One trip back to university, several realisations

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The past few weeks haven’t been what I would call a great time. They’ve been long, stressful, sleep deprived, frustrating and largely disappointing and I’ve needed reminding almost constantly that the glass should always be half full. I haven’t had the time or spare energy to maintain any hobbies, including this blog and my beloved running/exercise regime has been non-existent. Gloomy Lauren is gloomy.

However, I am refusing to let stress and all the non-joy that comes with big adult decisions and processes ruin any more of this year. You will be a good year 2017. You bloody will. (I guess I’ll have to also work on not watching the news 24/7 to make myself believe it’ll be a good year).

With all the stuff we’ve had going on, the trip I took back to uni with Dan about a week ago hasn’t really come back to the front of my mind until now. We were asked by an old tutor of ours who we’re still in contact with if we would come back and take part in an audit of the department we studied under for our journalism degrees, which we happily agreed to. We both had, and I think I speak for most of my good university friends from my course here, a really good higher education experience. We loved our course, had sociable tutors and lecturers, a great balance of practical work and theory and brilliant people to learn with. Obviously this was all helped along massively by VK Pineapple, cocktails from saucepans, mass sleepovers and many Thursday nights spent watching indie bands and dancing til 2am. It was better than I had ever imagined uni would be when I was younger and getting stressed about filling in UCAS forms online and being put on hold by student finance for all of eternity.

Going back last week meant walking through the town we spent so much time aimlessly wandering, past the pubs we spent more money than we had in and then all the way through the campus. It was weird. More than weird actually, and the nostalgia level was through the roof. Peering into the canteen we used to buy coffee from and passing the courtyards we sat in and rooms we learnt in felt like a trip to someone else’s life. Like something that happened to someone you know really well from hearing stories over and over again- it just didn’t feel like that person was me. I guess that happens over time and especially when so much has changed. As part of the audit we were asked about our jobs, how life is panning out, what we took away from the course and carried with us into post-uni life and about how ready we felt to take on the real world after graduation.

What it really gave me, apart from a glass of good red wine and chance to go back to my old pub haunt and feel outraged that it’s now gastro and fancy, was a chance to remember I’ve done okay. The start of 2017 has felt so frustratingly lame compared to what we had imagined, that I started to feel like nothing in my life was what I wanted which is a slippery slope to start falling down. This little trip down memory lane helped me realise that I am a functioning adult with a good job and I no longer drink from saucepans (sadly) because I’ve built a life and a career and for the most part, things have gone smoothly. I just need patience and deep breaths and a sunnier outlook on the rest of this year and I think everything will be fine. Thanks KU for the degree and the friends and the great cheese baguettes and for still letting me know that life is good all these years later.

21 things you didn’t factor in when you were a teenager planning your dream adult life

1. Not having perfect skin. Everything was supposed to clear up by your 21st birthday but instead of looking like a foundation TV advert, you’re still battling the occasional outbreak and slapping endless concealer on little red face mountains before nights out. Beautiful.

2. Being tired. Like, all the time.

3. Getting really excited about staying in. Cocktails, club nights, gigs, dinners, trips to the theatre and after work pub sessions? Erm, no thanks. I’d rather put on my fluffiest pyjamas and lay down all evening while I slowly eat a block of cheese and remain quite still.

4. Not having enough money to dress exclusively in TopShop. Wasn’t it so sad when you realised how expensive life actually is?

5. Rolling into work covered in dry shampoo and carrying a healthy, balanced lunch in a plastic bag, rather than strutting into the office with a fresh blowdry and a frothy latte. Everything you thought about shiny, pristine, career you was wrong. Very wrong.

6. The lack of 4 bedroom house, husband, well behaved children, cute dog and brand new car. Remember being a teenager and thinking that was how it would work? Lol.

7. Your immense love for comfy, warm, practical clothes, because when it’s cold and you have a long day ahead of you there’s just no time for exposed skin or pretty shoes.

