Tuesday 9 October 2018

Am I A Bad Blogger?

I love browsing a new-in section, or swiping up on the newest blogger purchase, but I've got to say, that isn't something I find myself putting out into the world. I always tag my outfits or leave links when I can, but in reality I wear the same clothes all the time, and some of those items have been long sold out. I just had a clear out and narrowed down my selection even more! Getting the cost-per-wear of an item down to pennies makes me feel like I've made a sound purchase. However, I also question whether this makes me a Bad Blogger. If I keep talking about the same products over and over, is it boring for my readers? It's something I debate a lot, and so I thought it was time to bring the debate to the blog and hey, maybe you'll give me some feedback...
The thing is, I'm not first-and-foremost a blogger. I'm just a girl (standing in front of a boy... kidding) who goes to university and has a part-time job and really loves clothes and blogging. I'm also not made of money. I'd rather shop in Topshop or Zara over Primark, yes, but I just can't drop hundreds of pounds on regular hauls, for new content. I'm also the kind of person who can't place an order immediately. I find myself mulling over an online basket for at least a few days before clicking checkout. I get really annoyed at myself when I buy something that I don't use or wear, and so I just don't buy things all the time, instead pondering over clothes or makeup for a while. The general rule is that if I keep thinking about something for days, then I'll buy it. I don't buy clothes to blog about them, I buy them because I want to wear them. There have been times where I've thought, 'ooh, I'd love to photograph this,' sure, but it's never the first thought.

Look, I get it. It can be boring to see the same outfit over social media again and again. It can be annoying if you like a top and you can't buy it because it's been sold out for two years. But that's real life. As I'm writing this I'm wearing the jeans I bought three years ago, and I'm not going to throw them away because they're old. They're in perfect condition and comfier than ever, and isn't it a good thing as a reader to hear that there are high street jeans that will last that long?
Take this outfit photographed for example. The jumpsuit was bought a few months ago, and it isn't available online anymore. The bag is currently sold out in this colour. The shoes are sold out. I'm wearing the jewellery that I wear every single day. Also it being October now means that the outfit isn't really seasonally appropriate anymore. But it's real. No, I don't prance around in humongous greenhouses every day, but was on holiday, in a comfortable outfit, and took a few minutes of my time there to take some photos. I love this outfit! The jumpsuit is one of my absolute favourite items of clothing in my wardrobe, as it fits me really well and is so versatile. The bag is my only designer purchase, and one I treasure every time I wear it. Even though they aren't available right now, the jumpsuit and bag are items I get Instagram comments and messages about whenever I post them.


There isn't anything wrong with buying new clothes, but it isn't sustainable doing it all the time. We all fall into the trap of fast fashion from time to time, but it is important to remember that not every purchase is necessary. Trends come and go, and it's so fun to embrace them if they're your style, but endlessly consuming throwaway items is ultimately a waste of money, and it's something I try hard not to do. I'm know I spend more money on clothes and makeup than some people I know, but I'm also a good saver and I know what I like to spend my money on, and so I budget for that. Sometimes that means splurging a little on a winter coat, and sometimes that means not buying anything new for a month, or waiting until there's a bigger student discount going. Waiting for discounted events like sales means I'm not always first to post an item online, but to be honest, that's not a concern of mine. I just want to own clothes that I love.
We all have purchased a new dress for a night out despite owning a bunch already, because we don't want to be seen in the same outfit over and over. And I get that, I do. But I've been trying to teach myself out of this. When I bought the jumpsuit pictured, I knew I was going to wear it to a media event at uni. I had the outfit in mind for the night, all dressed up with heels and my ~fancy~ bag. But because it's black and white, a simple shape, and super comfortable, I knew it could become a go-to outfit. No one cares if you wear the same item, or even the entirely same outfit, again. If you love it, there is no reason for not wearing it whenever you get the chance. The other thing is, I could also picture it as a casual piece. I could imagine wearing it with trainers, or with a tee underneath, or with a denim jacket. It's something I try and do with every item I buy, questioning whether I can wear it for more than one occasion, rather than buying it for one night and tossing it away. Obviously there are exceptions, like super fancy items that you'll only wear once in a blue moon, but it does apply for the majority of my wardrobe.

