#LittleChats: with Georgia Bacon

Hello and welcome to Episode 7 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. After some time out, #LittleChats is back in full force as I have an insightful chat with a wonderful friend of mine, Georgia Bacon! Originally from London, Georgia is a 25-year-old Business Analyst at The White Company who previously completed a graduate scheme at John Lewis upon graduating from the University of Nottingham. Georgia and I met through our partners who went to school together and, as we’ve gotten to know each other better, we’ve discovered lots in common – except our heights, as she says she’s usually the small one amongst her friends, but I make her feel VERY tall (which is not uncommon for me)! With that, let’s hear about Georgia’s journey as a student, graduate and twenty-something…

Hey, Georgia! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I’m so excited to hear about your journey since graduating. Firstly, what did you study at university and why?

Hey, Sophie – thank you so much for having me!

I studied Classical Civilisation at the University of Nottingham. I found it really tricky to decide what to study at uni as my A level choices were Maths, English and Classics and I think there was a bit of pressure for me to, and an expectation that I should, choose Maths. In the end, I chose Classics because I just absolutely loved the subject! I was fortunate enough that it was taught at my school for GCSE and A level and we had some incredibly inspiring teachers who gave me such a passion for the subject. I think it was important for me to choose something that I just enjoyed learning about as that was what you were about to go and do for the next three years of your life! I followed my passion and enjoyment of the subject and I am so glad that I did.

I completely agree! Throughout your studies, you were also a member of your university’s Rowing Club. How much did this enhance your university experience?

Massively! Some of my closet friends from university are from the rowing club. I think that one of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to someone is joining a team sport whilst at university. At the beginning of my first year, I was struggling to find my place in a social group, and then one day a guy from my uni halls mentioned that they needed a cox at the rowing club – and I had been coxing whilst at school. I decided to give it a go and never looked back! At times it was gruelling, training at 7am on a Saturday morning and having to stay on longer during the Christmas holidays when everyone else had gone home to keep training, but I think that is what gives you such a close bond with your fellow athletes; we were all in it together through the highs and lows. I won a BUCS Gold Medal with two of my now absolute best friends and it was one of the best experiences of my time at university. There is a lot of comradery in sport and at times the boat club felt like a second home!

Amazing!
You’re the only graduate I know who successfully landed, and better yet completed, a graduate scheme! Talk to us about the scheme, from the application process to your day-to-day responsibilities.

Applying for graduate schemes is tough and I think anyone who decides to apply to any of them should be commended whether they are successful or not. The rate of success is ridiculous, and I honestly think sometimes it is just down to sheer luck!  I applied for the John Lewis IT Graduate Scheme which was probably the 20th or so scheme I had applied for. So far, I had had no luck and had barely made it past the first round of online screening for most of the other schemes. One of the biggest things I struggled with was the numerical online tests; although I had a maths A level, I had been learning about tombs and ancient Rome for the last two-and-a-half years! After not passing a fair few of them for other schemes, I genuinely went on BBC Bitesize revision and reminded myself how to do basic things! Although it seems silly, I think being able to score reasonably well on the initial tests for a graduate scheme is important as it is the first place where they will just cull you if you don’t get a certain score. The next round was a video interview, but one of those horrible ones where you get a question pop up on the screen and you have one minute to record your answer. After passing that, I was finally invited to an assessment centre which was a full day of team tasks such as coming up with presentations together, an individual task of a presentation and finally an interview with a Director. These days are exhausting and a lot of the people I was there with had been to multiple, but this was my first and only one! I think it took place early in January and I found out in February that I had got the job.

Starting the scheme was really exciting. We had a few inductions over the summer with our fellow grads and then started in the September. The first six weeks were called ‘grad-lab’ where we explored different areas of the business and had presentations with a wide range of people. It was actually pretty exhausting as it was essentially 9-5 back-to-back meetings – a great insight into the working world!  The scheme was structured in such a way that you rotated through five different areas of IT across two years, and after this you would specialise in an area and be expected to pass an interview for that role by the end of the third year. We were the last intake of grads at John Lewis, so it has to be said we definitely got left to fend for ourselves a lot of the time and I think the experience of previous grads before us was vastly different. Although each role could come with a varying set of qualifications we could take, we had to really push to be offered them, and then in the end I think most of us only sat exams in the area we had decided to specialise in. The roles we got put into varied massively in terms of the job you were required to do, with a lot of business areas seeing you as just a free resource to help with the admin! Although at times it was really tough to feel like you were doing something actually useful, when you did find yourself in a good role, you really had to make the most of it! I think after about the first year and a half I was onto my final role before specialisation and I joined a team as a Business Analyst. I absolutely loved the role and then, just after the end of my second year, I sat my interview and was given the full-time position.

And now, you’re working as a Business Analyst at The White Company! Do you think you would have ever considered this pathway had you not completed that scheme?

Definitely not, I had no idea what a Business Analyst even was! The scheme gave me a great insight into the variety of roles (testing, project management, operations, development and BA!) and I was also fortunate enough to have sat the first four of my BCS exams (a diploma in Business Analysis). I also think working for a retailer was such a valuable experience and I have developed a passion for retail. John Lewis was a massive company and we worked across both Waitrose and John Lewis at times; it was great to work for such a large organisation and it also gave me an insight into what I liked and disliked about it. I knew that my next move would definitely be to a much smaller company and that was one of the reasons I chose to work for The White Company! I think John Lewis had around 85,000 employees and TWC has under 2000!

Wow! Also, you started your new role remotely due to the global pandemic. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you?

I have been working in my new role for over six months now and there are still really key members of my team that I am yet to meet! It can be challenging working very closely with people that you have never met face to face, because a lot of their mannerisms can be really difficult to pick up on over video calls. The team have been amazing, and I do feel like I have settled in really well, but the first few weeks were definitely daunting not being able to meet people face to face. I think it was even harder to build relationships with people because you don’t have the usual coffee machine chats and general catch ups so, when I was in my first few weeks still settling in, there were times when it felt quite scary and lonely. But I am very fortunate that my team are so welcoming; we have regular catch ups and, even the members I haven’t met, I feel like I have got to know them really well. I have been to my office three times now, but it still feels like the first day of school nerves! Not knowing where to sit, who people are or where I can grab a coffee. I think when we go back to the office more permanently, I will be faced with different challenges – knowing all the people from video calls but being in a totally new environment with them!

That’s great!
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Believe in myself a lot more, be a little bit more carefree and try to enjoy each day, good or bad. Truly own who you are and stop worrying so much about what other people think – everything will work out for the best in the end, and if it hasn’t yet, then it isn’t the end!

I love that! Thank you so much for your time, Georgia!

How amazing! There is so much to learn from Georgia’s story: the importance of enhancing your university experience be it through joining a sports team or society; the challenges of landing a graduate scheme and making the most of such an opportunity; and believing in your abilities which will ultimately lead to wonderful things! If you are applying or wish to apply to graduate schemes in future, I hope Georgia’s story has given you an insight into what you can expect and, like she said, you should be commended whether you’re successful or not because the application process can be painstaking in itself! Keep trying – the right thing will come at the right time!

Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more stories from fellow graduates and twenty-somethings on #LittleChats!

Lockdown 3.0: Are we just exhausted?

Lockdown 3.0 has hit different.

I don’t know about you but, this time around, I feel deflated. Totally, utterly and completely deflated. Unmotivated. Unwilling. Undone. Sure, I was swashed by this wave of emotions the first and second time, but not like I have been now. I’ve even procrastinated writing this blog for almost two weeks until I was inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Chloe Plumstead, on her Instagram stories yesterday to just get writing.

So, what is it? Is it the longing for normality? The feeling of entrapment? Is it the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic — the same pandemic that arose over a year ago, that has affected millions globally, that our government has so incompetently mishandled? Perhaps it’s an amalgamation of all the above and more; I could go on and on and on about how lockdowns can be so detrimental to our mental health. While these emotions were also present in Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, they were present alongside polar emotions – motivation, willingness, success – contrary to Lockdown 3.0.

As we entered the second lockdown, I was quick to anticipate the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, concluding that the main difference was that, come Lockdown 2.0, we knew. We knew that another lockdown was necessary to assist in preventing the continuous spread of the cruel disease. We knew that we could stay connected with our pals via Zoom, even if we were sick of the abundant virtual pub quizzes. We also knew that the implications could be detrimental. If we knew all this back then, you’d think the same would apply again now, right? Alas, we feel more deflated than before, thus begging the same question I posed in that blog: what’s different this time?

Image description: An unmade bed in front of a window

By Lockdown 2.0, as I said, we were somewhat prepared. We were familiar with the prospect of a lockdown unlike the first time. Some were more frustrated than others — and for good reason — and others were more motivated to reignite the spark that charged them through Lockdown 1.0. Most felt a combination of the two; I was certainly frustrated, but I coped by writing. At the time, we were too provided an idea for how long the lockdown would last, so I suppose that made it slightly easier to withstand.

Remember Lockdown 1.0? Of course you do; that’s a bad question. What’s worse is that it began almost one year ago. My point is: in Lockdown 1.0, despite the tragedies caused by COVID-19, we were overwhelmed with a plethora of positivity. Our socials were inundated with our friends excessively exercising, our colleagues concocting delicious dinners and celebrities sending soulful messages. Hell, if it wasn’t for Lockdown 1.0, who knows? I might not have created this blog and since written over 30 pieces totalling to almost 45,000 words. Most, if not all, of us achieved something that we should be proud of between March and June 2020, I’m sure – and that was inspiring.

Lockdown 3.0. When non-essential retail closed in many areas across the country in December, I sensed another national lockdown was imminent. However, having to enter a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions on the Sunday before Christmas? That sucked. Then, being deprived of a somewhat normal Christmas? That sucked more. And, with many unfortunately having to spend Christmas alone, yet again due to the government’s mishandling of the situation – Cummings, terribly confusing rules and failing test and trace to name a few, as Dr Rosena so rightly pointed out – from the beginning? That sucked the most.

Christmas… A common theme in my evaluation of Lockdown 3.0 there. Is that what defines this lockdown, then? The deprivation of a normal, celebratory, happy Christmas? Or is that just one of many definitions – the others including the longing for normality, the feeling of entrapment and the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic? Or maybe it’s none of these at all…

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Maybe it’s something so simple, so mundane, so raw. Maybe it’s… exhaustion.

I think in trying to decipher the defining factors of both Lockdown 2.0 and 3.0, I’ve subconsciously circumvented admitting to the fact that perhaps we’re just fed up. I’ve tried so hard to rationalise the possibilities for feeling so deflated that I’ve dismissed the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’re fed (.) the fuck (.) up. Fed up with the longing for normality, with the feeling of entrapment and with the imbeciles leading our country, hence feeling unmotivated, unwilling and undone. However, it almost feels unfair to admit to feeling this way. Selfish, perhaps. Wrong. Who am I, a non-essential worker, to say that I’m merely “fed up” when our essential workers – especially our NHS heroes – have been working tirelessly from the onset of this pandemic? Instead, I should just shut the fuck up, right?

I don’t know. Perhaps it is unfair in some ways, and perhaps it’s okay, too.

There’s no denying that there’s an underlying, yet overbearing, desperation. A desperation to go “back to normal”. A desperation to see and spend time with and hug our family and friends. A desperation to escape the mess made by our government. And that goes for everybody: not just non-essential workers, but our key workers, our healthcare workers and everyone in between. This entire situation hasn’t been easy for anyone; it’s certainly affected us all in different ways, but to say it’s been anything other than easy would be a downright lie.

Are we just exhausted? Or are there a million potential reasons for feeling so deflated? Unmotivated? Unwilling? Undone? Okay, maybe not a million, but certainly a lot – and perhaps exhaustion is one of the predominant reasons this time around, whether that’s okay or not.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep fighting – a better year is on the horizon.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

“This year hasn’t been all bad”: Lessons we learnt in 2020

If you could describe 2020 in one word, what would it be? Exhausting? Disastrous? Shambolic? I think we can all agree that, for the most part, this year has been catastrophic to say the least. I don’t even have to expand for you to comprehend why; it is a truth universally acknowledged (a testament to my fellow former A level English Literature students right there). While the topic of coronavirus has predominantly led the narrative of 2020, there have been several other defining moments that have taught us valuable lessons which should not go unmissed. As I reflected upon the shitshow of the past year, here are what I have figured to be the five most important lessons we learnt in 2020.