8. The eternal battle to empty the washing basket. If only someone prepared 16 year old you for this barrel of laughs.

9. Having to pay for things that don’t equate to fun.

10. How much of a big role candles would play in your life.

11. The impracticality and impossibility to own 5 puppies.

12. Wanting to travel to places based on their culture and museums rather than beach quality and nightlife.

13. The fact that food always runs out, always needs to be replaced and always costs money.

14. How proud and happy and relaxed you can feel after a productive cleaning session. YAY BLEACH.

15. How differently you’d start to look at friends. Less BFFL, more ‘can I RELY on you though pal?’

16. How quickly being in charge of your food and household shopping would become old. Can some sort of fairy please stock my cupboards with sensible things while I’m out? Please?

17. Cushions. Throws. Prints. Everywhere.

18. A passport costs HOW much?

19. The realisation that it’s unlikely you’ll have a hot tub in your penthouse even in a dream, let alone real life.

20. The Sims did not properly prepare you for how to seriously deal with household disasters like leaks and floods.

21. The sudden ability any kind of container has to be a vase once you hit peak adulthood.

 

 

We need to tone down our ‘first world problems’

  
I was standing in Waitrose the other day, about to treat myself to this insanely good pine nut and pesto pasta they do and I sauntered over to the lunch shelves and guess what- THEY DIDN’T HAVE IT. Well, lost the plot didn’t I. I walked further than necessary, on my lunch, to go to flipping Waitrose and it’s raining a tiny bit and they don’t even have it and now I’ll have to get another lunch that I hadn’t planned on. Why do these things happen to me? Oh and do you want to know the icing on the terrible cake? Do you? They didn’t have any Blood Orange San Pellegrino.

How the hell do you a rescue a day after injustices on that scale? Livid.

That Waitrose scenario upset me in a big way. I got angry. I started to grind my teeth and got annoyed and didn’t enjoy whatever other salady/grainy/seedy lunch I opted for during my blind rage. Then I stomped back towards the office and treated myself to a Starbucks because I had a hard time and hey, I deserved it. I then strolled back to work and flopped down in the kitchen and told my friend via whatsapp about my misfortune. We then went on to discuss how annoying it is that we can’t have iphone 6 work phones instead of 5s models from our respective work places.

Charming, right?

Stuff like this makes me feel like a terrible, horrible, bad person. Like I should be removed- but it’s not like I’m alone. Writing down how upset and angry and hard done by Waitrose not having some pasta made me feel makes it seem even worse. Reading back my own futile temper tantrum over something so ridiculous- what a waste of energy.

I mean, it’s highly likely there was another contributing factor on that fateful day. I doubt it was just the pasta. In fact I know there was something else on my mind that day (not for this post), putting me in a horrible mood, but still. What on earth am I getting so upset about not getting the expensive lunch option I wanted from the nice, swish mini-supermarket up the road from my big Central London office? Jumping down from my high and mighty pedestal I actually started seriously thinking about this ‘first world problems’ culture we have going on. You only have to turn on the news to realise that the world is not in good shape and you’ve got it okay.

So then I started to type this out (I put it on the back burner for a while because I was busy coughing my guts and stuff for a couple of weeks), and I started taking mental notes of the all first world problems I heard in conversations.

“But if I go to Bali for only 10 days I probably won’t make it to the three day yoga course my friend did last year because I want at least three beach days too. We don’t get anywhere near enough leave over Christmas it’s ridiculous. It should be changed.” First world problems.

“They only had the candle in copper and I’m not redesigning the dining room. I nearly complained but the queue was long.” First world problems.

“He didn’t get the right blusher. Imagine spending £60 on the wrong blusher and having to face the Christmas queues to change it. I don’t get why people can’t just do things right. I wanted to use it before Christmas.” GOD IMAGINE THAT. First world problems.

You catch my drift. I could go on forever. The ‘first world problems’ just keep on coming and I know I’m just as bad as anyone. It’s become a whole thing to actually mention our ‘privilege’ and quote ‘first world problems’ while getting upset or angry when we can’t have what we want or one of our luxuries lets us down. I’m not saying people aren’t grateful, I think I actually know very few people I would refer to as being genuinely ‘spoilt’, but it wouldn’t kill us to count our blessings a little more often. Getting in a rage over stuff that matters so little, (or not at all) in the grand scheme of life, is not attractive. It’s not what we should aspire to. Yeah it might make for a funny tweet or a witty comment to your friends- but it’s time to tone it down I think.