To be honest, and this is the biggest factor for me when it comes to recycling outfits, I really like when bloggers re-wear clothes. I believe it's the biggest sign of someone being authentic online. It's also fun to see how they can style up the same item in multiple ways, like for different events or seasons. It is just so unrealistic to wear something brand new every day. It applies to makeup too. Most of my makeup collection is actually formed of products which I had seen people talking about repeatedly, like Anna with the It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream. Some of my favourite makeup isn't available anymore because it was limited edition. I'm not very adventurous with it either - I basically use the same base/brow/mascara combination and change my eyes and lips depending on my mood. Does that make me a bad blogger? I just see a person who has found the 'holy grails' which we are all searching for. It doesn't mean I won't try new things, but when it comes to sharing products online, I want to write about the ones that I would genuinely share with my friends.
I titled this piece Am I a Bad Blogger? because this is such a consumer-based industry. But I believe there is more to blogging than money. I love reading about a new purchase, of course I do, but the reason I keep returning to a blog or Instagram feed is because I trust that person's sense of style and love to see them wearing the clothes they love. Blogging began as a method of sharing the things you love just because. One thing that I think is often forgotten is that (at least in my mind) a blogger isn't simply a mannequin wearing an outfit ready for you to buy. They can be inspiration. An Instagram photo can spark an idea for me, whether it's a new colour combination to try, or something as simple as remembering that actually, I've already got a pair of trousers that I could wear like that. Blogging doesn't always have to be about spending money, but instead about shopping your wardrobe and inspiring you to wear your existing clothes in new and exciting ways.

This isn't a call for bloggers to stop shopping - we all know it's going to keep happening, because it's fun to share. But I think it's something worth talking about. Outfit repeating isn't some embarrassing faux-pas, it's a sign that you love your personal style.

Monday 3 September 2018

New Beginnings: A Little Life Update

I'm writing this post while sitting on my new couch (old couch with new throw over-top) in my new flat (as of July) with a week to go until I start my postgrad degree. The weather is gloomy-but-warm, much like when I took these photos, I've watched three episodes of Parenthood with my flatmate and best friend, I've finished my responsibilities for the day, and so as said friend leaves for work I've decided to pick up my laptop and type away. I feel like my life has changed dramatically this summer, but not in an overwhelming, panicky way. As someone who has never existed without academia, I always feel like September is the start of a new year, not January. Yes, I reflect around New Year's Eve, but the time when my life actually changes the most is right now.
So what's the big thing? I graduated from university. I've written a post on the lessons I learned at uni, and another on what it's like studying a Creative Writing degree, but I don't feel as if I've noted down how it feels to be a graduate. In a way, it doesn't feel like I'll accept it until I finish the year-long postgrad I'm about to start, but what it has done is make me realise that I'm not alone in feeling lost, and that everyone moves at their own pace. I know people who have secured 'proper' jobs straight away, those who are biding their time in the part-time jobs they already had, and those who really have no clue what they are doing. I helped out at my uni's open day last week and it made me so excited to go back. I just love learning about books, guys. I've fended off quite a few 'So WHY are you doing a Masters?' questions since leaving university, and the simplest answer is that I just wanted to, and I'm beginning to accept that that's the only reason I need.

I did get a job, though. It's nothing fancy, a part-time retail role, but it's in a store I already like, and with the loveliest people. I've gone into jobs before where I felt like I was thrown in and expected to learn everything within the first hour of being there, but here I feel like I can ask the 'stupid' questions and not be laughed at, and I'm hoping it's the sign of a great experience. Well, as great as retail can be. I've mentioned before how I struggle with jobs - not that I'm a disastrous employee, I'm a more capable person than I let on (sometimes) but that internally I'm panicking the whole time about doing things wrong, even when I'm doing well. But right now I'm feeling very positive, and I'm actually quite keen to push through the training period, despite some beginner's nerves.
Like I said up-top, I moved again this year. I hate moving with a passion, but I love how settled I feel in this place. I've never lived with someone who I was friends with before the fact, and it's so refreshing having someone always around to chat to, and be comfortable enough that sitting in silence or even in separate rooms doesn't feel like a big deal. We've done quite a bit of decorating in our living room, turning it into this really cosy area that also has really cool personal touches. I think it's key to have the communal areas of a flat feel like an amalgamation of shared personalities, and this one definitely does. The flat itself isn't in my favourite area of the city, but I'm beginning to see its merits and it's close to that new job I got, so really I can't complain too much. Home is what you make of it, and I'm giving it a good go. (Note to mum if you're reading: it's still my second home.)

