student

Own your failure

Rejection seems to be a huge part of a starry-eyed graduate’s life.

The sooner we accept this fact, along with all our student debt, the better. Prior to graduation, you might have experienced rejection applying to university, a part-time job, or asking someone out. Without undermining these disappointments, I think there’s something unique about graduate rejection. It’s the anticipation. You’ve worked at your degree for three years, you sat at school for a decade before that. It’s all been leading up to this very moment. The start of your real adult life. You have your 2.1 (maybe a golden ticket First) – the world is yours for the taking. You fire off cover-letters left, right and centre. You’re hopeful. You wait, and wait, and wait…

‘The managers have completed their short-listing process and I regret to inform you that on this occasion you have not been selected to attend an interview.’

If I’m completely honest, prior to these past few months, I haven’t been rejected that often. I’m not boasting. I haven’t really put myself out there enough. So when the dream I’d been living and breathing since school came crashing down in February, I took it pretty hard. There’s a prestigious university I’ve always wanted to study at. I didn’t apply at A-level because my grades weren’t up to scratch. But as an undergraduate, I’d upped my game (I found out this week that I’m set to graduate with a 78% average). Whenever I dragged myself to the library at 9pm, to put in a few hours on my latest essay, my motivation was getting onto that dream Masters. So when I got rejected for, in hindsight, a pretty weak research proposal, I lost all motivation. The timing was awful. I was mid-dissertation. I had a 4,000 word essay due next week.

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Since then, I’ve boosted my grades again. I somehow pulled off 83% on my dissertation and an 88% on that very essay. I’ve also decided a Masters might not be for me. My initial backup plan was publishing. I sent off at least a dozen applications for assistant jobs and internships. One by one, I was rejected. I’d been so set on continuing with academia, that I didn’t have any of the publishing experience necessary to even make it to an interview. Coming to terms with this, assessing my strengths and weaknesses, my current idea is digital marketing. I have some relevant experience. This blog itself reflects my interest in social media and content production. You know what, I think I’d be good at marketing. It feels assuring to at least have something resembling a plan. Or maybe I’ll reapply for that Masters… I’m staying open-minded.

What have I learnt from all this? Well I’ve gotten better at writing cover-letters for one thing. But I’ve also learnt that it’s okay to feel dejected, disappointed, even angry following rejection – for a little while that is. It just means that you cared. It means that you worked hard for something you wanted. Feeling and doing the same might well pay off next time. It’s even okay to mope around and feel like you deserved for things to have worked out. You might well have deserved that promotion or that position. But the problem is other people probably did too. The key thing to accept is that the universe doesn’t owe you a job or a First class degree or even a girlfriend.

An air of entitlement will get you nowhere.

Rejection isn’t inherently a bad thing. Sure, you might miss out on some great opportunities, but it can help you duck lousy ones too. It can inspire (okay, maybe force) a change of direction or a new approach you might never have otherwise considered. From recent experience, getting rejected is also a whole lot easier when you have other options on the table too. I’m not necessarily suggesting that you ask out each and every girl in your seminar class, but, providing they don’t all find out, you’ve increased your odds.

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We do have the time

We need to stop lying to ourselves. Last time I checked, there are 24 hours in a day. That’s 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. How are you spending yours? Let’s do the maths. We’re all sleeping through a whole bunch of them. If you’re one of those people who manages to exercise before breakfast or endures a soul-destroying commute, you might be sleeping for a meagre 6 hours. You have my respect. If you’re one of my sloth-like housemates, or, in other words, a student, you could be kipping away upwards of 12 hours. For most people—the grey majority, the unremarkable average—let’s call it 8 hours in the land of nod.

For the sake of making a point, let’s say you have 16 hours left in which you are, at least relatively, awake. Most people have, have had, or will regrettably end up, in a 9 to 5 job. The ‘working week’ might be five sevenths of your regular week, but it’s important to remember that your ‘working day’ is probably about half of your actual day. You have about 8 hours left then. A couple in the morning and half a dozen in the evening. Let’s take away 2 for commuting (though if you’re lucky it will be a lot less) and another 2 for meal times and chores.