Everyone has their stuff going on and it’s highly likely every one of us is being eaten away quietly by something. We all suffer and we all go through stuff, but on the whole I know myself and the people who will read this are lucky. We’re really, very lucky people. We have more than many and we should take some time out in 2016 to remember that and let the luck wash over us a bit. Kinda like a soul cleansing, without sounding too wanky and insufferable (not that i really know what ‘soul cleansing’ means.)

It’s refreshing to sometimes put ‘problems’ into perspective and realise your raging temper or bad mood are all there for nothing. Also it would be quite refreshing to hear a little gratitude for the nice lives we lead and have the chance to build on, even when we do feel like the world is against us and everything is going wrong. Probably a lot healthier for our wellbeing too- something that definitely needs to be looked after.

19 standard thoughts on your last day of annual leave

  
1) Is this really, truly, actually, seriously happening?

2) I didn’t make the most of those lay-ins. I wasted at least two and now it’s all over and I’ll never get those lay-ins back and how did I let this happen?

3) I can’t remember exactly what my job is.

4) I hope and pray I didn’t leave any dregs of tea in my desk mug.

5) Do I go to bed early to be as prepared as possible for the first day back or do I just stay up and make the most of the last night and suffer horribly in the morning? 

6) Maybe I should go travelling. 

7) Why isn’t it a bank holiday? Who even decides on bank holidays?

8) Do I even look refreshed? Is that a bag on my eye bag? 

9) *sets aside 4 hours to look for work ID badge* 

10) Why did I not just book one more day off? Why am I so incompetent at knowing what I really want and need from life?

11) I don’t wanna. 

12) I must finish writing that book and get it published and sell the rights to a film company and become a millionaire so I never need to set another alarm. I must finish by the end of next week. 

13) I should have tried harder to be a professional holiday maker. 

14) Why I didn’t I take time to appreciate and reflect on not having to go to work when I had more time off ahead of me?

15) Should have washed some work clothes really.

16) Must try to not let the whole last day off be ruined by back-to-work-blues. Should probably stop laying face down in bed. 

17) Tomorrow I will strut into work and probably get offered a job on the board of directors but for now I’m just gonna have a little cry and a little eat. 

18) I haven’t achieved anything in the past two weeks. Why am I not one of those yoga-doing, early rising, busy socialites that look chic everyday and also are there any biscuits in the cupboard? Help. 

19) I wish I was a dog or a cat.

5 problems with always wanting to achieve more

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If you’re the sort of person who achieves things, overcomes things and conquers challenges but then immediately wonders ‘but what next’, we are alike. I never feel like I’ve done good enough. I know I might not have done too badly at all, but I always think there’s a bigger achievement or a more satisfying reward somewhere out there. And I just have to have it. It can be an amazing trait, because you don’t need much of a push to be a go-getter, but on the other hand, it can bring problems. These are my main issues with this whole ‘never enough, can do better’ mindset:

1) Your best starts to mean less.

It’s hard to congratulate yourself when you do amazingly well and still feel like you missed something, or focus on the what ifs and missed opportunities. There might be a completely perfect outcome to something, but you wonder about a more perfect situation, and then you aren’t satisfied. Your best effort should make you content, but it does the opposite.

2) You probably have unrealistic goals.

I’m a person with a plan for just about everything. I like setting goals and I like working towards something, but when you do great things and pass big milestones but don’t see it for yourself, your goals become unreachable. You can end up setting yourself up for a loss, which hurts even more.

3) It’s exhausting.

Constantly questioning how to better, further and improve is tiring. It’s so, so tiring. Sometimes it’s a good kind of tiring, but a lot of the time it’s just full on brain fatigue.

4) You start to feel greedy

This is definitely something I worry about. I have more than enough and more than I used to think I would have at this stage in my life, but because of my ‘I can do better’ mindset, I feel like I’m greedy, because what more do I need to feel happy? I have more than a lot of others, but I just want EVEN more on top of that.

5) It can get in the way of happiness

To feel content is so relaxing and peaceful, but it can be a feeling that comes around a lot less when you’re trying to achieve more all the time. It’s hard to feel really happy when you never let yourself reflect on how well you’ve done, or how much of a good job you’re continually doing.