I had to let go of a lot of things this summer. Let go of an undergraduate me, let go of a flat literally two minutes from uni, let go of friends who are moving away (not forever, of course), let go of an abundance of free time. Some people, though, they might have been forever goodbyes. It's always sad letting go of people who mean so much to you, but sometimes the signs are there, whether it's a disappointing message reply or the fact they didn't tell you they were in town. Things don't last forever, and that's something I'm constantly trying to remind myself. I don't like change! Or I do, but only when it benefits me. I think I'm just trying to wrap my head around the fact that all these new beginnings I'm experiencing are positive, and that holding onto the past isn't always helpful.

It's a bit of a jumble, this post, but I think it reflects my state of mind right now. I'm a strange combination of comfortable and uncomfortable. I've set all these things up, and I'm preparing to leap into tackling them all. It's like I'm on one of those vertical roller coasters, teetering on the ledge, about to race downwards towards all of these things. Let's see where this year goes.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

The Media Club: August '18

Think of this as a kind of book club, but for all media. Inspired by the opening section of The High Low podcast (more on that later), where Dolly and Pandora share what they've been reading, watching, listening, or generally consuming that week, I want to share the media bits which I've been thinking about recently. Although I plan on doing this once a month, this isn't so much of a monthly favourites post - it's more of a way for me to share different forms of media which I find interesting! Sometimes it'll be things I enjoyed, sometimes it'll be something that made me think, or sometimes something that I'd like more people to pay attention to. From books to blog posts, films to articles, this will be a place to share anything that is on my mind. Here's the first one...

It seems remiss to not mention the podcast which prompted this whole idea! The High Low is probably my new favourite podcast, and I binged 60 episodes in a month to now be up to date. Each episode features a mixture of current affairs, pop culture, a chat about what media Dolly and Pandora have consumed that week, and then a focus on a particular topic. I find myself hearing about writers I would never have heard about otherwise, and my mind opened to new perspectives. What's more, Dolly and Pandora are incredibly intelligent, lovely, and hilarious hosts. I love a podcast that has a bit of structure, but ultimately has a chatty nature, and it's one of those ones that I don't tire of listening to.

I managed to get a few books read so far this summer, but the stand-out is definitely The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. It's one I've been meaning to read for a while, along with Jon's other books, and I'm so glad I finally did it. It's an incredibly in-depth look at how society views "in-between" mental health issues, and discusses why we are so intent on labelling people. Jon's writing is filled with humour but at no point does it feel like he is making fun of psychopathy, instead his humour makes the topic really accessible. I found myself intermittently stopping and saying, "I need to tell you this!" to my family, as some of the stories and facts are so mind-blowing. I highly recommend this read, and I'll even give a shout-out to another of his texts - So You've Been Publicly Shamed was equally as captivating, and actually relates closely to a blog post I wrote recently on call-out culture online. I must add more Jon Ronson books to my list!

My Netflix recommendation this month is Dark Tourist. It's a documentary series that takes journalist David Farrier around the world as he explores the shocking or dark locations and experiences that tourists may seek out. From nuclear radiation tours in Japan, to Jeffrey Dahmer tours in Milwalkee, to meeting vampires in New Orleans, it really is such an interesting watch. The tourist spots can be quite macabre, and there are a few instances of animal slaughtering, so be warned if that's not your thing. Despite a few oh my god moments on my part, I found it so fascinating seeing the things that people will pay to do, and how far they will let their morbid interests take them. I really hope they make a second season, because I flew through the 8 episodes!

