions I mean, not one night stands!– but I don’t seem to have written about anything on here or elsewhere. Maybe I hoped that I would remember? Or maybe I purposely didn’t write them down to I didn’t have the regret on December 31st of not fufilling them.

Instead, I wrote a long, long list of things that I would like to do in 2013. Tasks, rather than resolutions. I called it The “2013: Let’s Do This” List. I ticked off 45 out of 114 tasks on that list– a pretty dismal attempt in all honesty. In fact, a lot of the things I ticked off I’d only put on there in the first place because I was already planning to do each of the things: everything I planned to do in America was essentially already booked and sorted by Christmas, and everything academic was almost certain. Things like watching films, reading books and buying certain things shouldn’t have been too difficult. 

In fact, looking at the list now I should have a much higher percentage ticked off. But I didn’t go through the year watching the list, nor did I put any effort into ticking everything off. I never went out with the aim of completing it all, it was more of a lazy venture.

And yet I’m still slightly disappointed with myself.

I think that’s a big problem with all of this new year malarky– most people will be disappointed come December. But I don’t think it’s because we set our expectations too high, or we’re far too lazy to get anything done. In fact, with the amount (and length) of statuses that I saw on Facebook and Instagram last night I know many people had absolutely fantastic years despite many low points. To be honest, I think it’s because at the end of the day (or should I say year) we are different people.

There is not one single person who can tell you for certain the step by step route that their year is going to take. This time next year you could be married, divorced, seeing someone, pregnant, rich or poor. You could be one of those cringy couples who got engaged on Christmas Day, or you could be celebrating New Year’s Eve in New York City. 

And what about the 364 days in between that?

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book; make it a good one.”

 

So for my 2014? This year I did make some resolutions, of sorts. I made a far sorter list of tasks that I want to complete (which will most likely grow as the year goes on), and I’ve made some resolutions:

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If you plan to do anything this year, plan to make it memorable. Take lots of photos, make new friends, visit new places and try new things. But this time next year, be able to look back on 2014 with a smile.

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.