Image description: A notebook with flowers tucked inside

It costs nothing to be kind

Back in February, the awful news that TV Presenter Caroline Flack took her own life – which was said to be exacerbated by the press and social media trolls – sparked the “Be Kind” Campaign. Though it shouldn’t have to take a TV personality’s – or anybody’s, for that matter – passing for any of us to realise this, many came together to show their support by using the #BeKind hashtag as a plea for media outlets and social media users to be more considerate online. As the year progressed, we saw even more catastrophes across the globe caused by the impact of COVID-19 which inevitably posed further mental health challenges, so the message still stands. Be kind. Always.

We can all do better

Remember the little black square you posted on your Instagram feeds on 2 June in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement? It’s still important. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd back in May, many – again – came together, both physically and virtually, to protest racism and police brutality. You might have seen the infamous quote “it is not enough to not be racist; you must be anti-racist” time and time again amid the movement, but it speaks volumes. If you claim to not be racist, what are you doing about it? Whether it’s signing petitions or calling out your friends for their racial biases, we can all do better in playing our part to actively fight against racism.

Never take life for granted

Throughout 2020, millions all over the world were ordered to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Here in the UK, we have encountered three lockdowns: a three-month national lockdown from March to June, a shorter lockdown from 5 November to 2 December, and a tiered system of restrictions from 19 December to… well, we don’t know yet. In spite of the omnishambles of our government’s response to COVID-19, our time spent at home, losing loved ones to a cruel disease and distance from a normal lifestyle highlighted that we must never take life for granted. Family, friends, health, happiness, time; you name it, we’re now more appreciative of it than ever.

There is hope for the future

At long last, Trump has been voted out of The White House. Although his sheer mismanagement of COVID-19 is enough to dub him as an appalling president, there are so many more reasons his removal from office is victorious in itself. He’s narcissistic. He’s racist. He’s misogynistic. He’s homophobic. He’s transphobic. He’s in denial. Sure, Biden isn’t perfect, but the removal of Trump means there is hope again not just for American citizens, but for the world. And, with Kamala Harris who is not only the first woman and person of colour to serve as vice president, but also a diversity activist and generally great debater, America is one step closer to really becoming great again.

If there’s anything you need to survive, it’s toilet paper

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak back in March, the empty toilet paper shelves in our local supermarkets were telling of the fact that the one commodity we need to survive a pandemic is… toilet paper. It didn’t make sense to me then; it doesn’t make sense to me now. But, for some reason, the pandemic induced panic buyers to stockpile toilet paper. Was it the notion of having to stay at home? Is it because toilet paper has no expiration date? Are people generally low on toilet paper? Whatever the reason, it was laughable. At least now we know that, if we are to ever face another pandemic in our lifetimes, all we need is plentiful toilet paper.

All in all, this year hasn’t been all bad. Granted, I miss the mundanities of everyday life: waking up, making a coffee, hopping on public transport frivolously, enjoying my colleagues’ company without the worry of maintaining social distancing, hopping on the bus back home, dressing up, heading to our favourite restaurant, engaging in date night, ordering more wine without having to order more food to accompany it, returning home, catching up with my friends, making plans, and doing it all over again (obviously, we didn’t go on date night every night, but you get the gist). Notwithstanding, I am grateful for all the lessons 2020 has taught me and they have certainly influenced a more refreshing approach to the new year.

What lessons did you learn this year?

I wish you health, happiness and less havoc for 2021.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Here we go again: Coping with the Christmas lockdown

Here we go again. Another lockdown, another torrent of emotions. Sadness. Frustration. Anxiety. As if this year hasn’t been draining enough, the tail end of 2020 saw many of us entering a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions which – to top it all off – covers the Christmas period. While it was clear that the pandemic was still ongoing following Lockdown 2.0, perhaps even more clearly than before, a faint ray of hope shone upon us as we “non-essential” workers were unfurloughed, high streets reopened and restrictions were relaxed on Wednesday 2 December so we could enjoy the festive period with family and friends. Now, due to the government’s incompetence in controlling the coronavirus from the onset of its outbreak back in March (which, may I gently remind you, is only three months away again), our Christmas plans – though perhaps unusual to begin with – have been completely ruined. Those who don’t live with family now can’t see their family. Those who don’t live with their partners now can’t see their partners. Those who live alone now can’t see anyone. That’s not to say that we can’t still try to make the most of each other’s company as we have for the entirety of 2020 through the likes of Zoom; while incomparable to being with your loved ones, we should be thankful that we can still communicate with them in such a manner.

As the first two lockdowns, the recent news has undoubtedly affected many, including myself. Following Lockdown Numero Uno, I unravelled my emotions of uselessness due to my inability to make my contribution to society as a non-essential worker, anxiety surrounding the global situation and envy of those who remained occupied by working from home. Likewise, during Lockdown 2.0, I shared my despondence as I anticipated the recurrence of the platitudes that emerged from the first lockdown. This time, however, it’s different: while the prospect of another lockdown was imminent, I don’t think anybody was prepared to receive the news on a Saturday afternoon – and not just any Saturday afternoon, but the last Saturday before Christmas – and enter Tier 4 just eight hours following. Thus, it’s only understandable to feel that torrent of emotions – sadness, frustration and anxiety – and dwell on the shitshow that is 2020.

Image credit: The word COVID-19 written on a red background

Alas, here we are. Although it’s easy to dwell on the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives in different ways, it’s so important to remember to prioritise our mental wellbeing. If you’re struggling with the recent news, I hope at least one of the following suggestions will help you to cope with the Christmas lockdown:

  • Host or engage in a virtual Christmas quiz. Although the virtual pub quiz has almost become a cliché after having hosted or engaged in so many in the first lockdown and ideas had run dry by Lockdown 2.0, it wasn’t Christmas then – so, just like you would in normal circumstances, arrange a Christmas quiz with your family and friends!
  • Plan a virtual Christmas dinner/movie night. I’m so sorry if your plans with family and/or friends have been cancelled. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have Christmas together – plan a virtual Christmas dinner or movie night with them and make the most of each other’s company, even if it is over Zoom!
  • Get up and get dressed. Whether you’re working from home, out of office or furloughed, put on those jeans (or your preferred bottoms), apply a little mascara and make the most of the day ahead. Sure, if you need a duvet day, take a duvet day – but be sure to take care of yourself.
  • Go for a walk. Yes, it might be freezing. Yes, it might be raining. So what? Plug in your headphones and listen to your favourite artist or podcast. Call a friend and talk as you walk. Wrap up in your gloves, scarf and raincoat and soak in some fresh air – even if it’s for 20 minutes. You won’t regret it.
  • If you need to, take a social media break. We all know social media can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing and, especially if your Christmas plans have changed last-minute, how others are spending their Christmas may be the last thing you want to see. If you need to, take a break, and focus on spending time with your loved ones – virtually or physically.
  • Reflect on your achievements this year. Generally, this year has – again – been one hell of a shitshow. Notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved anything this year. Graduated? Landed a new job? Acquired a new hobby? Whatever it is, celebrate your achievements and be proud of yourself!
  • Don’t be ashamed to feel what you feel. It doesn’t matter whether someone “has it worse”; your feelings are always valid. Whatever you’re feeling – be it sadness, frustration or anxiety – feel it. But, whatever you do, please: make sure you talk to someone about it and remember – as my last blog – it’s okay not to be okay.

I wish you all as happy a Christmas as possible and an even happier and healthier 2021.

Also, know that I’m here for a chat. You can reach out to me via my contact options here.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Remember to be kind this Christmas

Are you okay?

Such a simple question. A question so engrossed in everyday conversation that it has almost become meaningless. How many times have you been asked are you okay? in passing – by friends, by family, by coworkers – and responded with the likes of yeah, you? or fine, thanks, when what you really wanted to say was actually, I’m not okay? Too many times, probably. So, why do we do it? Why do we respond with such? Why do we essentially lie about how we feel? I’ll tell you why: because it’s easier. It’s so much easier to say I’m fine than to delve into all the reasons why we oftentimes feel quite the opposite of “fine”, be it to save face, avoid feeling like a burden or because we think the other participant of the conversation might not really give a crap. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it sad that we are fabricated to respond to a question with what’s “easier” than with the truth? Perhaps if we all started to express ourselves more openly rather than adhere to the conventions of small talk, the stigma surrounding mental health would subside; a matter long overdue.

Why am I talking about this? Well, because – in all honesty – I’m not okay. I’m not okay because this year has taken its toll on my mental health – on everyone’s mental health – in that we were trapped inside for months, lacked socialisation, routine and normality and saw thousands lose loved ones due to a dreadful disease. I’m not okay because it’s been almost a year since I graduated with my master’s degree and I anticipated that I’d achieve so much more than I have by now but, thanks to COVID-19, my progress was stalled. I’m not okay because I really, really miss my grandparents. Yet, every day, I put up a façade and carry on.

Image description: Coffee topped with marshmallows, cinnamon and a candy cane

The latter reason is the main reason I’m not okay right now. This Christmas will be my first Christmas without any grandparents. I’ve thought a lot recently – specifically, since my granddad passed away in August – that, at twenty-three, I’m pretty young to not have any grandparents. It’s a horrible feeling. Though I never met my dad’s dad because he unfortunately passed away before my brother and I were born and we were never close with my dad’s mum, but we were very lucky to have a great relationship with my mum’s parents, I still can’t quite fathom the fact that not one of them is still with us. Up until around seven-to-eight years ago, we’d spend every Christmas at my grandparents’ – my mum’s parents – and have the most wonderful, loud Greek-style Christmas. Things changed after my yiayia (Greek meaning “nan”) became immobile a few years before she passed away in 2016, but we would still visit them on Christmas morning. Then, my pappou (Greek meaning “granddad”) would spend the following few Christmases in a household other than his own – for instance, with us – so we still got to see or call him. But, now? We can’t see any of them. We can’t pick up the phone and exclaim Merry Christmas! and feel their smile beaming through the phone. We can’t hug them tightly as a means of expressing our affection. Things are especially different now neither of them is here for Christmas this year.

I have so many reasons to be happy. I have a loving family. I have the most incredible fiancé. I have a good job, the best friends and an adorable fur baby. I have so much to look forward to; buying our first home, our (postponed) holiday and our wedding to name a few. And I am. I am so happy for all these reasons. So happy. However, I’m also depressed for all the aforementioned reasons – the pandemic, the writing off of 2020 and the loss of my grandparents – and it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel this way, even when we do have so much going for us. As the saying goes: “it’s okay not to be okay”. Still, we feel obliged to respond to such a simple question as are you okay? with – quite plainly – a lie.

Christmas 2020 is just around the corner (nine days away, to be precise) and, while some are more excited than ever to celebrate it this year after the crazy year we’ve had, others are not feeling so festive. The impact of COVID-19 has affected everybody in different ways but, for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty shit year. That’s why I want to kindly leave you with the following reminders (or clichés, but important ones) for this Christmas:

  • Be kind.
  • Everybody is fighting their own battle you know nothing about.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.

The next time you ask someone are you okay?, be sure to show a little more compassion. Listen. It might just make their day. Likewise, the next time you’re asked are you okay?, don’t be afraid to open up. Speak. It might just be what you need.

Take care and remember to be kind this Christmas.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

How to: manage deadlines

As we approach the Christmas period, it is not uncommon for students to feel overwhelmed by the inundation of assignments; I certainly found it stressful. It’s almost the end of the semester. All your deadlines are close in proximity. Many of them determine your overall grade in their respective modules. I know, it sucks – but it’s not impossible. If you’re organised, your deadlines become much more easily manageable. I can only imagine how much harder it is to stay motivated in the current climate, especially if you’re studying completely remotely; so, I took it upon myself to walk down down memory lane and gather what I found were the 5 best ways to manage deadlines as a student for those seeking a little more guidance right now.

Image description: A laptop, notebook and diary atop a sofa

1. Create a plan

If you’ve read my guide on how to be more organised at university, you’ll know that I love a plan. A plan allows you to visualise your deadlines and figure when to work on each assignment accordingly. Use a planner, a diary or a calendar – be it on paper, an app on your phone or on your laptop – to jot your deadlines down and, from there, you can plan when and how long to work on each assignment.

2. Prioritise your work

Although your deadline dates can indicate which assignment you should start first, make sure to prioritise your work according to what’s more important, what’ll take the longest or perhaps even what you enjoy the least. If one assignment has a larger weighting towards your grade than another, has a higher word count than another or is not as interesting to you as another, consider starting that one first to get it out of the way.