Lastly, I'd like to share Chloe Plumstead's article on fake tan. I recently had a big catch up read of Chloe's blog as it's one of my absolute favourites, and this article really resonated with me. It's a bit of a cop-out to just tell you to read it because it sums up my thoughts exactly, but you should read it because it sums up my thoughts exactly. I'd say roughly 80% of the time I have a layer of fake tan on but not many people actually know, because I really do just apply the bare minimum to look like I have a bit of a ~healthy glow~ going on. But as Chloe points out - is that sinister? Does a tan really make me look healthier? Is it great that I've found a way to feel confident? Or is it masking my insecurities and making me rely on a bottle? It's a really interesting read, and one I'm going to keep thinking about!

Sunday 19 August 2018

My Experience Studying Creative Writing at Uni

I recently wrote a post, along with the help of my uni friends, about the lessons I learned while at university. These lessons were quite general, more about the personal rather than study. However today, because I clearly have uni on the mind, I wanted to talk about something more specific: studying Creative Writing. It's one of those subjects that gets a lot of debate. When I would tell people what I was studying, I would get the same questions. What's that like? What are you going to do with that? Isn't it too subjective? And it's true, I think there is an element of risk when you pick creative subjects in academia. However, if it's what you love, it's worth it. I had an overall positive experience with Creative Writing, but I will admit that towards the end of my degree I was questioning whether it was really for me or not.

I thought I'd start this post off, before looking at some pros and cons of the subject, by sharing the structure of the creative writing course at my uni, as I believe it differs from others. At my uni, you can only study Creative Writing along with English Lit, so through a Joint-Honours MA degree. Essentially, I could take English modules (which included Film Studies modules), and Creative Writing modules. Each Creative Writing module was a little different, but very simply put there would be a mixture of 2 hour seminars where we would be taught about a particular writing style through close-reading, chatting, and sometimes trying out the style ourselves, and 4 hour workshops, where we would be given prompts and have to write something on the spot. Everything was graded through coursework, either from essays or a big folio of creative work. In our workshops, after responding to our prompts, we would have to read out pieces aloud for immediate feedback from the tutor and other students. It sounds terrifying - and it definitely was at first, but within a few weeks we all got so used to it that we could enjoy it!

It's difficult to state whether a degree is right for someone or not, because obviously everyone is different. I know people who have totally thrived on Creative Writing, it being the highlight of uni (academically) for them, and some people who really struggled and wondered whether they had made the right choice. I feel like I fell somewhere in the middle. I loved Creative Writing for the first couple years, but in my final year I felt like my interests were shifting more towards English Lit - a subject which I have always had such an interest in and which I've decided to study in a postgrad starting September.

I'm sure it goes without saying, but this post is all based on my personal experience.

It's subjective. This is the argument that a lot of people have when it comes to studying creative subjects, or even when it comes to English exams in school. One tutor's opinion or preference will differ from another's. I've been to see a tutor who told me I was bound to get an A, and walked out with a C because someone else marked it. It's disappointing, but I honestly think you just have to grin and bear it, and if you are absolutely adamant that you should be getting higher grades, then universities will allow appeals with sufficient evidence. For example, I probably could have appealed my C because I've never achieved anything lower than a B for my entire university career. I chose not to, because it didn't affect me getting a First (because of the As and Bs I had in everything else), but if it had threatened my degree classification then I definitely would have gone down that route. I can completely understand why this would be disheartening for someone, I even wrote a post about this topic a few months ago, but it's important to remember that one person's opinion does not mean that you are not a good writer.

You have to write things that you're not interested in. One thing I loved about my first year of Creative Writing was that we got to try out a variety of writing styles. We learned about styles I had never even heard of before, such as prose poetry - a style I really love writing in now! Sure, there were times I really didn't get on with a style, but by the next week we were on to something different. I actually think this is a really useful way of teaching Creative Writing, as it gives those who are unsure what their style is to find something that works for them, and gives those who are set in their ways the chance to being introduced to something new. However, by my 4th year of uni, there were still classes where I had to write in a style that I had learned I didn't like. I was being asked to write reviews, which I hate (book reviews are so different to beauty reviews, who knew), or poetry which even though I like, I just know isn't really my thing. At this point, I knew what I wanted to write, but I was being forced into styles or formats which didn't appeal to me. At that stage in the game, I feel you should be allowed to focus on exactly what you want to refine.

