… January

January.

The month of the infamous ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra. The month of struggling to find free equipment at the gym. The month of encouraging internal monologues. Though, most notoriously, the month of the New Year’s resolution that by mid-January you’re waving goodbye to – glass of wine in hand with a mouthful of chocolate – despite your best intentions.

Aside from the clichés, the start of a new year really is a good time to start that thing you’ve been putting off for a while. Now the festivities of Christmas have passed and you’ve eaten enough pigs in blankets to last a lifetime, January gives you chance to think back to what you set out to do this same time last year.

Are you where you wanted to be? Or are you still hating that job you’ve threatened to quit a thousand times? Or still spending money like you’re Richard Branson.

All the New Year cynics can scream, “resolutions are just made to be broken,” all they want, but that’s why we should set realistic goals. Goals that we have a chance of reaching. What’s the point in expecting too much from ourselves, and setting ourselves up for failure, anyway?

This time next year, we should look back and be proud of what we’ve achieved. Even if dry January was more like dry 1st-5th Jan.

Moral of the story… Embrace the clichés because there’s no time like the present.

… Writing Again

Neglecting to write on this blog for such a long time has become a constant niggling annoyance in the back of my mind.

Always wanting to write something but life constantly getting in the way, is the bane of my life.

I have no real excuse. Except after a hectic end of third year of University, going straight into a full time job over summer, to going straight back to University to start my Masters, I didn’t even get chance to see my Mum let alone sit down and think about writing.

Now I’m studying journalism it seems ridiculous to keep up this longstanding feud with my writing capabilities. It is, after all, the career I aspire to. So expect more of the previous kind to come your way very soon.

Moral of the story… There are no excuses.

… Paying the bill

 

You’ve just enjoyed a nice meal with your other half (or date), you’ve finished your drinks, and you make that universal, “Can we have the bill, please?” mid-air hand gesture to the waitress. Now, do you a) offer to pay? b) allow your other half to pay for the lot? Or c) go Dutch and pay your share?

We live in an era that craves equality. Millennials are seeking impartiality. Feminism is rife. And it goes without saying that not all men earn more than their partner – despite the infamous pay gap. Yet somehow, some women are wedged in a dated, bygone era – which greatly resembles their grandparents’ ‘courting’ days. They whole-heartedly believe their man should fund their “#foodporn” foodstagramming habit. But it’s 2017, and I disagree.

I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend in a full time university placement that pays well. It gives him the freedom to foot the bill most of the time (in spite of my protests, I might add). But I would never take this for granted and expect him to pay for every pizza, sandwich or pint I ever wished to consume. Before he was working, we wouldn’t think twice about splitting the bill wherever we went. Not once did I think, “Why should I have to pay for any of this?”, because why should he pay either?

A lot of women selfishly expect to be paid for, wherever they go – be it a first date, or your Friday night date night 3 years down the line. Sure, everyone likes to be treated to a nice meal out – and equally everyone likes to treat others – but relationships are a two-way street, where give and take by both parties contributes to a healthy, respectful relationship. If we are all so equal, then there should be no qualms that a woman can pay the bill too. No more “Bank of Boyfriend”.

Moral of the story… Time to adjust to the 21st Century.

Photo by Me

… Embracing criticism

Part of being a writer is accepting criticism – not as a negative, but as a positive, to help make your writing even better. Although I was writing long before posting anything on this blog, the fear of criticism was one of the reasons why it took me so long to make anything public. But since I’m going into a career where people will read and judge my opinions and writing on a daily basis, criticism is part and parcel – that’s something that took me a while to overcome.

We wouldn’t think twice about someone giving us advice about what to wear, what restaurant to eat at, or what to do when your boyfriend isn’t texting you back – so what makes writing any different? There is perhaps a stigma around the word ‘criticism’, mostly due to the word ‘critical’ sounding so serious and analytical. But someone giving you a bit of advice isn’t a personal attack on your character. It isn’t implying how awful your work already is, and that you should just give up now and go home. It’s most often suggesting how it can be made even better – who wouldn’t want that?

In order to get to the top, you have to accept the criticism even if you don’t agree. When we write something that we’re really proud of, we can get attached to it and would hate to cut it up, delete bits, or change it around. But our own opinions aren’t always right, and some things have to change.

Moral of the story… take it all on board.

 

Photo by Nilufer Gadgieva

… Reality TV

We all have those things that we hate to love – and we usually keep them to ourselves and deny all knowledge of them if someone asks. But you’re definitely kidding yourself if you say you don’t have a guilty pleasure.

For some people it’s chocolate or an embarrassing film from the 90’s, but I have to confess, my guilty pleasure has to be reality TV. Trashy, staged, unrealistic reality TV. Not only do I hate to admit that I take any shred of enjoyment from it, but I also love to hate it. It makes terrible TV – I appreciate that – especially with atrocious concepts like MTV’s “Ex On the Beach” and “Geordie Shore” gracing our screens. But I, like a lot of people, can’t get enough. From “Made in Chelsea” to “Big Brother”, to “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” you name it, I probably watch each season as eagerly as the last.