3. Set personal goals

As I’m sure you know, assignments can be draining, especially if you’ve tried working on one from dusk till dawn. However, it’s not necessary to try to complete one assignment – or one whole section if it’s particularly long – in one day. Try to set personal goals, such as “I’m going to write 500 words today”, “I’ll work on the literature review today” or “I’m going to read 10 pages today”, and you’ll be much more productive.

4. Take a break

It’s so important to remember to take a break. If you’ve achieved your 500-word goal, switch off your laptop for a while and watch your favourite Friends episode (or, whichever show you like), make a coffee, go for a walk, call a friend or family member or even call it a day. If you feel energised enough to get back to your work, go for it, but don’t stress yourself – you’ve done enough!

5. Make it fun!

Assignments don’t have to be boring. You chose your course of study for a reason; you must find some pleasure in it, right? Train your mind to perceive each assignment as an opportunity to learn something new, not as a chore. Make your plans exciting; use a bullet journal, some highlighters and other fancy stationery. Play your favourite album in the background (if you can concentrate, that is; I prefer to work in silence). Enjoy it while you can; a year on, I still miss studying!

Again, I know it sucks. I know it’s stressful. I know it’s difficult to create a plan that will work, remember to take a break now and then and make it fun in some way. But, again: it’s not impossible. You will get there and, when you do, all those hours of stressing, typing and crying will all feel worth it. Trust me.

Remember, I’ve been there. So, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below or via the contact options on my contact page.

Stay safe and good luck!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

#LittleChats: with Zoe Wells

Hello and welcome to Episode 6 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. In this episode, I am delighted to chat with the one and only Zoe Wells, a 23-year-old Marketing Executive from Ashford, Surrey! Zoe and I graduated with our degrees in English Language and Linguistics in 2018 and, though I was confident we would remain friends after graduating, we have even more reason to stay in touch as I introduced her to my brother over two years ago… and the rest is history! In her spare time, Zoe likes to fulfil her passion for interior design following tips from the likes of Mrs Hinch on Instagram. In a more formal conversation than we would usually engage in, hear what Zoe has to say about life as a student, graduate and twenty-something…

Image description: Photos of Zoe and me with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Zoe W.”

Hey, Zoe! Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me! You were one of the very first friends I made at Roehampton through our degree and, not only are we still great friends, but you’re now living with my brother! Haha! So, why did you choose to study English Language and Linguistics?

No problem, thank you for asking me!  

I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to study at uni to start with. I studied English Language and Literature, History and Business at A level and knew I wanted to continue with English as it was the only topic I still really enjoyed, to be honest! 

I knew I wanted to stay at home during my studies, so I looked at courses that were provided by relatively local unis. I attended the odd talks about courses in Law, History and Social Care, but always went to talks about English. Having been to a few open days, there still wasn’t one course that I felt was right for me. When I attended the open day at Roehampton, the teacher was so passionate, and I found the examples of work so interesting. I remember we had a group discussion about the sentence “Buffy discovered a mole”.  It was almost like a lightbulb moment where I thought this is the area of English I want to study. 

That’s great! So, what did you enjoy most about university?

That’s a tricky one for meI think there is such an expectation that uni is the best time of your lifebut I didn’t find this. I didn’t leave with a large social circle and I definitely struggled with the stresses of studying, working and trying to have a life in general! 

I did make excellent friends that I speak to almost daily. For me, the content was the best part; I found all the areas I studied so fascinating. I enjoyed researching, reading and writing the essays so much so that I really didn’t find them a chore. Even two years on, I think about the topics I learnt. I also had great lecturers who were clearly passionate about their areas of study and were really approachable about anything.

It can be very stressful, but I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed your degree.
I know that after graduating, you went on to pursue marketing which we’ll talk more about in a moment. When you started university, did you have a career path in mind? If not, how were you hoping university would help you figure one?

I think I was just hoping that my degree would allow me to gain access to larger companies in a good role. I remember in an interview for my first role in admin, the interviewers said they either looked for a degree or a few years of relevant experience. After uni, I wanted a role that I didn’t have to worry too much about after all the stress from uni. I wanted to have solid experience on my CV and get a good reference. I think it’s really important to remember that your first job isn’t your last! 

That’s true! And now, you’re in marketing and even recently landed a new role! Tell us a bit about how you got into marketing and your journey so far.

After about a year in my admin role, I decided I needed a role where I could get back to my English roots and be more creative. I really missed writing contentso I looked for that in new roles. I don’t really remember how I came across marketing, but now it feels like a natural link with my passions. 

In my first marketing associate role, I got back to writing content like blogs and interviewing people (like you, Soph!) for case studies. There was more creative freedom, rather than set processes, to think of new ways to engage the audience. 

I have also been fortunate enough to work freelance. I made some good contacts that reached out to me with marketing work. It was a good leap of faith for me to be confident to be given a brief and execute it. I got a lot of exposure to new systems, web processes and tasks. I learnt so much in a short space of time and it helped me land my new role. 

I now work as a Marketing Executive with more responsibility and the ability to plan and execute my own marketing campaigns. It’s so nice to be back in a full-time role and have likeminded team members to support me and encourage my career development. I would love to gain a further qualification in marketing at some point. 

Amazing! What would you say to a current student or graduate who wants to get into marketing?

One of the best things about marketing is that there are so many different areas to explore. From content to social media to events, there are lots of opportunities. No marketing is the same; that’s why I decided I wanted a full-time role instead of freelancing so that I wasn’t limiting myself to certain tasks. It provides good opportunities to network, socialise and gain qualifications. It’s a great option for creatives who like teamwork and project management. 

Finally, as I ask every graduate: if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

I think I would recommend not to overcomplicate the experience. We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve and have the best time. My parents said “just try your best” and that’s something that’s stuck with me. It will be hard, but enjoy it because it will go by so quickly and then the real work begins!

I agree! Thank you so much, Zoe!

What a great story. Zoe reminds us that the university experience is not the same for everyone – some leave with lots of friends while others leave with a few, some find it more stressful than others and some might not enjoy their course of study as much as they hoped – and that’s okay. There is so much to look forward to after university; the freedom to discover more hobbies, interests and passions, the opportunity to build relationships and the possibility to gain more qualifications to name a few. As Zoe said, it goes by so quickly, so try to make the most of the experience and translate that into graduate life! 

Did you enjoy Zoe’s story? Stay tuned for more stories from fellow graduates and twenty-somethings on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Georgia Weekes

Hello and welcome to Episode 5 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. This episode sees me excitedly chatting with 24-year-old eDiscovery Analyst Manager (how cool does that sound?) from Bristol living in Kent, Georgia Weekes! Along with several other of my previous guests and me, Georgia graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018. She initially chose to study both English Language and Linguistics and English Literature at Roehampton but, after a few weeks, changed her mind and stuck with linguistics (I did the exact same thing when I applied for university!). Besides, as if English Language and Linguistics isn’t enough of a mouthful, Georgia rightly points out that English Language and Linguistics and Literature would’ve been too gross a mouthful! So, what does Georgia have to say about life as a student, graduate and twenty-something?

Image description: Photos of me and Georgia with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Georgia W.”

Hey, Georgia! Thank you so much for chatting with me. We also became great friends through our degree in English Language and Linguistics. As I’ve asked the others, what made you choose this course of study?

Hey Soph, thanks for having me – I’m really excited to play a part in your amazing blog!

It was on a whim, really! During my A levels, I did best in English Language, so I decided to run with it. I had no idea what career Linguistics could lead to, or even what it would entail when studied at degree level – I just wanted to do something I thought I was good at. Who could have known it would become such a great love of mine?!

That’s great! In our final year, you also founded the Roehampton Linguistics Society! What were your reasons for this and how did it enhance your university experience?

I threw myself into the studying side of university in my first two years. I was a real bookworm. Although that’s all well and good, I didn’t want to look back in years to come and realise I had missed out on the social side of university. For this reason, at the beginning of my third year, I made a conscious decision to get involved with as many societies as possible. Before long, I was talking to Mia who would become Vice President of the society – about whether she thought Roehampton would benefit from a Linguistics Society. She is the one who pushed me to start setting up the society and I’m so grateful for that. So, to answer your question, I suppose I set up the society purely for selfish reasons, to help me have the social university lifestyle I really wanted. But, in doing so, we brought together like-minded linguists, helped people to study, and created the most amazingly talented and supportive friendship group. To this day, it is my greatest achievement.

It really is a great achievement!
Then, during your degree, you became particularly interested in studying Law. I know you said you weren’t sure what career your degree could lead to, but did you consider any other career paths during?

I toyed with the idea of several different careers: journalism, speech and language therapy, accent and dialect coaching, teaching, and even doing a PhD. I’m a very indecisive person, but I’ve learnt to be okay with that. I think your twenties is exactly the time to be indecisive, explore an array of avenues, and work out what it right for you. It’s okay to not know what you want for your future.

I totally agree! What then influenced you to consider law? Are you still considering it?

In 2016, my Dad – who owns a home development business – ran into a pricing dispute with a customer which went to court. I am very supportive of my family (and I suppose a little competitive), so I got really stuck in helping my Dad put his case together. We poured hours into writing up the statement and collecting supporting documents – it was so rewarding to discover that we won. I wanted my career to be filled with that feeling over and over again.

After graduating from Roehampton, I was over the moon to receive a scholarship to study Law at the University of Law and I spent two lovely years working as a paralegal. However, law is such a demanding career, and I’m not certain that I want that level of stress in my day-to-day life. I have begun to question whether I actually want to be a lawyer, or whether I just want people to perceive me as successful. If I am to continue on my path to becoming a lawyer, I will need to do three more years of expensive studying and training before I can call myself a solicitor – it’s a very big commitment for something I am not certain about. At the moment, I guess I don’t have a definite answer for you other than “I don’t know”, “I am playing it by ear” and “I will probably blame my indecision on covid in years to come”.

Until I am ready to make that decision, I am working for a tech company reviewing documents for their compliance with the Data Protection Act, a job perfectly poised between linguistics and law. A happy medium.

What a great response! With that, what would you say to a current student or graduate who isn’t sure what career path they want to pursue?

2017 Georgia would have told you to research the hell out of prospective careers, see a careers advisor, and go to career workshops so that you can work out what’s right for you. But I did all that, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. You are better off not forcing things and keeping an open mind. Use your time at university to enjoy yourself and build yourself as a person in every way you can. Say yes to every opportunity so that, when you do realise what career you’d like to pursue, you can shoehorn that experience into your CV with some semblance of relevance; for instance, taking part in the drama society could be used to show confidence when presenting in court.

Don’t. Panic. It’s okay to not have a plan. Some of the happiest people I know still don’t have a plan in their forties. Just be you and live in the moment. The rest will come.

I love that! Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t try to make everything perfect. I spent too much time in my early twenties trying to make things just right and wouldn’t want the same for anyone else. You got a grade you aren’t happy with on one assignment? You will learn from your mistakes and do better next time. You didn’t get the campus accommodation you hoped for? Don’t freak out, you will still build great relationships with your flatmates. Your dress tore on a big night out? So what, you were wearing a cute bra anyway. Learn to embrace the chaos. Trust me, it’s the secret to happiness.

And that’s how it’s done! Thank you so much, Georgia!

How great was that chat? Georgia’s story reminds us exactly of the purpose of these chats: that there are many avenues we can pursue later in life, but you don’t need to have everything figured out in your twenties. If you’re going to university, yes: choose a degree that interests you and work hard, but don’t forget to make the most of the experience by making friends, joining or creating societies and living for the moment. Whether or not you’re sure of what you want to do beyond your studies, everything will work out!

Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Georgia on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Mia Ustun

Hello and welcome to Episode 4 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. I am very excited to introduce my fourth guest, 23-year-old master’s student from Luton, Mia Ustun! Mia graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018 and is currently working towards her MSc in Speech and Language Therapy at City University of London. Alongside her studies, Mia works as a part-time Pharmacy Advisor, and is working towards “30 before 30”: visiting thirty different countries before turning thirty. On that note, let’s hear what Mia has to say about life as a student, graduate and twenty-something in 2020…

Image description: Photos of me and Mia with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Mia U.”

Hey, Mia! Firstly, thank you so much for chatting with me. As I’ve mentioned to you many times before, you were the first person I spoke to on our English Language and Linguistics course, and I’m so grateful we’re still friends! Why did you choose this course of study?

Hi Soph! So happy to be taking part in Little Pav’s Little Chats.