Confidence. I mentioned previously how we would read out the work we had just written in class, and how it was terrifying at first. But what I didn't say was how thankful I am that we were made to do it. I've never really enjoyed reading out loud at school, but after doing it week after week it doesn't phase me too much anymore. I also noticed that I became so much more confident in my other classes. Instead of staying silent during English or Film classes, I found myself sharing my opinions more, so it definitely helped improve my uni career. I also sat on the English, Film and Creative Writing stall for uni open days, teaching potential applicants about the options at uni. It's something I never would have picked to do without becoming comfortable talking in front of people. Finally, it has also given me more confidence in my writing. Yeah sure, there are times when I don't like things I've written. But I can see such a steep improvement from my writing before uni, and my writing now, and it's down to feeling like I can actually do it.

Support. I know I've talked about how subjective Creative Writing can be in terms of grading, but I do have to give props to the staff for the amount of support they would give. They were happy to have one-on-one meetings outside of class to read work, to give criticism or guidance, and sometimes to even help facilitate work experience. I was also able to go to one of my tutors for general chats about life, and really appreciated a sounding board in times of need. To put it delicately, I felt that there were some tutors who liked the tough-love approach to teaching, but others were so kind and so willing to help. This is one of the amazing things about uni in general actually - tutors always have office hours where their doors are open to chat. Whether it's help with coursework or something you're working on out of class, they are such a good resource available to you.

Friendship. Never in my life have I found a more supportive group of people than in my Creative Writing class. We would always clap for each other after reading out, tell each other how much we loved each other's pieces, give constructive and friendly criticism, and that was just in the classroom. My closest friends from uni were Creative Writing students, and I think it's because we all learned straight away how to be supportive to one another. We also all knew the struggle of being nervous about work, sharing our personal histories through writing, and commiserating over negative feedback together. I'm sure we were the exception to the rule at times, considering how well we got on, but I will say that if you pick a creative degree then you will be surrounded by creative people. And, by nature, creative people understand creative people. They understand the stress and the pressure, and they also know how important it is to feel good about what you create. Hence, you'll find people who have got your back!

It goes without saying that university isn't for everyone, and that you don't need to study Creative Writing to be a writer. But if it's something you are considering then I say, keep considering. There are cons, of course there are, but I really do feel like I grew as a person and as a writer. It will be such a learning curve, and you can really get so much out of it if you're willing to go the distance. Studying writing also gives you the chance to learn from other writers (tutors, guest speakers, and your fellow students) which you may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

If you'd like to hear anything else about studying Creative Writing which I might not have mentioned, leave a comment below! And if you've studied it too, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Lessons Learned at University

Look at me, a big smile on my face because minutes before I had graduated from University of Dundee, with a First Class Honours degree in MA English and Creative Writing. I walked across the stage (I was the tenth person I believe) and got bopped on the head, and screamed and clapped the rest of the way through. I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet (I took piano and flute for a start) but I am so damn proud of myself for achieving the grades I did, getting an A for my dissertation which I actually really enjoyed writing, and for all the other personal gains I made along the way.

There are so many lessons to be learned at university. And not just in your classes. I feel like I completely grew as a person when I went to uni. I had a year of college where I do feel like I stepped away from the girl I was in school, but I know that during the past four years of uni I really learned more about myself, and what I want and need. I may eventually write a post about more practical tips for going to uni, but this post is a list of the things I personally learned, from friendships to missing your mum. I've also roped some of my friends into sharing their most important lessons too!

A tiny disclaimer: Please bear in mind that I loved uni. I'm even going back for a postgraduate degree (an MLitt in English Studies) because I love learning, literature and l... Dundee. I know it's not the same for everyone, but I feel like I graduated as a better person, and even though I don't completely know what the hell I want to do in my life, I know I'm more sure of myself than I ever have been. Onto the post...
Your confidence and sense of self will make leaps and bounds. Uni can be quite a stressful, anxiety-inducing time, it's true. But it is also the biggest contributor to my growing confidence in myself. I'm not the most confident person, but through uni I am comfortable speaking out in class, giving my own opinions, talking in front of groups of people, talking to strangers, and can see how my writing and analysis skills have grown immensely. I'm a quiet person by nature, but I learned I am not quiet-minded. I found myself doing things which I never thought I would before. It doesn't make things less terrifying, but now I know I can handle it.