On the flip side of all of these points, being motivated and hungry for success is a great thing too, because it gets you places. Just maybe not in the most peaceful way. I like the way I am and I wouldn’t really want to change it, but I do wonder if they’ll ever come a time I can sit back and say to myself ‘well done me, I did good.’

I also think…would I have come this far if I wasn’t this way inclined? Probably not.

Swings and round-a-bouts I guess.

The realities of living a career life 

  

When I first went to uni I had this idea in my mind of what it would be like to be a career girl. I didn’t even really know what a ‘career girl’ was back then. I just imaged someone who put on a smart, chic outfit every day, travelled into central London and sipped on lattes in the morning and wine after work. I’m not sure exactly what work I imagined I would be doing in between all this coffee drinking, shirt buying and cocktail bar frequenting, but there we go. I was a teenager with a dream, a student loan and a Ford KA. I bloody miss that car.

So now I guess, 6 years later, I am a career person. I have carved out a career in digital communications and social media and it’s going well. I can’t complain on any level about where I’ve got to aged 25. It’s all gone fairly smoothly. There’s been progression, good friends made, good work done, many stressful days and many drunken Friday nights. There has also been many boring days, many ‘omg what I am doing with my life’ days and many mornings where getting out of bed has seemed the worst thing in the world.

What it hasn’t been though, is absolutely anything like I imagined it. The reality is so different than the picture you come up with in your mind of this future you, strutting around the city in expensive shoes, Starbucks in hand, answering phone calls and arranging working lunches. Life is most certainly not an episode of Gossip Girl. It’s more like Hollyoaks with less murder and more hangovers and dancing on kitchen tables because going out to drink is too expensive.

To be honest, I much prefer the reality. I like waking up with just enough time to get ready, potentially not brushing my hair and just throwing it up and rolling into work on a packed, gross tube with my homemade lunch in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. I know. The glamour.

I wouldn’t say I’m dedicating my life to work, far from it actually, but I have, and continue to put a lot of effort into my career. I don’t want to spend my days doing something I don’t feel is worthwhile. Working makes me feel good, like I’m spending my time wisely, and I’m always learning new things, which I think is a sign things are going okay for me. It’s just a life that is so laughably removed from the glossy ideal.

Working is a slog isn’t it, let’s be honest. Not always a horrible slog, but still. Even when you do a job you love, it’s tiring, it takes a lot of your creative energy, it takes up almost all of your time and everything you do comes back to work in one way or another. Your free time, your holidays, your sleep, your money to fund things and how much you have to spend on living in general.

I salute every young person who’s out there doing the 9-5 (or the 8-6 plus some email checking on the weekends),  or whatever your working set up is, good for you for putting in the time and effort to make something of yourself. Everyone has a different idea of what they want to do and what they want to be and there are many different ways that people are doing it. Getting there however is another ball game entirely.

I’m glad I wasn’t fully aware of the red, sore eyes, aching typing fingers, long teleconferences, stress headaches, office politics, feeling and looking like shit on public transport while being touched by strangers and everything else that comes with working life. It would probably have not filled me with drive and ambition the way my shiny, foamy latte imaginary life did.

I’m fully in support of my work life being what it is. I massively CBA to get out of bed and contour my face or throw together a Pinterest-worthy outfit every morning while preparing a to-do list, before making a smoothie and heading off to a coffee shop. Snoozing four times and eating breakfast biscuits over my keyboard with my dry shampoo bun suits me just fine.

Change in your early twenties

I was meant to spend this Sunday merrily wandering around in the sunshine with my friend but instead I’m in bed feeling vile. The only saviour is the fact I found a Callipo in the freezer and had time to catch up on stuff I can do without moving (laying, napping, rolling around in blankets). Also writing this. From bed. Hiya.

I’m also a teeny tiny bit happy to be lounging in bed because I’m so SO tired. Tired mostly from adjusting to a new job and a new routine. Change is one of those things that’s ultimately good for us. It might not always come about because of the best circumstances but it certainly proves who we are. Getting your head around change is hard and exhausting.

My early twenties have been full of change. Life seems to be ever-evolving and turning direction and while it’s never taken me somewhere I don’t want to be, it’s been a tiring ride.