During my time in sixth form, I wanted to study Psychology further, but really didn’t want to let go of my first love: language. I racked my brain, spoke to tutors and careers advisors, searched the internet until eventually coming across Speech and Language Therapy. I knew eventually this is what I would end up doing but, at only 17, I did not feel ready to embark on this particular journey. That’s when English Language and Linguistics caught my attention. I absolutely fell in love with the course and its content and believe it prepared me perfectly for my future endeavours!

That’s lovely! And now, you’re pursuing Speech and Language Therapy through a master’s degree! How big would you say the leap is from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

I am! I started Year 2 in September ‘20. I personally think it’s completely different from my undergraduate degree. My master’s course, however, is not typical; it’s essentially a four-year undergraduate course squashed into two. I went from being at university 2-3 days a week to 3-4 days plus a placement depending on where we’re at in the term. The workload is much heavier, and the content is challenging. I think this is because we have to cover so many areas, from biomedical science to acoustic phonetics, to augmentative and alternative communication. The list goes on… and on… and on. Overall, it was – and still is – quite a leap from undergrad life.

I agree that it’s a very big leap! So, why did you choose to study for a master’s degree? Is it expected of someone interested in Speech and Language Therapy?

So, in order to be a Speech and Language Therapist in the UK, you have to obtain an SLT qualification from a recognised course. Here are the routes you can take:

a) Four-year undergraduate degree

b) Two-year postgraduate degree

I’ve heard some people speculate the possibility of an apprenticeship in the future, but this is just hearsay. The master’s degree fits nicely with my educational development and gives me another bunch of letters after my name, so why not?

That’s true! You also took a gap year between your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Was this intentional? How did you spend your gap year?

Originally, I wanted to go straight into my master’s; I even started the application processes. Unfortunately, I had a number of bereavements within my family which meant I wasn’t in the correct headspace to embark on a master’s. Every cloud has its silver lining though, and, during my year off, I was able to volunteer and get some really solid experience for my future career. I trained as a conversation partner and even managed to qualify as a Pharmacy Assistant; it’s impossible for me to stay away from education, even during a gap year.

As well as volunteering and saving up, I tried to travel as much as I possibly could. I love exploring different cities and learning about different cultures. I fell in love with Venice and cannot wait till it’s safe to travel again.

Every cloud has a silver lining indeed!
You’re currently completing your master’s degree in the midst of a pandemic. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you as a student in 2020?

Oh my goodness, it has been a challenge. I think the biggest challenge has to be going from travelling into City and being in lectures or placement every day, to sitting at my desk, in my house, on Zoom calls every day. Since all my family members are at work or school, it’s just me in the house. It was nice to have the quiet at first, but now I’m a bit lonely. It’s a big adjustment, but I am so grateful to be where I am today. I’ve always tried to highlight to my little sisters just how privileged we are to have such a fantastic education and just how many opportunities life will give us because of it! I guess the take home message here is: remember, in times of struggle or when faced with adversity, how blessed you are.

That’s such a sweet message to your little sisters!
To finish off, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Live in the moment more and stop worrying about ‘what’s next’. This is something I’m still working on – but I really do try to practise it.

Soph, thank you so much for this interview!

No, thank you, Mia! Best of luck with the rest of your master’s!

How lovely! From Mia’s story, we can learn that there are so many ways you can find the right university course for you – be it through tutors, careers advisors and research – and how that course can prepare you for your desired career path. What’s more, Mia highlights that taking a gap year – intentionally or unintentionally – can offer many opportunities, from gaining work experience to travelling. So, if you are unsure what you want to do at university or how to spend your gap year, consider Mia’s footsteps!

Did you enjoy Mia’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Mia on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Natasha Hill

Hello and welcome to Episode 3 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. In this episode of Little Chats, I am very excited to chat with 23-year-old Surveyor Natasha Hill from Woking, Surrey! Natasha graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018 and an MSc in Real Estate Development from the University of Westminster in 2020 and is particularly interested in interior design. Her postgraduate degree is quite different from that of her undergraduate, so I’m most excited to hear how she pursued this route! When Natasha’s not nosing around people’s houses (as part of her profession, that is), you can find her re-watching her favourite EastEnders episodes which she has loved since it aired… well, since she was born because it aired before then! With that, let’s hear Natasha’s story…

Image description: Photos of me and Natasha with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Natasha H.”

Hey, Natasha! Thank you so much for chatting with me. Like Hannah, you and I became great friends through the completion of our English Language and Linguistics degrees. As I asked her, what made you choose this course of study?

Hey beautiful! No problem at all, I love reading your blogs, the pleasure is all mine!

I chose to study English Language and Linguistics because I thoroughly enjoyed English at school, at GCSE and at A level. I realised I loved analysing things, from literature to speech and, well, everything really! The course at Roehampton gave me the most freedom to analyse different topics in different ways, whereas most of the other courses where English is involved only really focus on creative writing, so Roey was the one for me!

That’s what I loved about Roehampton, too! When you started your degree, did you have a career path in mind?

When I started, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Different pathways became clearer later on, but in the beginning, I was so stuck on where I wanted to go. All I knew is that I wanted to do something which I enjoyed, and as far as work goes… that’s not a lot (lol)! Originally, I thought English is a good base subject that would benefit many careers. As I love organising and analysing things, I thought anything managerial would be great. As I got deeper into first year, Speech Therapy stood out the most as I really enjoyed the module Phonetics and Phonology (the study of sounds). The following year, I studied a module called Forensic Linguistics and decided I wanted to go into analysing people’s speech in law, but it turned out I wasn’t that good at that module, so I went against that… but how cool would that be?! In the last year, I took a work placement module where I took an internship at a Chartered Surveyors, mainly focusing on the social media aspects as well as writing up some of the reports from a colleague’s dictation. I was asked to stay on because it turns out I know a thing or two about buildings having been brought up with a family in construction and, bam, I have a job!

That’s amazing! So, after your undergraduate degree, you went on to do a postgraduate degree in Real Estate Development and now you’re a Surveyor, right?

Yes, so I undertook a master’s degree in Real Estate Development because, to be able to progress to a Chartered Surveyor (rather than *just* a Surveyor), I needed a degree relevant to property as well as the fact that it fast-tracks me for the professional qualification. I’m focusing on the pathway to become a Valuation Surveyor, but I also cover the work for many other things such as building surveys, planning applications and advice, party wall and building control!

Wow! So, are you enjoying your current role?

Yes, I love my job now because I am constantly analysing things. Plus, I get to nose around people’s houses which is super fun!

That does sound fun!
Do you think your undergraduate degree in English Language and Linguistics has been useful in this profession?

Yes, though it’s building related, I am still using my skillset of English Language and Linguistics because I write big reports and analyse many things including the property market, laws, documentations and how properties are made. My job is also very social which is another thing I love about it!

Yes, Linguistics really does offer so many transferrable skills!
Finally, if you could give a first-year student any piece of advice, what would it be?

Ooh… my advice for a first-year student is to push yourself out of your comfort zone, chat and meet people, go out, and don’t be afraid. I know it’s easier said than done, but everyone is in the same boat: it’s all new and a bit scary. Getting chatting to as many people as you can helps you to make friends quicker (some of which may be friends for life, eh, Soph 😉) and may provide a base of contacts which you may rely on later in life. This will help bring you some confidence, which will be really beneficial for things such as presentations in lectures and perhaps your future career!

That’s so true! Thank you, Natasha, and best of luck in your endeavours!

What a great chat! Not only does Natasha’s story illustrate that you don’t need to have a career path set in stone when you begin your studies, but also that your degree can be useful in any profession! As graduates, we’re often made to feel that we must secure a position directly related to our degrees however, the reality is that any subject can offer an array of transferrable skills – skills that might differentiate us from other candidates!

Did you enjoy Natasha’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Natasha on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Megan Warren-Figgess

Hello and welcome to Episode 2 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay to not have your life figured out in your twenties. Today, I’m so excited to chat with Megan Warren-Figgess, a 21-year-old Support Worker and Dance Teacher from Sutton, London! Earlier this year, Megan founded her own small company, IN MY FEELS, which focuses on dancing in high heels and embracing body confidence. Unlike many of my upcoming guests on Little Chats, Megan didn’t go to university, which is why I’m especially excited to chat with her about how she pursued her business! Hear Megan’s story below.

Image description: Photos of me and Megan with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Megan W-F.”

Hey, Megan! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I am so excited to hear about your business. Before we talk more about that, though, my first question for you is: were you ever made to feel like you must go to university in order to succeed, be it through teachers, friends or societal pressure?

Yes! All throughout college it felt like the only option afterwards was uni. As we had lessons spent filling out UCAS forms, and as I studied Performing Arts, we had lessons especially for auditioning for schools and universities. I also found myself surrounded by friends who were already at uni or were applying to unis which added to the pressure of me feeling like I had to go. However, I was even unsure myself if university is truly what I wanted.

University seems like the only option to many, but — as you exemplify — that’s not the case. Before your business, what did you go on to do after your college studies?

I did end up auditioning for drama and musical theatre schools which I got into, but as they were ridiculously expensive to accept, I had to turn them down. However, for me that ended up being the best choice and I’m so happy I didn’t go. The first few months after college were hard and I almost felt a bit lost as to what I wanted to do or my next steps. For the time being, I found myself in a care job where I cared for young disabled children. I ended up doing that for a few months, but I eventually found myself auditioning for my first acting job which I got. The people I was working with were all 25+, went to drama schools and universities and had agents. But this is a great example that you don’t need all that as I auditioned without an agent and without drama school training and I got that job – which was a paid acting job – all by myself, which was one of the best things I have ever done and it taught me so much.

That is a great example! And now, you now run an amazing small company called IN MY FEELS Dance! Tell us a bit about IN MY FEELS and how it came to be.

So, since I was doing my acting job in 2019, I stopped dancing as I didn’t have time. Then in January 2020, I started going to some dance classes on my own. Then the idea came to me about running my own classes that were not only about learning a routine, but I wanted to find a way to teach others about feeling confident and sexy. For me, I’ve always struggled with my body appearance and feeling confident in my body, but the times I feel my most confident and sexiest within myself is actually when I’m in heels and dancing! So, I put the two together and had an idea in February 2020 to teach high heels classes for all abilities about working on and embracing body confidence! I first started off by drafting some social media ideas and then did a post on Instagram to see if anyone would be interested to which I got an amazing response. Then, a few weeks after getting everything in place, I started up my classes. IN MY FEELS Dance has become such a passion and love of mine, and one day I would love to make it full-time and expand it. I feel so proud of myself for doing everything on my own, from finding and hiring a studio and choreographing, to running and editing my own social media posts, and interacting with the people who come. I have gone from never studying how to run a business to learning for myself which I’ve enjoyed so much.

Wow, you should be proud! Do you think that university would have been helpful in pursuing your business, or rather are you happy without having gone to university?

For me, I’m happy with my choices and that I didn’t go to university. I think about how, if I went, I wouldn’t have been offered the amazing opportunities I have in the space of the time I would have been at uni. I have also found that, from two years ago to now, my mind has changed completely as to what I want to do for a career; when I was applying to universities, I was applying to study to be an actress and performer whereas, after college, that changed completely as my passion now is running my own classes and my own business, which I hope one day can become a full-time thing. Also, I have now got myself a job where I am a support worker for young people with ranging needs from mental health to homelessness, which I now have a passion to be in work which works towards helping others in mental health. I think, if I did go to university, I wouldn’t have found these new passions of mine, so I look back and I don’t regret at all not going to university.

That’s really refreshing to hear. What advice would you give to a current sixth form or college student who isn’t sure whether to, or doesn’t want to, go to university?

Only you can decide what you truly want to go on to do. Although parents, teachers and friends can give you advice, at the end of the day, it’s about what you want to do and not what anyone else thinks. If you are unsure about whether you want to go to uni or not, or feel like you are only going because you don’t know what else to do, my advice would be to look for opportunities and what else there is. Until I looked, I didn’t realise all the amazing opportunities there are.

That’s absolutely true. On that note, if you could give your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t feel pressured to decide what you want to do for a career. That will come when the time’s right; there’s no rush to find that perfect job. You’ll end up having to go through some bad ones to find the good one. Although it’s hard and can feel pressured with social expectations, at the end of the day, the only person you truly need to listen to is yourself!

I love that! Megan, thank you so much!