You're not boring if you don't drink. Knowing your limits doesn't make you a dull person who can't enjoy themselves. Neither does just wanting to take a night off or just plainly not liking the taste of alcohol, or whatever other reason you may not want to drink. Over the past year I'd say 90% of the time I've had a few drinks I've had headaches on the night, so it's just not worth it to me to drink lots. I've learned that I enjoy a social drink, and I've recently got into gin and I am enjoying trying new ones, but the fact of the matter is that I absolutely hate the feeling of being drunk, and I don't really want to cause myself physical pain via those headaches, and that's totally cool. Additionally, people just don't care. I know drinking culture is huge at uni, but in my four years there was only a handful of times I felt I had to explain what's written in this paragraph to anyone.

Don't feel ashamed for enjoying uni. Lots of my time at uni was spent listening to people complain about classes or assignments. I 100% understand that university or academia in general is not for everyone, but it really does annoy me when I hear people complaining. I don't think some people understand how much of a privilege it is to be at university - in Scotland we don't have to pay for tuition, and it's something I think too many people take for granted. I like going into a class and hearing an interesting lecture from a person who is so excited about their research. I like giving and hearing opinions about texts, and reading all of these books and articles which I might have not known about otherwise. I like forming my own opinions and talking about them with other people. There's a strange air around uni that it's cool to not care, but actually, I think it's great to be excited about learning. Uni is just a waste of time otherwise.
Don't feel ashamed for doing well. More often than not, at uni you will hear people talking about how badly they've been graded in an essay, or how they haven't studied for an exam, or how they can't be bothered doing their resits. And you know what, studying isn't my favourite thing - shock horror. But when I put lots of effort in, and get a good grade, I should feel proud of that. Especially because I quite often enjoy the process of researching a topic I've picked myself. Yes, it can be gruelling, but I get satisfaction from seeing a project through to the end. Because there's such a big focus on how badly we're all doing, it does sometimes feel awkward to say that actually, I did get an A for that essay. I think it's the fear of coming off as a massive geek, the classic high school cliche. Grades aren't everything, of course, but they are still something to celebrate. Instead of being ashamed for doing well, be proud of yourself.

Opportunities are there when you look for them. University can be quite overwhelming at first, so I don't blame anyone for not immediately searching out new things to do - I will hold my hands up and admit that I didn't really participate in extra-curricular things in my first two years of uni. I felt like there wasn't really anything there for me because all I heard about was sports. However, when I got to the end of my second year and had made a few close friends, I realised how much there was for me to do. Throughout my years at uni I have had an internship, two jobs, become the fashion editor of the uni magazine, won an award, sat on the English, Film and Creative Writing stall at multiple open days for the uni, and attended a whole host of different events. Not to mention all the people I've met through all these things. I've made such a supportive group of friends, was in a relationship for two years, and found mentor figures in tutors.

You can't make people like you. I was really lucky with my coursemates throughout uni, in that I feel like we all got on so well, and even if you weren't ~proper~ friends with someone, they'd still be up for a friendly chat while waiting in the hallway. However, I had a nightmare situation with flatmates in which I admittedly had no backbone. I let them walk all over me, and it took an annoyingly long time for me to finally accept that I couldn't make them like me, no matter how nice I was to them. Some people just aren't worth your time! No matter how many lovely people you meet, there is always bound to be someone who doesn't vibe with you. Think of the phrase you can be the juiciest peach in the world and there will always be someone who doesn't like peaches. Your energy is best spent on yourself and the people who do get you.
You're an adult, so you will be treated like one. You are expected to organise yourself, to be a self-starter and to look after yourself. You can't just expect someone else to tell you exactly where you need to be, to go, or what to do. Email alerts sent straight to your phone are your best friend, as is an academic diary (whether paper or digital) and if all else fails, a group chat with course-mates to double check how do I reference a quote from a website again? Your tutors will treat you as if you've got your shit together. So if you don't? Go ask for help and they will happily lend you a hand. Being an adult doesn't mean knowing everything all the time. If anything, being an adult is knowing that asking for help is ok. You can't rely on other people to help you out without voicing that first.