Turning 21 and leaving uni feels like it happened to someone else. It feels like something that took place so long ago it can’t be my memory. Yet at the same time running around Kingston-Upon-Thames drunk on port and visiting the river late at night to watch the swans feels like five minutes ago. Time is weird. I’d kinda like time to slow down. It’s only being able to have a day of doing nothing that’s given me time to reflect on how much has changed.

Relationships have changed, homes have changed, life goals, career paths, friendship groups, hobbies and even food I like. It’s all changed. Some for the better and some maybe for the better, I’m not entirely clear on everything but who is?

This period of life, my early twenties (now mid-twenties I guess JESUS WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN) must be the same for almost everyone. Its like you haven’t quite found a clothes size that fits you perfectly because you keep fluctuating, but you feel like pretty soon that will stop and you’ll find a good fit. The not fitting quite right into anything period hasn’t been a bad one at all. Youth is wasted on the young, they’re right about that. I’ve had a ball of a time in the last five years and haven’t appreciated it enough. It’s been a surreal, hormonal, happy, sad, exciting, hard, confusing, tipsy and candle-burning at both ends time.

I’ve learnt the most about myself and the most about life by taking on changes and just rolling with it. Not knowing what the hell is happening around you is a good test of how well you deal with shit. I’m now glad for the instability and the financial recklessness and the adventurous travels. I’m glad I tested myself and I’m glad I am where I am at 25. I’d like to personally thank the challenge of change for shaping me and most people I know into fun, hilarious, cheerful and kind people. THANKS FOR THAT.

I’m going to go listen to Roll Deep or something and think about 2009.

Things to remember when you start a new job

  

So starting a job isn’t the most fun thing in the world, we can probably all agree. I’ve inflicted it on myself 4 times since leaving uni and every time the first day looms I end up asking myself why I’ve done this again. Why have I left an office and a group of colleagues I’m comfortable and settled with? Like, FFS Lauren, stop pushing yourself to do better. God.

In fairness, I’ve always ended up loving what I’ve done work wise, which is nice, and moving on has been a mixture of natural career progression and working on project contracts, so I’ve sort of had to do it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re super confident or taking on a job you’ve been headhunted for because you’re a sensational genius, I think everyone can relate to first day apprehension. The whole thing of getting used to how things work, even down to tea and coffee. Do you do rounds? Is it all communal? Can I just delve into those mint teabags? Is that cake for everyone? You know how it is. I started a new job last week so it felt like a good time to get this down.

And then there’s all the other crap you have to deal with, like setting up staff with IT, getting  a log in, getting security passes and codes. A long list of new job admin. Oh the joy. At the end of the day though, it really isn’t that bad, and there’s a few things to remember that can ease the process:

THEY hired YOU 

You applied, got shortlisted, got interviewed, maybe got interviewed again and then they picked you. You were the one they wanted, so turning up on your first day should be all about, HIYA I’M HERE AND I’M READY TO PROVE YOU RIGHT. These people wanted you on their workforce, you’re not just rocking up somewhere at random to be annoying and get in the way.

New job, new mindset

This is something I actually really like about starting somewhere new. It’s a good excuse to rid yourself of any work negativity you’ve collected from your old place (I mean, let’s face it, it happens) and spring clean your mind to feel happy and motivated. This is something completely new, with new people and new aims and you can tackle it in whatever you feel best, without any opposition from your negative thoughts.

You’re about to better yourself

Any new job means new experiences, probably some you never even imagined you would have. Any kind of situation you handle or skill you develop can go on the old CV and be used to your advantage. There’s no better time than when you start something new to set yourself some self-development goals and get going with them.

New friend potentials, new drinking partner potentials, new lunch pal potentials etc etc

I think people really make a job what it is, so getting to know new ones is never a bad thing. If you’re fortunate enough to start somewhere and get good people vibes, then you’ll be fine. It takes a while to get to know people and feel comfortable, but having it done it before you know it’s worth it when you do. You can never have enough Friday night wine friends. Never.

So basically, if you’re about to have your first day somewhere or you’re looking for a new job but finding it all a bit overwhelming, just remember that there’s way more good than bad. It’s also totally okay to have a breather in the loo on your first day, just don’t stay in there so long that people notice.

shall we stop fighting change?