How inspiring! While university is right for many, Megan proves that it’s not the only option when you turn 18. If – like Megan was – you’re unsure whether university is for you, that’s okay; navigate other options, explore your passions and – most importantly – take your time. There’s no rush and, through the plentiful other options you can pursue, you might just discover or start something wonderful!

Did you enjoy Megan’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Megan on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Hannah Shirley

Hello and welcome to my very first episode of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue post-graduation and, equally, that it’s okay to not have your life figured out in your twenties. I am very excited to introduce my first guest, 25-year-old graduate from a little village in Cambridgeshire, Hannah Shirley! Hannah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton London in 2018 and is currently not only helping her dad’s company with some “super fun” running of day-to-day necessities, which she can luckily complete from home, but also working on writing her own book! One day, Hannah also hopes to visit all the Seven Wonders of the World. With that, let’s hear what Hannah has to say about her life as a student, graduate and twenty-something…

Image description: Photos of me and Hannah with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Hannah S.”

Hey, Hannah! Firstly, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me! So, you and I became great friends through the completion of our English Language and Linguistics degrees. What made you choose this course of study?

I always knew I enjoyed the history of language and I wanted to further my knowledge of how our language has changed throughout time and why.

I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a Speech and Language Therapist after seeing the amazing journey my cousin took who, being born 12 weeks premature, has severe autism and learning difficulties. Hearing him talk to me and say my name for the first time solidified my decision to bring that joy to other families.

Amazing! The history of English is really fascinating to me, too. That’s such a lovely story about your cousin; I’ll ask more about your career plans in a moment. Before that, though, what did you enjoy most about university?

Oh, god… it was so long ago… 🤔

Probably the vast topics we could choose from. I’m glad that no two modules were the same. Of course, there was overlap, but you could always expect something new which kept it exciting. I would have lost my mind if it were repetitive, every class being the same!

It does seem like a lifetime ago now!
You mentioned that you decided you wanted to become a Speech and Language Therapist from a young age after watching your cousin’s inspiring journey. Is this the career path you still have in mind after completing your degree? If so, what are your plans for pursuing this?

It’s certainly something I’m still interested in. I’ve looked into placements with speech therapy centres and the possibilities of shadowing language doctors in outpatient hospitals. Unfortunately, because of the current predicament we’re in, a lot of hospitals are reluctant to hire people, wanting to keep their places of work as safe and uncontaminated as possible. I’ve realised, though, that I don’t have to rush anything – there’s no right time to do anything – and taking a walk after uni before jumping into work isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite refreshing.

I completely agree! As you said, we’re currently living in an uncertain time. How has this impacted you as a graduate, and what would you say to those completing their degrees during a pandemic?

I think it’s impacted upon what my idea of how a graduate would be living, if that makes sense? I always assumed that, once I’d graduated, I’d be able to move into my own place, have a job in my chosen field and effectively be a ‘grown up’. But this year hasn’t been like that at all – I’m 25 and still living with my parents.

I’d tell current students that this is going to be hard. It was difficult for me and I wasn’t studying in the middle of a pandemic. It will be draining, and you’ll spend days reading and writing the same essays until all you want to do is burn them. But the outcome is amazing! The accomplishment you feel when each essay is submitted, when every piece of work or exam or presentation is over, makes it all worthwhile. Don’t push yourself to breaking point, you’re only human. Do your best and don’t turn yourself into a zombie!

There’s much more to university than just the grades. Use this opportunity to turn yourself into the best version of yourself.

That’s such great advice! Every submission really is an accomplishment.
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

GET MORE SLEEP!

Find yourself a HEALTHY routine that works well for you and remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. DO NOT compare yourself to others, you’re perfect just the way you are.

Preach! Thank you so much, Hannah, and all the best!

Wow! Hannah has certainly shared many words of wisdom there. Many students and graduates often feel burdened with the pressure to rush into work immediately after graduating, though Hannah reminds us of why that’s not necessary — especially in the current climate. We’re still young, so let’s enjoy our twenties while we can, right?

Did you enjoy Hannah’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Hannah on #LittleChats!

My favourites on Instagram: Enhancing the Instagram experience

Instagram. Us millennials and centennials are all guilty of spending hours on end scrolling through the app, consecutively double-tapping on aesthetically pleasing images that comprise our feeds as a signal of our liking, even if we haven’t read their captions entirely. The platform is renowned for its toxicity in encouraging users – particularly young people – to compare their lifestyles to that of how others present their “best lives” in tiny squares. While I have – fortunately – never encountered such an issue, what did occur to me some years back was that the platform would eventually become a monotony to me after engaging in such platitudinous scrolls. Hence, in recent years, I’ve personally made the conscious effort to continuously improve my Instagram experience, forming my now-perception of the platform as a “personalised digital magazine” by following plentiful accounts that pique my interest. With all the imaginative, insightful and inspiring content out there, rest assured there are Instagram creators for everyone which – once you discover and follow them – will satiate your feed not with toxicity, but delight. Perhaps this view of Instagram is somewhat business-oriented, influenced by the completion of my marketing-based master’s degree which often involved the exploration of Instagram as a marketing tool, but believe me: once you shape your feed to the kind of content that interests you by following brands, celebrities and influencers that you like, you will too begin to see Instagram in a whole new light.

Image description: An iPhone with a heart, a comment and a profile icon above

Hopefully, after that introduction, you’re now convinced to alter your Instagram habits and work to enhance your experience of the platform. If you’ve never engaged in such an activity, however, it’s probable that you have one burning question: how? The first step to personalising your Instagram feed is to conduct a cleanse of the toxicity; namely, unfollow those already on your “following” list who induce nothing but apathy. Then, you can begin to embark on your exciting follow spree. The spree should be exactly that: exciting! Still, if you’re unsure as to who or what you want to follow, first ask yourself what’s relevant to you, where your interests lie and what you’re passionate about. For instance: if you’re a student or graduate, a graduate page like Gals Who Graduate would be relevant to you; if you’re interested in blogging, a lifestyle blogger like Chloe Plumstead might further your interest; and, if you have a passion for beauty, an industry expert like Caroline Hirons can inspire you. If you know me or have been following my blog for a while, you might have figured that I implicitly used myself as an example there: a recent graduate interested in blogging with a passion for beauty. With that, below are my current top ten favourites on Instagram and why.

1. Caroline Hirons (@carolinehirons)

Again, if you know me or have read my blogs about my love for skincare and my favourites from Caroline Hirons’ Summer Kit (if you know, you know), this one might have been obvious. In her bio, Caroline defines herself as an “Advanced Aesthetician and Brand Consultant”, and many in the beauty industry refer to her as the “powerhouse” of skincare. Not only do I enjoy Caroline’s expert advice, honest reviews and detailed how-tos, but also her fearlessness as to calling out those that are dishonest, misleading and immoral; brands, celebrities, even the government (especially during the pandemic) to name a few. Whether you’re desperate to start a skincare routine proper or simply seeking a powerful voice to empower your feed, then Caroline is the influencer for you.

2. Lisa Potter-Dixon (@lisapotterdixon)

One of the first blogs I ever wrote drew on my realisation that I’ve always had a passion for makeup, but I didn’t know it until I discovered the joy that is Lisa Potter-Dixon and listened to her and Hannah Martin’s podcast Life and Lipstick. Previously the Head Makeup Artist at Benefit Cosmetics, Lisa is a freelance makeup artist as well as an author of three bestselling books, a lifestyle and beauty blogger and – most recently – the co-host of Five Faves of The Week, a podcast inspired by her “five faves of the week” on Instagram Stories whereby she reviews five of her favourite products each week. When I’m not on the shopfloor, my coworkers can find me in the staff kitchen enjoying Lisa’s IGTV beauty tutorials, PR unboxings and product comparisons whilst I devour my lunch.

3. Ateh Jewel (@atehjewel)

I discovered Ateh during one of Caroline’s infamous lockdown Instagram Lives in which they engaged in an important conversation regarding how we can all move forward following the horrific incident involving George Floyd back in May, where Ateh also reflected on her own encounter with a white woman who told her that black women can’t wear pink. Let that sink in. (If that doesn’t anger you like it does me, I don’t know what to say.) Ever since, I have been an avid follower of Ateh, an award-winning journalist and diversity advocate; from her enlightening blogs and her fun Wednesday Chat Clubs to the development of her FUchsia blusher (to say a big “F U” to said white woman) and Ateh Jewel Beauty which celebrates women of colour, her pink-heavy content is nothing short of delightful.

4. Chloe Plumstead (@chloeplumstead)

Chloe was one of the first bloggers I followed some years back now and my love for her content has remained. She is an extremely eloquent writer who covers petite styling (perfect for little 4’9” me), sex and relationships and life in your twenties. I can’t stress just how eloquently she puts the everyday occurrences in twenty-something life into words; her blogs, captions and stories alike read like effortless poetry. What’s more, her photos and videos exemplify the “aesthetically pleasing” content I referred to at the onset, but that which radiates only positive vibes. But don’t let her eloquence fool you; you might just feel obliged to purchase every product she wears, shares and endorses.

5. The Megan Edit (@themeganedit)

It’s not often I use the “discover” feature on Instagram now that I’m following an abundance of accounts to my liking, but one time I did during Lockdown 1.0, I came across the wonder that is The Megan Edit. I remember when I followed her, her follower count read “14k”; now, it’s no surprise that she has surpassed the 35k mark, with her smiley, mind-and-body-positive content which is guaranteed to brighten your day. From weight and mental health to fashion and food, Megan’s touches upon topics every twenty-something can relate to, and in an extremely refreshing manner. Oh, and – as a Musical Theatre graduate – she’s a bloody amazing singer.

6. Emily Clare Skinner (@emilyclareskinner)

I could genuinely look at Emily’s feed all day. Her current preset is a dream. The moody tones are stunning; yummy, almost. As a Fashion Blogger and Content Creator, Emily will bless your feed with on-trend fashion inspo, more recently through the new reel feature such as for her Pinterest-inspired looks and TikTok famous “outfit roulette”, and bedroom envy after her recent bedroom makeover. It goes without saying that she might also make your day as she did mine; after I voted on a poll on her stories, she sent me a DM to follow up on how I was – how sweet!

7. Bang on Style (@bangonstyle)

I’m awful at DIY; predominantly because I’ve never tried it. Debbie – the creator behind Bang on Style – however, is quite the opposite of awful at DIY; she is incredible at it. I always find myself in awe of her creativity as she upcycles almost anything, from a simple bedside table which now embraces gorgeous gold accents to a broken mirror which now serves a new purpose as a fantastic outdoor feature, and creates gorgeous décor like her recent leopard-print-patterned pumpkin. Debbie also shares her experiences of dating as well as funny tales aplenty which you can find on her highlights; the portaloo story cracked me up especially!

8. Das Penman (@das.penman)

Like me, I’m sure many started following Das after a couple of posts she created, again following the death of George Floyd, went viral. Nonetheless, succeeding these posts, Das shared an IGTV explaining that her account is not the go-to for learning more about racism and that those posts were the extent of her knowledge in the area. Even now, she encourages her followers to conduct research into such topics themselves. I follow her still not only because I enjoy her creative content around the areas she admits she is more up to speed with, such as mental health, but also because she serves as a reminder that we can all do better in our day-to-day lives in continuing to educate ourselves on matters like racism.

9. Lucy Mountain (@lucymountain)

Now, I’m no fitness guru like Lucy, and that’s the beauty of her content: you don’t have to enjoy fitness like she does to enjoy her content. I actually followed Lucy after The Megan Edit shared a post of hers which highlighted that cellulite is formed by fat cells contained by a different internal structure for males and females and that no amount of creams can change the appearance of such. Since, I have enjoyed Lucy’s informative and humorous content which, as she puts it, “passive-aggressively calls out the bs” related to fitness, diet culture and body image through photos and videos alike. What’s more, she recently homed an adorable cat called Stan – what more could you ask for?

10. Gals Who Graduate (@galswhograduate)

If you’re a student or graduate, I urge you to follow Gals Who Graduate. The page is an incredible support system for students and graduates, sharing stories from students both past and present covering the likes of internship experiences, the tediousness of job seeking post-graduation and graduating in the midst of a pandemic. They also have a Facebook page where members can ask almost anything and offer advice from experience to others. Gals Who Graduate reassures you that you are not alone in dealing with the struggles that come with student and graduate life and reminds you that you are part of a wonderful community.

