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.

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.

Realising as you grow up that there’s a good reason ‘beautiful’ means something different to everyone

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I found the card in the picture above on the floor in a Subway when I was steaming drunk after my sister’s 21st boat party. I carried it home laughing like a maniac while eating three different kinds of cookie (dessert obvs). That is completely unrelated to what will follow, I just quite like the idea of it and I would 100% have bought it if I saw it in a shop.

Anyway.

The other day on the tube, where I can so often be found, I was listening to these school girls talk about who was the most fancied girl in their year. I felt like grabbing them and being like, ‘babes, seriously, don’t worry about this, because it will ALL change.’ When I think back to what I aspired to when I was 15 I get a horrible image of over-straightened hair, bright orange bronzer and far too tight clothes. I remember being envious of girls who everyone looked up to for being the prettiest and the most popular. In actual fact, it was more of who wore the most makeup and who played up the most in class for some laughs. As ridiculous as it seems now, back then it was serious, and it made a lot of people feel like shit. I definitely wasn’t one of those girls.

As soon as I left sixth form, and got started meeting new people at uni and got a whole new circle of close friends, I started to realise how different everyone sees beauty. I don’t know if it’s because I’m from a small town, or just because the majority of people conform at school, but I found it so amazing. I would look at people when I was 18 and think they looked stupid because they were different. This sounds horrendous as well, but I would never have looked at anyone who wasn’t a size 10 and though they looked good. As soon as I got exposed to a new world full of totally different people from different places, everything changed. I started seeing beautiful as being different and having enough confidence to leave the house without caring what anyone might think. I also began to look at people who were clearly very happy with who they were as beautiful regardless of their size or what their face looked like.

I am so, SO glad that there are millions of people who like different things and see beauty completely differently to others, it makes the world a much more interesting place. It’s also quite comforting to think you can be whoever you want and somewhere, someone in the world thinks your beautiful. I don’t believe there are that many people out there who don’t want to be considered beautiful at least sometimes. It makes you feel good when someone pays you attention and while I’m a lot less bothered about what people think when they cast their eyes on me now, it’s still nice to have someone find you attractive or pay you a compliment. It just is. I mean, not so much weird strangers on the tube who are close enough to lick you, but you get my point.

Beautiful nowadays revolves a lot around how many filters you can apply to it, how inhumanly smooth you can make skin look and how much you can alter yourself to look like what you think people want. Pretty depressing, no? Women aren’t going to stop wearing makeup, botox clinics aren’t going to be out of work and Instagram aint going nowhere, and that’s fine, just as long we don’t forget that these aren’t real interpretations of life. There isn’t one type of beautiful for everyone to aspire to, and thanks to that we live in a world where everyone can be beautiful. Hold tight young girls who feel constantly ugly because you don’t look like the plastics (Mean Girls references are still relevant right?!) because there will come a time when you look back and realise you were perfectly fine as you were.

10 Photos that perfectly sum up what I miss about university

I had a dream last night I was back at uni and had to cook 10 jacket potatoes before a night out for people to take to an exam the next day. Casual. I miss uni. What a babe of a time. (sorry friends)

1) Getting ready for a night out was so much more than pre-drinking and make up

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2) Cleaning was something you made fun, rather than a chore. Best done at night, under the influence slightly

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 3) The gourmet diet

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4) The varying and exciting modes of transport because cars were way to much of a luxury

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5) The strong emotional bonds made with corner shop staff. There wasn’t just tinned meals and Cornettos, there was emotion.

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6) Squats and night out exercise: anytime, any place, and you absolutely did not need a gym membership

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7) Life knew no boundaries. Literally. (apart from money obvs)

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8) Accessories and free things were a bloody great reason to celebrate, just as much, or even more than birthdays and dissertation hand-ins.

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9) Harry Potter high fashion. Because LIFE.

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10) Any surface= nap opportunity.

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Career woes? Think outside the box

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So when I left sixth form, with fairly good A levels and a vague sort of idea about what I wanted to do, I wasn’t realistically ready for uni. When I say vague idea, I mean really vague, I was good at writing and IT and sort of thought about journalism and communications, but not in great detail. I mean, I was 18 so I was mostly interested in cherry VKs and Mcdonald’s saver menu. However, off I went to study journalism at Kingston uni, and it was pretty much the best decision I could have made.

When I first left uni I remember thinking OH GOD WHY? Why did I not go to medical school? Why am I not a singer? Why did I bother? What the hell do I do now? And so on. Pretty much the same wobble most graduates feel. The point of this story though, and what this post is trying to say, is that when it comes to getting stuck in your career choices, think outside the box. THINK WAY OUTSIDE.