It's ok to go home and be cared for. Yes, your independence is great, but sometimes you just need home. It's not good to run away from your problems, but it can be beneficial to just go home for a few days and have your family around you. If I'm having a stressful time, it's nice to be around my home comforts, having family movie nights, and having someone else cook my meals for a couple days. And even if I'm not stressed it's fun to go and visit anyway for a break from the uni routine. It puts your uni life in perspective, and gives you the time to properly switch off for a little while. There's nothing wrong with wanting your mum's advice, your dad's pizza, and your sister's hugs.

It's ok to not know what you're doing when you graduate. It's a small group of people who come to uni knowing exactly what they're doing afterwards, and an even smaller group who actually get a job straight after. Some people go into a career which doesn't have anything to do with the degree they studied, but the years of study and personal growth still prepared them for it. It is not a waste of time to study something which you thoroughly enjoy, because eventually you will find a way to mesh it into a future career. Yes, life is short. But there's also no reason to rush. You will find your way.
And now, a few lessons from my friends. Keep in mind they are all talented creative writers, which is how they've all shown me up on my own blog...

For me, the best thing I learned at uni was the importance of doing something you want and love. To spend around 4 years of your life on something you love makes the experience all the more memorable. The emphasis should not be on doing a degree that will get you the best paying job but a degree that you will find interesting and enjoy studying.

University taught me a little about study and a lot about life. It was a period of instability that forced me to take control, whether or not I was ready for that kind of responsibility. It challenged my mental health, my bank account, and my liver. It may not have been the easiest ride, but I learned plenty of important lessons along the way: leaving things until the last minute never works out well, talking out problems is better than isolating yourself and pretending that everything is fine, living alone can in some ways be harder than living with people you dislike, and many things besides. University experiences taught me to take time for myself, and to listen to my heart but also to my friends and family. It taught me to ask for help whenever I need it, whatever I may need help with. I may not have left university with a concrete idea of who I am and what the future holds, but I left it as a more mature and ultimately better person.

Sometimes, always, there are those who stand out in a crowd—not because they are the
one to step up front and kneel to rise again.

What makes them stand out is that they don’t seek out attention at all; they bow before
the world and remain there. They are cracking the stiff spine to find a language so lovely
one cannot but whisper its words aloud and watch the letters wrap themselves in all the
silent spaces between the lonely and the loved. These people are the combination of
many things—humility, kindness, sincerity, quiet resolve and endurance.

I have learned many things at university. How to embrace culture. How to listen. When to
speak. What to say. The time it takes to scribble down a list in the library. How many
skips on Spotify to save whilst studying. Where to find the best Chinese Crispy Rolls. The
most calming woodland walk to escape city centre bustle.

When to give-up and rest. The lyrics to subtitled songs. three lenses on an old camera.
How to save pennies. Public-speaking. Interview-questions. Sitting quietly—with other
people, all alone. To love without all the rest—without knowing what comes next.

I have learned many things at university, and still, I think the most valuable lesson I have
learned these past three years is how to find those who stand out in a crowd. The ones
whose gracious speech is as sweet and soothing as honey to the soul.

The biggest lesson I learned at uni was that versions of yourself expire. Naturally. If you hold on to them, they’ll start rotting any new versions that you try to become. A lot of students are driven, obsessive, academic types – those types can spend so long pursuing a vision, at the expense of everything else, that by the time they manage to conjure it into reality, it’s already irrelevant. Dead weight. It took a long time for me to get that into my head, but eventually I stopped pursuing ideas of myself that looked or sounded nice – “friends forever”, “top of the class”, “his girlfriend”, “a scientist”, “a thin person”, “a boho gal”, “a novelist” – and learned to write something off quicker if it wasn’t making me happy. So I guess the biggest thing I learned at uni is that I don’t know very much about myself at all. But at least I read a shitload of books. And made some stellar friends – including you, Emily. Love you xoxo

(Also – make your bed as soon as you get out of it. It stops you crawling back in, and you will want to crawl back in some days. So trust me, make your bed. You’ll feel better.)