Particularly in the current climate, it’s so important that we try to make light of every situation, especially social media as those of us on furlough or in similar situations are probably using it much more than usual and we know that it can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing without even realising. With that, I hope you’re feeling inspired to enhance your Instagram experience by following those like the above to satiate your feeds with delight. If you’re not already following these accounts, are you going to follow any now? If so, who and why? And, based on my reviews, who would you recommend that I follow? Let’s talk Instagram in the comments below!

Now, go – unfollow those you might have known years back but induce nothing but apathy now, and embark on a follow spree of joy for the better.

Lockdown 2.0: What’s different this time?

Yesterday, towards the end of my last working day for at least a month, an avalanche of gloom crashed over me as I anticipated Lockdown 2.0. It was the strangest feeling. Up until that moment, I thought I was prepared; “we’ve done it once before, so we can do it once again”, to quote every brand, celebrity and influencer comprising our Instagram feeds. Up until that moment, when asked “what are your plans for this lockdown?”, I would confidently respond: “you know, play more Animal Crossing, write more blogs and invest more time in myself”, as the previous lockdown. If I was so confident, then, what triggered that avalanche of gloom to crash so abruptly last night? What’s different this time? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I guess that’s the point of this discourse: to decipher what it is exactly that has made me and many others feel so despondent this time around.

Image description: “COVID-19” written on a black background

With that, let’s backtrack to March: it was during this month that a 12-week long national lockdown was ordered, encouraging non-essential workers and the like to “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”, as the mantra back then quite rightly communicated. The vulnerable received letters, text messages and special mentions to shield from that of anybody other than those they reside with and have somebody else acquire their needs. Key workers – again, quite rightly – received praise for their astonishing efforts in continuing to prosper during such an unusual time. Although we were fighting a global pandemic, a sense of unity flooded the nation in that we each played our part to combat the virus.

As our time at home progressed, many of us engaged in virtual pub quizzes aplenty, explored our creativity through the likes of cooking, painting and writing and spent hours on end developing our own island paradise on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This way of life inevitably became, in familiar terminology, the “new normal”. Notwithstanding, the tail end of Lockdown 1.0 saw the plethora of virtual pub quizzes convert into cliches, the lack of socialisation induce frustration and the yearn for a return to normality grow stronger and stronger.

Back in March, the prospect of a lockdown was entirely new to us. We’d never done it before, so we weren’t so sure as to what was in store (rhyme unintended). We’d never engaged in so many virtual pub quizzes. We’d never baked so many cakes, painted so many walls and written so many blogs. We’d never had so much time to devote to a video game. For this reason, lockdown was almost satisfying for many; it opened an abundance of avenues of artistry. On the contrary, it was also very difficult for many; some more so than others. Going so long without seeing family and friends, journeying to our favourite cities and accepting this reality was detrimental to a lot of us, both physically and mentally.

Come June, when many workplaces reopened for business and social distancing rules relaxed slightly, many – for the first time in three months – felt a fragment of relief. That’s right: just a fragment. Though it was relieving that we could return to work, reunite with loved ones and revisit some of our favourite locations, we all still felt a strong notion of uncertainty. Though social distancing measures were still encouraged, they were often flouted. Though you could not yet book a facial, you could get your beard trimmed. Though we were finally “allowed” to leave the house, the vulnerable and those living with them still felt obliged to stay at home. I related to the latter in particular given that my fiancé is deemed vulnerable; I did not yet feel safe to return to my usual position which, luckily for me, my employer was very understanding of and worked to cater to those of us in such situations.

Upon my return to my usual position in September, I quickly adapted to the second edition of the “new normal”; mask-wearing, social distancing and accepting that the pandemic was ongoing. In fact, I believe this was the case for a lot of us; following Lockdown 1.0, conversations typically derived – and still derive – from the topic of coronavirus because it’s happening. It hasn’t stopped. Every day, I receive notifications from the BBC App on my phone regarding “your morning/evening coronavirus update”. The reality is that people are still being affected by this horrendous disease. Hence Lockdown 2.0.

To answer the question at the outset, I think I’ve deciphered what’s different this time is that, although many of us explored creative outlets old and new during Lockdown 1.0, we were all impacted by the cliche of virtual pub quizzes, the lack of socialisation and the yearn for a return to normality; when businesses began to reopen and social distancing rules were relaxed, we were finally reunited with familiarity. Now Lockdown 2.0 has arrived, we know what’s in store, and we know that the implications can be detrimental. So, let’s focus on the good that came out of Lockdown 1.0 and implement them in Lockdown 2.0; book in those Zoom catch-ups with your family, friends and coworkers; bake those cakes you didn’t get to the first time around and play those video games to your heart’s content. Remember: this lockdown is necessary to help stop the spread of this cruel disease and, one day, this will all be a distant memory.

Stay safe!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

World Mental Health Day 2020: My story

On this day two years ago, I shared an Instagram post revealing that I’ve encountered various kinds of mental health issues in the past, but I intentionally did not delve any deeper. Why? Because, even though I’ve been in a much better place than I ever was for the past two-to-three years, I still felt uncomfortable in sharing my story as the underlying stigma remains strong. And there lies the issue. So, today, I’m breaking that stigma; having been much more open about past experiences since creating my blog back in May, I now feel comfortable enough to share my story in the hope that it can encourage others to take the plunge and share theirs, too. Here goes…

Image description: A laptop on a bed with a screensaver that reads “MENTAL HEALTH”

When I say I’ve encountered “various kinds” of issues, I am predominantly referring to depression, anxiety and OCD, but they have occurred in an array of forms. Take my first ever encounter of depression: high school. As I touch upon in one of my latest blogs, I was depressed throughout the entirety of my high school career due to feeling like a misfit, entangling myself in toxic friendships and thus isolating myself from others. On top of this, I suffered with acne all over my back, chest and some areas of my face; the culmination of the factors that caused my depression induced the development of my excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, a condition related to OCD involving the relentless picking at one’s skin. As a result, I also suffered with body-related anxiety issues; every time I undressed in the changing rooms for PE or Dance, I was forever afraid of being judged for the scars all over my skin.

Cut to sixth form and, honestly, Years 12 and 13 were two of the best years of my life. How did my life alternate so drastically? I’ll tell you how: those who enkindled the toxicity were no longer present in my everyday life. I could relate to those more in my A level classes because A level was a more serious matter; nobody felt “obliged” to study English and nobody selected Dance just to “fill a gap” in their timetable. My acne finally began to cure after years of trialling treatment after treatment; I eventually found something that worked. I loved every moment of my sixth form life, so much so I didn’t want it to end. Towards the end of my sixth form studies is when Daniel and I also started dating – what a way to consummate a wonderful two years!

After sixth form came university. I mention briefly in my blog about living home for university that I was so sure that moving away for university was the right path for me; I was confident that I was ready for a fresh start in an exciting location with an abundance of new faces. What’s more, the prospect of moving to Brighton for university sounded like the ideal; it’s a cute place for a day out and a fun spot for a night out. Nonetheless, from the onset of my first year at the University of Sussex, I was again depressed and, this time, also severely anxious. Depressed because, although I made some friends on my course of study and in my halls, I didn’t make ~great~ friends. Anxious because I was gripping onto the hope that I would eventually build better friendships, but the year only became worse and worse; it felt as though I was reliving high school all over again. I began to suffer from panic attacks nightly and resorted to utilising the university’s counselling services. My fourth session in, even my counsellor muttered: “I don’t see you coming back here”. At first, I thought: “what an incredibly harsh thing to say”, as though she had no faith in that I could return and things would improve or change for me. The summer between my first and second year when I moved back home, however, it dawned on me: she was right. I couldn’t face returning to a place where I was so unhappy; the notion was sickening. After long and hard consideration, then, I decided that it was best to move back home and transfer to a London-based university.

September 2016. I successfully transferred to the University of Roehampton London, commencing from second year as the first-year content of my course of study, English Language and Linguistics, aligned with one another at both Sussex and Roehampton. I was happy again; returning to my beloved home in Surrey and commuting into my favourite city every day for university was the dream. If only I’d realised this back in sixth form, eh? Anyway, I made wonderful friends immediately at Roehampton – people I could resonate with, people with whom I shared commonalities, people who cared – and the professors were brilliant which only enhanced my experience. Nevertheless, October 2016 – as I draw on in much more detail in my blog about Daniel’s Crohn’s story – saw a daunting event for Daniel; after months of experiencing painful symptoms in his stomach and chest, his bowel perforated and required immediate medical attention. Hence, my anxiety heightened once again due to the worry of Daniel’s overall health; I was just glad I’d moved back home to cater to his needs as much as I could post-operation whilst simultaneously focusing as hard as I could on my university work.

After an 11-month rollercoaster of emotions, appointments and assignments, Daniel’s stoma was thankfully reversed, meaning the two of us could return to some form of normality again. That same month, I had began my final year of university which would just so happen to be the best year of my university life; I developed even stronger friendships, made the most of my experience outside lectures and seminars and enjoyed every aspect of my course’s content, even if it was more demanding. Of course, the worry about Daniel continued – and it always will – but his condition was under control and, in retrospect, the encounter only made us stronger as a couple.

Fast forward two years and, now, I have two first-class degrees, Daniel and I are engaged to get married, and I have an incredible group of friends. Of course, life still happens in between – I’ve lost several loved ones these past few years, confronted numerous job rejections before finally securing a managerial position I fought long and hard for, and had shitty days aplenty; but, most importantly, I never gave up.

If you’re reading this and feel as though you can relate to anything in my story, just know that it gets better. It’s okay to seek help. You will make friends. Hard work really does pay off.

I concluded my post two years ago with a particular quote that I have lived by for many years, and I feel it is appropriate to finish on the same today: “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Caroline Hirons Summer Kit: My favourites so far

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog post which expanded on why I’m now so into skincare after having an almost unhealthy relationship with my skin for so long. If you haven’t read said post, in sum: I have suffered with excoriation (skin-picking) disorder for over a decade now however, after developing an interest in skincare as influenced by the powerful Caroline Hirons during lockdown, I have begun to learn to love my skin and work to distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack it. In mid-July, I commenced a strict skincare routine according to Caroline’s book Skincare which I received on its release date towards the end of June and – six weeks in – I have genuinely noticed some incredible results. My skin hasn’t felt as good as it does right now in so long; I have combination skin which is usually acne-prone, especially when it’s my time of month, I’m feeling particularly stressed or as a result of a sudden diet change. Nonetheless, since beginning my routine, I’ve encountered just one bad breakout (and that was in the first week and I was on my period), I haven’t picked my face anywhere near as much as I used to, and my skin is glowing! Honestly, I couldn’t be happier that what was simply an ever-growing interest has emerged into an essential ritual in my everyday life – and an extremely positive one.

Soon after my copy of Skincare arrived, I studied the book thoroughly, noting everything that was relevant to my skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues. For instance, it was through this book that I ascertained my combination skin type; it was through this book that I discovered excellent recommendations for products for twenty-somethings; and, it was through this book that I realised that – if anything – you should always wear an SPF. Upon acquiring such knowledge, I placed my first official skincare order of a non-foam cleanser (specifically Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm), an acid toner (precisely Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract), a hydrating spray (in this case, Garnier Organic Argan Mist), a facial oil (I opted for The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane after previously trying and enjoying another product of theirs), and the all-important SPF (I came across Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+ which, coincidentally, Caroline endorsed just days later!). After trying these products day and night, my skin almost instantly felt healthier; it felt fresher after removing my makeup with a cleansing balm as opposed to makeup wipes (yes, yes – thanks to Caroline, I know how bad wipes are now!), it felt revitalised after applying a facial oil, and it felt protected after smothering plentiful SPF. As this was my very first order of an almost complete skincare routine, I purposefully selected products on the less expensive side (except for the cleanser) because – if these products were going to work – I knew that I would be contented to make even larger investments in the future (not that bigger prices mean better quality because we all know that, oftentimes, they merely reflect brand reputation!). Nevertheless, when wondering which products from which brands to try next, I needed a little more guidance.