I knew I didn’t want a typical journalism job when I left uni, and I ended temping for the NHS and doing some communications work, which was fine, but at the time seemed totally fruitless. However, five months in, as my temp contract was ending, I searched online using the words ‘healthcare, communications, writing, research jobs.’  All of the things I had been doing in a role I only took to make some money and fill my days. That haphazard search led me to a vacancy working in a ophthalmic research centre, doing some website communications, editing, event organising and database admin. I got the job, helped along by the part time position I held down in uni at an opticians, a role I never imagined would help me out in the future, and from there on I have spring-boarded into a career I didn’t know existed.

At uni we were told about magazine journalism, digital journalism, newspaper journalism, editing, sub-editing, layout and so on. However, I came to realise, upon landing this job, that there is so much out there if you are willing to widen the field. Not just for journalism, for all sorts of qualifications and degrees. Three years on from here, I am running social media and digital marketing for a HIV vaccine research campaign for one of the biggest companies in the UK. It’s interesting, I learn new things everyday and I get to spend my time working on things I enjoy, like Twitter, image sourcing and blogging. I work with people all over the world and when the project ends there’ll be great opportunities to travel. It’s also given me great scope for the future and what I can move on to when the time comes, and thanks to broadening my horizons and plunging slightly into the unknown, the future is looking pretty bright.

It’s pretty scary to leave school or graduate and feel like you need to follow a certain path, be it the subject you studied or what your parents really want you to do. Overwhelming is the right word I think, which is why sometimes taking a fork in the road to somewhere a bit different is the best thing you’ll ever do. A lot can be said for sticking with a dream, but when cold, hard reality comes along and bites you, and you need a job and money, why not take an alternative route? I once got to try a selection of diabetic jams as part of my job, and you know what, they were bloody delicious. Who’d have thought eh?

16 funniest memories from student life: Part 2

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I recently went shopping in Asda with a couple of uni friends to buy discount biscuits, jalapenos and mass cakes for a mini-holiday (the essentials) and they were basically playing the soundtrack to my student years. Loads of Rihanna and other such songs from 2010 and The Wanted- Gold forever, which for some unknown and inexplicable reason is basically the song that I associate most with uni despite being by a band I hate. Life.

Anyway, cheers for the emotional influx of memories Asda. Oh and the really nice white choc chip pancakes.

1) Lemon shoulder. The really great game where you take the lemon slice out of your discount vodka and lemonade and place it on someone’s shoulder without them noticing. Extra points if you got a photo of it.

2) Lick a stranger. Clearly a time where health and safety was buried and no one worried about germs. The great game where you lick strangers without them noticing. If they did notice they most likely asked for your number. I hope lick a stranger has led to some marriages.

3) Centurion. The great game where you drink a shot a minute for an hour that everyone hyped up but no one ever finished or really honestly attempted without throwing up out of a window or phoning their ex boyfriend from five years ago to declare undying love.

4) Shop staff love. Corner shops, off licences, convenience stories, whatever you called them. Most people I knew at uni had a serious friendship or weird obsession with staff in their local shop. Particularly shops that sold discount cider and a good selection of Cornettos.

5) The one time that person who usually got reservedly drunk got absolutely wankered and danced and touched people and did all manner of outrageous things in a locked bathroom. (Basically everyone I knew at uni, at some point, was this person)

6) Watching a friend crowd surf off of a fridge before 10pm at a house party.

7) Wildfire rumours (even among lecturers) that one couple in my main friendship group had bought a dining table and put it in storage for the future which freaked everyone else out because it was SO adult… but wasn’t even remotely true anyway.

8) Cutting a night out short because a friend was a stuck in a roadworks hole and while trying to hoist him out, finding two other friends in a JCB near by.

9) A big night following a big work hand-in being followed the next morning with a text from someone saying ‘I have been sick somewhere in the house but I can’t remember where. I am sorry. Really sorry.’

10) Turning up to graduation not really excited about officially having a degree or a huge moment in life, but because the robes made everyone feel like they were in Harry Potter and then being thrilled that someone actually bought a wand with them.

11) A friend accidentally submitting a link to an Akon song on YouTube into the ‘Turn it in’ electronic system instead of their essay. Having to then contact the administrators and explain this error.

12) Watching two friends slowly tare down some curtains in a club then just stand and stare at the bare wall to re-create a scene from Blair Witch Project.

13) Losing one member of the group to a weird and questionable uni society and then finding out the members regularly rent BMWs for one night at a time to drive around town listening to Drake.

14) Treating a powercut as seriously as a war time blitz and texting people to ask if they are okay and do they know is Subway on campus was affected.

15) Going to a friends who had hosted a BBQ the night before and instead of helping to clean up just going through the left over meat and making a feast in the George Foreman grilling machine and then leaving without helping to clean anything because hangover and meat sweats.

16) Eagerly awaiting the first sunny day of the year to descend on the river, sitting there and freezing half to death while having a cider, losing all feeling in limbs and taking loads of photos of swans before deciding fuck this, let’s go to The Mill.