You have 4 hours left. That’s a really long time.

How are you spending those leftover hours? The chances are you’re sat in front of the television, binge-watching Netflix, a football match in which your team isn’t even playing, or the first film you found channel-flicking, having already missed the first half. If I asked you why, you’d say it’s because you’re tired and just want to just switch off after work. And that’s absolutely fine. There’s nothing wrong that. It’s your leisure time—do whatever you want. But don’t say you don’t have any time. You haven’t seen your friends in weeks. You’re on your third consecutive takeaway meal. You haven’t exercised properly since school. Don’t say you haven’t had time.

If you don’t like your job, that’s to say, if you don’t live to work, and this unfortunately seems the case for the majority of people today, then your life is what goes on around the office. It happens in those 4 hours in the evening, on your weekends and your 28 days of annual holiday. It isn’t easy to lead this productive double life. Some people can juggle two jobs, or do volunteer work in their spare time, but most of us can’t—or at least don’t. I’m yet to even start my 40 to 50 year working life so I’m not lecturing anybody. Soon enough, I’ll be in the 9 to 5 machine and then we’ll see how easy it is to write something like this when I’m falling asleep on the sofa at 9pm. That’s why I’m writing it now, as a reminder to myself that I will have a life outside of my job.

‘I do have time’ is a mindset. Getting more value out of those 4 hours is a life project. Something to think about and work on every day. Maybe you’ll play badminton for an hour with friends tonight after work, and then progress to watch three back-to-back episodes of House of Cards.

That’s progress.

 

The future freaks me out

I started this blog on 6th August 2013. I’d just finished Sixth Form and was nervously awaiting my A-levels results, desperate to find out whether or not I had made it into university. QFL was a project that was about keeping busy. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and far too much to worry about. I needed a distraction. It was therapy.

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This time last week, I handed in my final year dissertation at university. I have one exam left before my sixteen years of education are over. In honesty, I’m not taking this particularly well. I do have some friends that want to leave. Everyone is a bit fed up of the work at this point, myself included, which I wasn’t really expecting, having loved studying up until now. The freedom that comes with earning money will be a huge change, of course, for the better. But I don’t want to leave. I’d redo fifty assignments for another three years. I don’t want to leave people behind. Or maybe I don’t want to get left behind.

I celebrated finishing my dissertation pretty hard. Three big nights out. I woke up at 7am Saturday morning, having gotten in three hours earlier. This wasn’t a normal hangover. I felt sick. But I also had cold sweats and my heart was racing. It was like waking up from a bad dream although I couldn’t calm myself down. In short, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. In hindsight, it was likely caffeine-induced. My fault. I’d had coffees and jägerbombs and all sorts the night before, to try and perk myself up. So I crashed. Weeks of stress, followed by days of overdoing it, caught up with me. I sat wide awake for an hour and just wallowed, thinking, reflecting, worrying about everything. Talking to a friend about it later, he said something we all need to hear sometimes: It’s okay to worry about the future you know”.

I needed to get where I was Saturday morning because now I can get out. No alcohol for at least a week. A healthier diet. From tomorrow, I get up at a respectable hour. I’m writing a bucket-list of things to do before I leave. Revision starts for that final exam: my last hurdle. I’m going to buy a bunch of books I’ve wanted to read. Start watching films again. I have a few weeks left yet and I’m going to make the most of them, spending time with the people who make leaving so hard.

And, quite frankly, I think I need to start blogging again.

I’ve had a ball

My fortnight of partying climaxed last night with our Freshers’ Ball. All week I had battled the infamous Freshers’ flu (it’s not a myth!) but for five or six hours all was well. Very well. Pulling myself into a suit, I donned a black tie and swapped that bottle of cough syrup for vodka.

The night started with pre-drinks and a photo-shoot of everyone all dressed up and looking fine. We took it in turns being the parents taking pictures of their children before the prom. Arriving on campus the makeshift venue was spread across four or five buildings with stands and carnival rides erected in the courtyard. The latter of which was hazardous. The more everyone drunk the more appealing the violent rides became which was of course a recipe for chunder.