If you’ve been an avid follower of Caroline for a while, you’ll know that – since the end of 2019 – she has released numerous (I haven’t heard her reveal exactly how many, but I’d say a good few hundred) limited edition full-sized skincare kits in collaboration with a multitude of brands; two in Winter 2019, another two in Spring 2020 and the latest two in Summer 2020. I say an “avid” follower because I’ve been following Caroline on Instagram for over two years now after discovering her on Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin’s Life and Lipstick podcast however, I didn’t know about these (bloody brilliant) kits until early July after she discussed them in a few of her many Instagram Lives during lockdown. Essentially, in said seasons, Caroline releases two kits which are similar in that they include almost the same amount and kind of products, but differ in that they are targeted for slightly different groups. For instance, this summer’s Kit 1 included 11 products and was formed with a slightly younger, more acne-prone audience in mind; Kit 2 contained 9 products for a slightly older, more mature audience (loosely speaking). What’s more, Caroline and her team didn’t intend to release any kits this summer; after the Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 kits, they intended to next release kits in Autumn 2020. Nonetheless, following the success of the previous kits and due to popular demand, the Summer Kits were quickly formed. Having engaged in all her lockdown Instagram Lives, even if I didn’t watch it live but afterwards on her main grid, I knew that I needed to get my hands on one of these kits. The kit included everything (apart from an SPF) you need for a proper skincare routine: a cleansing mitt, a non-foam cleanser, a cooling mask, an acid toner, a hydrating spray, an eye cream, a facial oil, two moisturisers, a vitamin C serum, and a hydrating serum (as below).

Image description: My Caroline Hirons Summer Kit (1)

As made obvious by the above caption and, if you’ve been paying attention to my aforementioned skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues, I opted for Kit 1. The Summer Kits were released on 14 August and everybody who would try for one was warned to head to the website as quickly as possible to order because they’re so desirable by Caroline’s “Skincare Freaks”. They were released at 10am and, not only was I off work that day, but I was also incredibly lucky in securing one within just two minutes from their time of release! Some shared their experiences on the Skincare Freaks Facebook Group as to how long they waited to ~bag~ a kit (lol) which is why I felt quite lucky to secure one so quickly.

Now, for my favourites. First thing’s first: I cannot fault any of the products from Kit 1 thus far; they all make me feel good in their own ways. Secondly, I’m still in awe of the saving; Kit 1 had a retail value of £462.50 and went on sale for £225 – a whopping 52% off its worth(!!). If you’re no skincare lover, I can understand that you might think “why the hell would you spend so much on skincare?” however, if you’re on my side, you’ll just know that you will probably never encounter such a deal elsewhere. Think about it: the Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads which were included in the kit, for example, usually go for £65 alone – that’s a quarter of the price of the whole kit! In-SANE, amiright? Also, as touched upon earlier, this kit was the perfect segue into starting a complete routine, discovering brilliant brands and – most importantly – finally beginning to form a better relationship with my skin.

After trying and alternating the products from Kit 1 every day and night for the last three weeks, here are my top five products (in no particular order) and why:

  • Chantecaille Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask. This mask is just beautiful. I’ve used it several times straight after my night-time cleanse and it feels and smells divine. It is to be applied all over your face and rinsed off after 5 minutes. Upon rinsing it off, my skin feels incredibly smooth and the gorgeous smell of jasmine remains.
  • Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads. Now, this is the product that has predominantly alleviated my spots. When I used these pads the following two mornings after my last breakout, my spots cleared completely. These pads are meant to gently exfoliate, which they really do, and others have said that they helped with their spots. So, if you’re acne-prone like me, these might just be the pads for you.
  • REN Clean Skincare Perfect Canvas Jelly Oil Cleanser. As much as I love my Clinique TTDO cleanser, I definitely have a softer spot for this REN one! I have used it as both a morning and night cleanse – when I use it in the morning, it makes my skin feel so soft and clean; when I use it in the evening, it removes my makeup perfectly.
  • Emma Hardie Plump & Glow Hydrating Facial Mist. I thought my face felt hydrated after using my aforementioned Garnier hydrating spray but, damn, this product is the epitome of a fantastic hydrating spray. One soft pump makes you feel instantly refreshed, rejuvenated and revitalised; a few pumps all round awakens you for the day.
  • Motherdirt Moisturizer. Before this moisturiser, I only ever used creamy moisturisers; now, I wonder why. This oil-based yet non-sticky, soft and hydrating moisturiser is the perfect penultimate product in my morning routine before applying SPF and final product in the evening for making my skin feel reconditioned.

If my skin is feeling so much better now after six weeks of using these products, I can’t wait to see how my skin continues to improve. While I don’t think I’ll go for Caroline’s Autumn Kit this year after investing in one of the summer ones, I might just have to use a few of the bounce back codes on the products that will be redeemable on the brand’s websites after the kits’ releases to test even more new and exciting products.

Have you ever managed to ~bag~ one of Caroline’s kits? If so, what are/were your favourite products? Alternatively, if you’ve used any of the above products not as part of these kits, did you like them? If so (or not), why? Let me know!

Finally, if you do not have a proper skincare routine, I urge you to start one as soon as possible. A great starting point is the book. Then, you can figure out which products you need. You don’t need to spend much; just enough time every morning and night to take care of your skin, our outer body covering and largest organ.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Why I’m (now) so into skincare

Of late, I’ve began to develop an ever-growing interest in skincare. It all started soon after I listened to the delightful Life and Lipstick Podcast hosted by fabulous makeup artists Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin and, as I unfold in my blog about how this podcast encouraged me to reflect on my own makeup influences, I followed even more powerful women in the beauty industry on Instagram as a result. My favourite episode of the series was Season 3 Episode 2: Caroline Hirons where they chat with incredible skincare expert – you guessed it – Caroline Hirons. I won’t judge you if you don’t know who Caroline is if, like I was pre-Life-and-Lipstick, you aren’t familiar with the beauty industry. Now that I’m pretty up-to-speed with all things beauty and skincare, however, I will judge you if you too claim to be familiar with the industry. Many in the industry dub Caroline as the “powerhouse” of skincare and, believe me, they’re not wrong. As I do with many beauty and skincare professionals, including the lovely aforementioned Lisa and Hannah as well as the wonderful Emma Guns, Cher Webb and Ateh Jewel to name a few, I have continuously engaged in Caroline’s Instagram Lives and have thus learnt a hell of a lot; predominantly, how to take care of your skin.

If you follow Caroline, you’ll know that she says everything as it is. She’ll tell you which products are no good. She’ll call out brands that are misleading. She’ll highlight the blatant misogyny in our government, such as how women are still unable to open their salons amid the coronavirus pandemic, yet men are allowed to have their bloody beard’s trimmed (what the ACTUAL fuck, Boris?). Hence, I admire her honesty and trust her advice. Although I feel somewhat deprived of her expertise given that she has blogged about beauty for more than ten years and I only started following her just over two years ago, I also feel that I jumped on the bandwagon at a pretty good time. Why? Because, although she’s been blogging for this long, she only very recently – namely, just under two months ago – released her first book, appropriately titled Skincare. Her “freaks” (fans of Caroline, particularly members of her closed Facebook group Caroline Hirons Skincare Freaks which I proudly joined just a few days ago), refer to this book as their “bible” (as I do, too). Again, why? Because, like it says on the cover, it really is “the ultimate no-nonsense guide” to introducing an excellent skincare routine into your daily life and understanding the importance of skincare not just for anybody, but for everybody. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties+; have dry, oily or combination skin; have acne, eczema or psoriasis; have money to spend or a budget; whatever your situation, this book is for you. I, for instance, hadn’t a clue where to begin with my skincare routine before this book; now, not only has it helped me to ascertain my (combination) skin type, but it has also helped me to fathom which products to use based on my skin type, age and (now) occasional acne.

Image description: Me holding my copy of Skincare

You might be wondering why it is skincare that I’ve developed such an interest in. Well, we all have issues with our skin; it’s only human. Sure, some have more severe issues than others, but we all have problems we’d like to “fix”. Hence, the main reason I have begun to develop such an interest in skincare, and thus an admiration for Caroline Hirons, is due to my personal battles with – as I mentioned briefly above as well as in my Life and Lipstick appreciation blog – acne. For years, I hadn’t had a particularly healthy relationship with my skin because of my acne. If anything, it was quite abusive – only I didn’t realise that until about two years ago, around the same time I started listening to Life and Lipstick. Now, before I go on, it’s worth noting that the only people who are aware and have witnessed the severity of what I’m about to unveil are my parents and my fiancé. Other than those individuals, three of the most important individuals in my life, I have never told anyone about this; not extended family members, not my best friends, not anyone. So, sharing what I’m about to share is a pretty big deal to me. However, I hope that it will not only help my readers to understand why I’m now so into skincare, but also help others who have experienced similar issues in some way or another.

If you know me, then, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve been suffering silently with a condition called excoriation disorder – otherwise known as skin-picking disorder – for over a decade. Excoriation disorder is a condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which involves the repetitive picking at one’s skin, thus resulting in skin lesions, scars and – especially in my case – hinderance on everyday life.

From the ages of 11 to 16, I suffered badly with acne on my face, chest, shoulders and back. My last memory of having smooth, spotless, scar-free skin is when I was in Year 6. It was during this school year that I began to break out in spots; nevertheless, I’d always conceal it with anti-blemish foundation, long sleeves and high necks, hence why – if you know me – you’ve probably never noticed. (Even now, it’s extremely rare that you’ll see me in a strappy, V-neck or low-back top and, when you do, rest assured I’ve assessed my skin and deemed it as somewhat acceptable or applied a generous amount of makeup to the exposed scars.) Then, I started high school: a period that would become the worst half-decade of my life. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I hated school and I envy everyone who says they enjoyed it; they have no idea what it’s like to go about their daily life wondering what you’re going to be mocked for next, questioning every hurtful name assigned to you just for being you and feeling like a misfit in the entire year group… for five whole years. As a result of my negative experiences, I suffered with depression for most – if not all – of my high school career. I can’t pinpoint when the skin-picking started exactly but, in retrospect, the start to my depressive episodes makes sense. Still, I have this awful habit of picking at every spot, lump and blemish on my skin in sight but, thanks to Caroline and her book, I finally have a prompt to work on it. It’s taken time – and probably much longer than it should have as a lot of the damage to my skin is done – but I am finally working to not only distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack my skin whenever I’m feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, but also to accept my scars.

And that is why Skincare is so significant to me. It has taught me to love my skin, not loathe it. It has taught me to understand why my skin still breaks out every now and then, and how to treat it when it does. It has taught me a brilliant routine which, for the past month, I have sworn by every morning and night. Apart from my obsessive skin-picking, I thought I had a fairly decent skincare routine before buying this book; I moisturised my face and body after a shower and before applying makeup daily, and again once I’d taken off my makeup (regrettably, with wipes – if you’re not sure why I regret that now, read her book!) nightly, I used facemasks one-to-two nights a week and I applied eye cream for my dark circles every so often. Now, if you too think that this is a decent routine, think again. While moisturiser and eye cream is good, it’s not good enough when you’re not prepping your skin beforehand and applying the eye cream after the moisturiser (when I think about it now, it makes so much more sense to apply it before!). Ever since I bought this book, I have introduced an array of skincare products into my routine which I’m beginning to see results from, such as (in order of application in the morning):

  • A non-foam cleansing balm (currently Clinique Take The Day Off, as recommended by Caroline)
  • An acid toner (currently Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract, as Caroline recommends a salicylic acid for an acne-prone skin)
  • A hydrating spray (currently Garnier Organic Argan Mist)
  • An eye cream (I have been using several for a while, including Clinique All About Eyes and Benefit It’s Potent Brightening Eye Cream)
  • A facial oil (currently The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane)
  • A moisturiser (again, I have been using several for some time, including Benefit Weightless Moisture Face Moisturiser and Nivea Crème)
  • An SPF (currently Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+)

At night, I follow the same routine but without the SPF. Oh, and I now use flannels to wipe off my makeup as opposed to wipes – yay!

If, like me, you have a skincare issue you’d like to treat, have no idea where to begin with your skincare routine or have a mere interest in the beauty industry, I – in case you haven’t gathered already – would highly recommend you follow Caroline Hirons amongst the others listed earlier and buy Caroline’s book Skincare. Skincare is an element of selfcare and is therefore a fantastic segue into introducing selfcare into your daily routine, and this book will help you to do just that.

Caroline, if you were to ever read this, thank you. Thank you for your expertise, for your book and for using your voice to name a few. It has certainly helped me, and I know it has helped so many others. You are amazing!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

If you haven’t already, and if you can, please sign the petition and donate at Beauty Backed, a campaign organised by Caroline, Millie Kendall and British Beauty Council to raise money for those in the beauty industry who are still unable to work and need help. Watch this video on Caroline’s Instagram feed to learn more.