Monday 6 August 2018

A Letter to the Girl Who Doesn't Hate Her Ex-Boyfriend

The girl who still loves him, even though it is a different kind of love.

I started writing this letter to an unknown girl. I imagined her as a twenty-something creative, a girl who had got over the all-consuming part of heartbreak, and was milling around in the part where it doesn't hurt so much, but it's not quite gone yet. And then, as every writer does I'm sure, I realised I was writing to myself. Part of me wants to hate the man who made me fall in love with him. He's the man who pursued me, who won me over and made me vulnerable and strong at the same time. He's the man who made me happier than I could have ever imagined, who had me dreaming of a future life I had never pictured before. And he is the man who ended it. The one who took it all away. This letter is to myself, but also to the other girls who don't hate their ex-boyfriends.
It's important to state the difference between loving someone and being in love with them. When we were together I was in love with him. Very in love. And I still was for a while after he broke up with me. The thing is, he had time to get over the relationship before it was over, whereas I was thrown into single life in an instant. And even though it did take a long time to accept it, I taught myself to love him without being in love with him, the man who once told me that he didn't want to be in a relationship anymore. I taught myself to look at him as a person, not as my boyfriend. My ex-boyfriend. I don't not hate him because I'm in love with him, the reason I don't hate him is because he's a good person and because, I like to think, so am I. He hurt me, but I am working to forgive him for that.

There are still times when I have to remind myself that I can't rely on him anymore. It could be something as trivial as realising that I've only been to the cinema once over the summer because that was Our Thing that we did together. Mammia Mia: Here We Go Again is a pretty good single film to see, but if we were still together we would have had at least one cinema day trip (that's two films including a trip to McDonalds) by now. Or it could be something more serious. Like picking up the phone to call him when something bad has happened, only to realise that he can't always be the shoulder to cry on, and putting the phone away.

While at first I felt pride when people would tell me that I am so mature for still being friends with him, a better person than they are, now I wonder if I am fooling myself. Because when he told me that he has met someone new, and it scares him how much he likes her, I cried. I remember when he said that about me, before he changed his mind. I couldn't help but think about the beginning of our relationship and how incredibly happy I was, and feel down that he is now enjoying that with someone else. I realised that when he said, "I don't want to be in a relationship," he really meant, "I don't want to be in a relationship with you."

The thing is that I didn't cry because he was with someone else. I knew it was going to happen one day. I've talked to other people myself, even. I cried because he told me how much he likes her, and I wasn't ready to think about that yet. 

It's not easy. It's one of the toughest things I have ever done, keeping him in my life.
There are still so many unsaid things. Things that I let go of when we were together because a relationship is about compromise and in the big picture of my life, they didn't matter. But even now, I feel sad when I remember how he tarnished my 21st birthday, and I feel utter shame when I remember what he told me about my body in an argument one time, and I feel total hopelessness when I remember that he said he would never hurt me and that's exactly what he did. I tell myself these things because the pain is easier to handle when I can displace it into him. I don't tell him these things, because in reality I know that I let them go in the past because I wanted to let them go. It was a wonderful relationship. The perfect first love. It was just always meant to end because while I was happy to push through, he wanted to run from the struggle.

Even that sentence gives me chills. I can't hate him for not wanting to be in a relationship. I know this.
He's a good person. And the thing is, even though space between us is necessary, and he's moved to another city, I know that I couldn't say goodbye to him forever. For every negative feeling that I experience when I see him living his life outside the boundaries of mine, I know that this is the life he chose. It may not be the one I pictured for the two of us, but hopefully one day we will both be able to share our happy lives together. Not romantically, but as good friends. Friends who know each other so well, and can see that they are both content.

I don't hate him. I want him to be happy.

This letter, although it is for the unknown girl, and for myself, will inevitably find him. And I hope that when he sees it, he understands that this comes from a place of wanting to be strong. It comes from a place of accepting that things are forever changed and that even though it is hard, it is worth it. This letter is to say that it is ok to not hate your ex-boyfriend. It is ok to love him, because you know the difference now, and your heart can open for someone else. You will fall in love again.

So here's to you, the one who is caught in a limbo. Knowing that you can't be with him, not even wanting to be with him, but loving him all the same.
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