First stop was the silent disco. With two channels on our headsets – commercial and cheesy – the result was a mash up of people slut dropping to Kayne, while others sang painfully along to the likes of Atomic Kitten. Taking your headset off for any period of time revealed this hilarious spectacle.

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It was around this time that my craving for a bag of candyfloss struck. That popular alcohol accompaniment. I finished said candyfloss in a matter of minutes, feeding it to my friends and I suspect anyone else nearby who looked hungry. A chance encounter with a school friend was nice at this point and we briefly introduced each other to the girls we were with.

The rest of the night consisted of trying to dance to the live acts including Subfocus, Modestep and Ms Dynamite who all had one thing in common – I had never before heard any of them. Dancing proved difficult with no personal space at all on the floor, wedged between newly acquainted grinding couples. I was forever looking out for my 6ft5 friend’s head above the crowd.

The last funny event of the night came after I was dragged outside by the girls who wanted some air (they should have tried wearing a suit jacket). I attempted to call my friend who we had been separated from for hours. Naturally, I pretended that I was lost and in mortal danger, in need of rescue, before assuring him to the contrary and asking where he was. What I didn’t realise until the next morning was that I had managed a conversation with him, without him. That is to say I had been chatting away to his voicemail, presumably inventing his inaudible replies. This made for funny listening when the voicemail has been replayed many times since.

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So my Freshers’ fortnight is over. This is not to say partying is however. Wednesday night is the “Big Night Out” – the South’s largest club crawl or something…

Anyway, normal blogging shall commence soon.

Drink responsibly!

Not so fresh Freshers

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It escapes me why they call one’s initiation into university life “Freshers”. Only two nights in and I can already tell you that I feel anything but fresh… So worth it though. If I survive the fortnight it will undoubtedly be engraved in my (partial?) memory.

Let’s be honest, it was all completely overwhelming at first. I was tired when I arrived to unpack at 2pm, so you can imagine how shattered I felt by 2am. I have the universal language of football to thank for my quick settling in. Within the hour, ten guys who had never met one another were sitting in a tiny bedroom watching the (embarrassing) Manchester derby, shouting at the buffering stream on someone’s MacBook. I can only hope to forget the result itself in association with my first day.

The other thing I will most likely associate with that first night was the power-cut that killed the club’s music and locked the tills. It turned out to be a godsend really. We were forced to leave our £3.50 double vodka and cokes in favour of £1.50 ones elsewhere. Result!

Here’s a quick summary of my ‘student experience’ so far, perhaps something to look back on in years to come. Food – I have cooked beans on bread (we hadn’t purchased our £5 value toaster at this point) and eaten it with my neighbours on my ironing board, which was placed in our corridor along with our desk wheelie chairs.  Laundry – Early days really. Does washing a stain out of my pink ‘Halls t-shirt’ in my sink count as laundry? We did manage to invade the cleaner’s ‘linen room’ by accident in search of the washing machines… Sleep – Minimal. On this note, I have quickly found an issue with being part-catered. We get breakfast cooked for us but they only serve until 9:30am. This coupled with the fact seven of us are sharing a shower equals getting up pretty early. Nights out – For the first one our halls donned makeshift togas (bed-sheets) and hit the clubs. I recall a girl clearly not with us requesting whether she might take off and ‘borrow’ my toga. I had to politely decline. We also insisted on walking back in the dark like the stingy students we are to save the £10 taxi ride. Goes without saying: we got lost. Second night was a ‘foam party’ at a Uni venue, a maxed 1,700 capacity club, for which wearing my flowery swimming trunks turned out to be a great idea.

I shall leave it at that as I know a diary entry isn’t the most thrilling read for outsiders. Also, I fear I might have a subject introduction talk somewhere soon…

To anyone expecting to be a humble Fresher themselves one day, allow me to impart two pieces of advice. Firstly, talk to everyone, even your rivals from other Halls if you can infiltrate their cliques, bear in mind they hardly know each other anyway. Secondly, bring fancy dress costumes.

That is all. Twelve nights to go. Wish me luck.