It isn’t that I find these programmes particularly engaging, nor do I wish I was a member of their Z-list celebrity crowd – excessive binge-drinking, eating kebabs and getting paid to do so is not big and it’s not clever. But reality TV is just so easy-watching (and makes great hangover TV). You also don’t have to be emotionally invested in a deep and potentially depressing storyline (well, you can if you want, Gaz and Char were pretty compelling).

To me it’s just a bit of harmless escapism. By no means do I look up to these reality stars as role models, but the arguments and drama that ensues on these shows is of course much more dramatic than my life – though I definitely prefer to watch as a bystander since I don’t crave that lifestyle at all. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I compare my life to the likes of Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry (who, admit it, is quite frankly a mess at times), and think, yeah, I’ve got my life together over here. It makes me assess my current academic situation and career aspirations and I can safely say I believe I’m on course.

Now, I’m not criticising their life choices (or perhaps I am), but are they even happy doing what they’re doing? Happy with the version of themselves that they’re exposing to the world? Yes, they may have money now, and get to spend much of their time on lavish holidays, but in a few years who will even know their names? All that will be left of them is a failed cosmetic brand venture, a dwindling social media following and a weight loss DVD. Now who wants that?

Moral of the story… continue to relish in my guilty pleasure and feel content with my drama-free life.

 

Photo by Andrea EA Ponente

… Being an introvert

Have you ever had that moment where you just don’t feel like talking? Others might relate to the sense of feeling lost in a big room of people. For me, these are regular occurrences.

I’m usually one of the quieter ones of the group and more than likely stick with the people I know. I hate being the centre of attention and I’ve never been the most confident person. I’m not impulsive, I plan everything. I have a list for everything. I’ve never been one to raise my hand to answer a question in a lesson. I worry, I often overthink, and I’m a massive perfectionist.

What is upsetting to any introvert, though, is the common misconception that introverts are boring. Boring, shy, no personality. This is hardly the case. If you know me, you know I can be opinionated and don’t think twice about standing my ground if I need to. But just because I’m not the loudmouth, drama craving idiot, doesn’t mean I don’t have a personality of my own. Yes, I may be quieter than others, but I’m always thinking, always got things going on in my head, taking in surroundings, people and conversations.

My need to plan is just organisation, this can never be bad. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. My perfectionism is just attention to details that others simply don’t appreciate. I don’t rely on large groups, I am content with my own company. It gives me the opportunity to read, write or just watch what I want to watch on TV, not what someone else does.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of social interaction and I have plenty of close friends. But I just don’t crave that over the top, fake social persona. I know myself, I’ve learnt my strengths and I’ve learnt my weaknesses. Being an introvert is not a weakness. Being an introvert means my life is free from drama. It means I am creative and thoughtful, and a good listener and friend to those around me. It means I am passionate, a hard worker and have long term goals that I will achieve.

Moral of the story… I’ll no longer apologise for who I am.

 

Photo by Pleuntje

 

… My linguistics degree

When applying for university 3 years ago, the whole thing was pretty daunting. Applications, personal statements, UCAS and getting the grades, it was all quite draining but it paid off.

My problem was I had no major idea of what I wanted to study, never mind what career I wanted to go into. I was jealous of those people who had already got their career goals in check. But who really knows what career they want at the age of 18 anyway? I just knew it had to be something to do with language, leading me to linguistics.

When I meet new people and they ask, “What do you study?”, I tell them and their faces all look the same. The same blank expression as I watch them puzzle over what on earth linguistics is in their minds. I get it every time.

“So you can speak loads of languages then?” Nope. Just English.

“So, what is it then?”. Good question. Linguistics isn’t like law where you study law, or like maths where you study numbers and formulae. It’s sort of a mix of studies, ranging from language acquisition to phonetics to sociolinguistics. Sounds pretty bland to a lot of people, but each to their own.

But what I’ve learnt at university is that your degree doesn’t entirely determine your future. Of course it helps to have an idea but I found that starting with something broad like linguistics helped me to explore the possibilities, until I decided on something I actually enjoyed and could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

So I’ve set myself on a journalism career path. Not surprisingly, journalism isn’t the easiest industry to crack, but I have a habit of always making things difficult for myself. What’s life without a challenge, anyway?

But now in my final year, I’ve learnt that it’s also the life skills I’ve gained along the way. Nothing can really prepare you for independence like university can. Living away from home, paying your own bills and doing your own food shops. They’re all in many ways just as valuable as the degree itself.

Moral of the story… I still don’t really know what linguistics is.

 

Photo by Ricky Romero