  

I’m writing this blog post on a plane. What I would rather be doing is napping but I can’t because I’m wired on Haribo and lattes. 

I started this the other day on my lunch break at work but since it’s been my last week in my job I got distracted by hangovers and hugging people and arranging several trips to several pubs.  It started to read about knowing it’s time for a change but because I was so distracted I seemed to go off on a tangent and typed some crap about tiredness. I deleted it, you’ll be happy to know. 

I thinks there’s few things in life that we can be sure about, but knowing when it’s time to make a change is one of them. It’s kind of like a really strong gut feeling and when you know, you just know. Humans have a habit of dragging out things that don’t make them happy and we punish ourselves by not following the feeling for change. We’re idiots really, but never mind. Since humans invented Tangfastic fizzy cherries and Netflix I’ll forgive us as a race.

I’ve never been one for worrying too much about change. I know it’s got to happen for lives to progress and I’m all about progression. Lately though, in a time in my life where a lot is changing, I’ve had a weird longing to cling to things. Things that aren’t necessary or needed and that are probably left placed firmly in the past. Feelings mostly. 

Allowing change to happen without fighting it has led to some of the best bits of my life so far. I think if we all fought a little less and went with it we could benefit. Change is scary but new things are exciting and without them we would never grow to be better people. The world definitely could use a lot of better people. Who knows. I’m mostly just tired and this is rambling. Happy Wednesday x

11 lessons you learn in the first few years after graduating.

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So this post is er, a little bit delayed. I’ve been out of uni 4 years now. That’s longer than I was at uni, so that’s utterly terrifying and a bit traumatising on several levels. It also makes me immensely nostalgic for drunken Monday nights, dinners of frozen Yorkshire puddings and hungover meetings at McDonalds in pyjamas. Anyway, since it’s a bit late, let’s call it reflective. The first three years after graduating I did learn A LOT, despite that phase of being completely depressed and massively in fear of the adult working world.(If you’ve just finished uni and you’re like WAHHH WTF AHHH, don’t worry, it DOES get better.)

1) You don’t need a plan for everything. Sometimes just letting things happen is the best possible option.

2) HOWEVER a complete lack of planning can mean disaster, so I guess the lesson is to know when you need to prepare and do it well. Something to take with you into every year of your life for the rest of forever.

3) Putting effort into achieving something you want is the only way to really achieve it. You might feel like some people just fall upon good fortune and kid yourself into thinking it’ll happen to you, but that’s rarely the case.

4) Starting work and going through big periods of change really highlights which friends you will carry with you to the next stage of your life, and which you were probably never destined to keep forever.

5) Responsibility changes from being really terrifying and overwhelming to a natural way of life and you just deal with it. You deal with it because you have to or because you want to, but 9 times out 10 you get things done. Well done you.

6) You realise that you can cope under immense amounts of stress and you look back on the dramas of your teenage years and very early twenties and wonder what the hell you were thinking. Boys. WKDs. Saturday job feuds. What even was that?

7) You enter into a new phase with your relationship with money. You go from not really having any because you’re a student but not really caring because life is mostly Harry Potter and drinking cocktails out of saucepans, to having some and watching it vanish because you’re an adult now and this is life. It gets easier though. So when you’re hyperventilating at a cash machine try to remember that eventually things will improve. And stay away from the Top Shop sale.

8) You start analysing people in a whole new way. I don’t know if it’s just because you’re growing up or because you’ve joined a new world of working and networking and making scary decisions, in fact it’s probably a bit of both, but you start to suss people out differently.

9) You do all you can to hold on to those carefree, hilarious, hazy and crazy years of your life. Which is absolutely what you should do because time goes way too fast and it’s really quite shocking. Like, one minute you’re at graduation pretending your gown is a Hogwarts uniform, the next you’re celebrating being 25 with prosecco but it feels like only 9 days have passed.

10) You broaden your horizons and your way of thinking through mixing with a much wider spectrum of people. You have older work friends, people from the other side of the world, people who inspire you, people who influence you, people you can’t stand. It’s like uni but on a whole different scale.

11) You sometimes catch yourself unawares being all professional and grown up and passing on your wisdom, so you make a mental note to go drink a VK and remind yourself you’re not middle aged. Yet.