How to: write a good essay

Essays. The bane of every student’s existence, one might agree. Me? I beg to differ… to some extent. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the essay-writing aspect of both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; not only am I a passionate writer, but I was – and am still – deeply passionate about my courses of study, which made the processes of learning about, conducting research into and producing pieces of work based on such a hell of a lot easier. Throughout my studies, I saw every essay, fieldwork study and report – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis, as lengthy (albeit interesting) as it was – as an opportunity to develop my written communication skills; writing is a craft which becomes more easily attainable to master with every piece. Don’t get me wrong: like many students, I often lacked motivation to begin, continue and complete an essay; procrastinated some to the night before (and, in a couple of cases, the day of) its due date; and fought the very real urge to frustratedly throw my laptop at my bedroom wall – believe me. Nonetheless, my best pieces of work – on the basis of their grades and my satisfaction upon completing such – were those that I’d invested ample time into. As a student, it is only inevitable that you might not feel as motivated to produce some essays than others, but for when you are motivated, here are some tips on how to produce a great essay.

Image description: A laptop, a coffee and a notebook on a bed

Do your research

What good is an essay if you haven’t done your research? The point of an essay is to execute your argument in response to a question or statement posed by your professor in a clear and competent manner, and to acknowledge alternative perspectives to clarify the validity of your argument. Whatever the topic, make sure you do your research; investigate past literature on the subject by various scholars, identify gaps in the literature and consider how the literature can assist in explaining your argument.

Plan the structure

I can ~almost~ guarantee that every good essay ever written was planned. Hell, it was only possible that I achieved a first on the essays I started the night before because I had a plan; without a plan, I would’ve been screwed. Planning doesn’t have to be over-complicated; I planned most of my essays by creating sections and bullet-pointing under each section header the points I wanted to communicate. Be it a list, a mind map or a detailed proposal, whatever works for you – make sure you plan your essay.

Allocate enough time

Again, in my experience, my best essays were those that I spent the most time on. I know, I know – it can be hard to fathom how to best prioritise your assignments. But, once you do, I can assure you that you can make the time to write your essay. As I recommend in my blog about how to be more organised at university, invest in a diary, download a countdown app or even create your own study timetable to not only keep track of your deadlines, but to plan your time around producing your essay.

Proofread it all

When planning your time to produce your essay, it’s so important to incorporate enough time to proofread your essay. I’ve already written a blog on how to successfully proofread your work but, in sum, proofreading is a vital step in the essay-writing process because it enables you to not only identify any errors or mistakes you might have made as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, but also to ensure that you’ve covered everything you intended to. As per my proofreading blog, you can proofread your essay in a variety of ways.

Submit a draft

Most of the time, your professors will offer you the opportunity to submit a draft of your essay and, if they haven’t vocalised it, they will probably accept one if you ask. In any case, take the opportunity to submit a draft to your professors (provided you submit it approximately a week before the deadline) so they can provide feedback on the work you’ve already produced and perhaps offer some suggestions on how to make it even better. From that one draft, your essay could gain just a few more marks which can make a great difference.

Whether you’re heading into sixth form, your first, second or final year of university or your first year of postgraduate study, I hope these tips were helpful on how to produce a good essay!

As usual, I welcome all comments and questions in the comment section below or via the form on my contact page.

Happy writing!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I’ve always been a gamer girl. Growing up in the early noughties with an older brother by three years who has owned all the PlayStation consoles to date, and would play classics like Abe’s Odyssey, Tekken Tag and Grand Theft Auto, I always wanted to get in on the action. Likewise, I have owned many – if not almost all – the Nintendo consoles, including the Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo Wii; even my mum possessed the very first Game Boy which my brother and I would continue to play Speedy Gonzales on for hours in our childhood years. For my 21st birthday back in 2018, then, it was only inherent that I wished for the Nintendo Switch. (Gamer Girl or Nintendo Nerd? Either is fine by me.)

When I gratefully received such, not only was it accompanied by the incredible The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (Ocarina of Time was one of my favourite Zelda franchises growing up!), but I also rushed to my local Game to acquire Mario Kart 8 (the Mario Kart series has also been a long-time favourite, of course) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (who doesn’t love DK?). While I loved all three of these games, I spent hours of my summer following my 21st predominantly rekindling my driving, dashing and drifting skills on Mario Kart 8.

When Nintendo announced that they would be launching an Animal Crossing franchise for the Switch soon after I obtained the console, I was ecstatic to say the least. Animal Crossing: Wild World was my most cherished game on the DS Lite and, alongside my second-year university studies, I was glued to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp from the App Store. When Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) finally released on the Switch back in March this year, I purchased it on March’s much-anticipated payday and quickly became obsessed. It was also at the end of March that the UK quarantined as a result of the global situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic which, for us avid gamers who would be furloughed for the following three months, paradoxically enabled the gift of time to invest in such games.

Image description: My Animal Crossing character in front of her house

The graphics on ACNH are incomparable to any of the other Animal Crossing franchises; they are insane! I remember literally uttering “wow” under my breath as I roamed my brand-new island and glanced at the sea surrounding such. I remember thoroughly enjoying the way I had to accomplish a multitude of tasks before I could obtain the museum, the shop and the tailors on my island. I remember feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me as I encountered some of my favourite characters from the Wild World franchise. If you are a Nintendo lover or an Animal Crossing fan like me, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Eventually, as you unlock the ability to terraform your island after reaching three stars and having K.K. play outside Resident Services, I went a little too far. Because I had so much time to play this game due to being in lockdown, I became a little terraform-happy and attempted to renovate my entire island. I had plans: I planned to create a more distinct town centre, a specified residential area, an orchard  – you know, the typical ACNH ideas you might have gathered from YouTube – and I was ready to make this island my own from scratch. Alas, once I’d relocated all my residents’ houses to one side (which costs THOUSANDS of bells, by the way *cries*), knocked down all my raised land and chopped down all the trees, I was lost. “Where the fuck do I begin now?”, I pondered. Basically, I’d fucked up. I realised that I’m not as innovative as the YouTubers I watch and I’d made a mistake as to wiping ev-er-y-thing. Then it dawned on me: “I have to start again”.

The contemplation to start all over again on ACNH is not an easy one. You can’t, for instance, select an option to “reset” your island or move to another new island; the only way to restart is to delete your save data from the Nintendo Switch menu and start from the very beginning like you do upon purchasing the game. By the time you reach said level, you’ve usually obtained a lot of furniture, clothing and perhaps some of your favourite characters, and – as my fellow ACNH lovers would know – this takes hella time. Nonetheless, I was not prepared to rebuild my entire island from scratch because – again, if you know, you know – terraforming is tedious af.

And so, I started my island again and, this time, I played logically. From the beginning, I placed my museum, shops, tailors, home and characters’ homes carefully. As I was experienced, I knew exactly what I had to do in order to reach three stars and unlock the ability to terraform. When I could terraform, I had every intention to not tamper with my island’s natural landscape but to instead use every inch of it to its advantage. Thus, I finally reached four stars and I was satisfied. Not elated, but satisfied. Nevertheless, as I attempted to follow the requirements to reach the esteemed five stars, I couldn’t do it. If I didn’t have enough flowers, I’d plant more flowers. If I didn’t have enough trees, I’d grow more trees. If I didn’t have enough fencing, I’d build more fences. I was doing everything I needed to and yet I could never achieve the five-star mark. I don’t know what I was lacking, but I was obviously lacking something.

“What did I do to remedy this?”, you ask. Well, I started again… again. I am now in the process of developing my third island from the beginning. And, again, I have plans. Big plans. What’s different this time is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never achieve the perfect island (I mean, I do aim to reach five stars this time!), and that’s okay. I’m not a professional gamer who knows every nook and cranny to gaming (ha… ha…). I’m not YouTuber who is getting paid to create the “BEST FIVE-STAR ISLAND EVER!!!1!11!”. I’m not going to lose anything if I don’t achieve such an island. The only person I want to create such an island for is me. But, hey: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do it right!

In a way, I’m thankful for the time I had to experiment the game in all its glory. Now that I’m back to work and therefore don’t have as much time to play it as I did during lockdown, I’ve realised that there are some things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Whether you are new to ACNH, are contemplating restarting or have recently restarted your island like me, too, here are some tips I wish I could have shared with my pre-ACNH-obsessed self:

  • Choose an island layout that works for you. There are so many articles available on how to choose the best island layout from the start, and most of them recommend that you choose one that has Resident Services in the middle and an even spread of land surrounding such. To be fair, my latest island very much resonates this because – as I said – I am now on my third attempt and I thought I’d follow the advice (however, I did have to reroll multiple times until I was offered such a layout which was frustrating af), but my previous island differed from this and still worked nicely.
  • Keep everything that you obtain. In the beginning of the game, it’s tempting to sell any items you obtain that you don’t particularly like from other residents, balloons from the sky or visitors like Wisp in order to make more bells, but you can make use of all items available anywhere on your island. Already own something in a different colour? Use both; you gain more points for having unique items on your island. Unsure what to do with something? Keep it; you might just obtain more items that work with it to create a specific area. Don’t like something at all? Gift it to another resident; it enhances your friendship with them.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. Maybe the reason I’ve restarted ACNH so many times is because I’m a perfectionist, or maybe it’s because the game really is that frustrating when it comes to placing buildings accurately, designating a specific amount of space for a particular area or continually attempting to achieve those five stars. In any case, remember: it’s just a game! If, like me, you’re no professional gamer and aren’t trying to achieve an amazing island for anyone but yourself, don’t beat yourself up if your island doesn’t look like a YouTuber’s whose life revolves around filming themselves accomplishing the impossible in every game. Be patient and enjoy the wonder that it Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

To my fellow ACNH lovers, hmu with the reasons for your love-hate relationship with the game (and your Friend Codes while you’re at it, if you like)! To those who don’t own the game and are considering investing in it, prepare yourself for a whirlwind of fun, fondness and frustration!

Happy gaming!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

My hair and me: An ever-changing relationship

Hair. It’s a funny thing. To some, it is merely an aspect of their existence; to others, it is a means of expressing their identity. Since my early teens, I’ve had an ever-changing relationship with my hair; I’ve dyed it several colours, cut it extremely short and let it grow extremely long (as it is now) to name a few.

Just a couple of weeks before lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had plans to chop off my current long locks to donate them to The Little Princess Trust. Although restriction measures were not yet in place in the UK, it was evident that the global situation was worsening and so – amongst many others – I decided to cancel my appointment. I was certainly disappointed at the time however, I am now so glad I made that decision as quarantining has not only provided me the opportunity to let it grow even longer, as there is a demand for longer hair donations, but also to take extra care of my hair. For instance, I used to dye my hair every three months and wash it every two days; now, I haven’t coloured my hair since New Year’s Day and have washed it just once a week since April. I still very much intend to donate my locks before my return to my regular position (I am currently working from home temporarily as I explain in my blog about returning to work after having been furloughed) as the notion of providing an individual who is unable to now the ability to embrace long hair is infallible.

In light of my realisation that I will soon be giving up my long locks, I evaluate my ever-changing relationship with my hair – in the form of a timeline – hereafter.

Image description: My long hair, Summer 2019

2008. The beginning to my (unknowingly, then, dreadful) high school career. When I started high school, I had relatively long hair – it fell a couple of inches below my shoulders. In my first year of high school, I had not yet “discovered” my identity, so my natural ash-brown hair colour remained untouched.

2009. My first colour contemplation. As my mum was a hairdresser in her young adult years, her ability to dye hair in a professional manner continues. My first ever colour choice was a reddish brown (I would have loved a brighter red had it been allowed at school). Thus, my mum proceeded to dye my hair and simultaneously cut it to shoulder length for a fresh lewk.

2010. The “emo” phase. Yep, I was one of those who experienced the infamous “emo phase”. Though my favourite band at the time was The Jonas Brothers (judge all you like; bitches might not have liked them then but drool all over Nick now!), my music taste branched out to the likes of Paramore, You Me At Six, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Sum 41, and my hair was a reflection of this.

How, you ask? One: my mum – again, professionally – dyed it jet black. Two: my mum’s friend – who happens to be her hairdresser – styled it in the most emo way (as per my request). The layers. Oh, the layers. In retrospect, they were laughable. The shortest layer was about an inch long and every morning before school, I would not only straighten my hair, but I would also backcomb every bloody layer.

Funny side note: I was told by multiple people in my year group that I had the “best” hair and, rumour has it, a few girls showed their hairdressers a photo of me to have it cut in a similar style. LOL. #OGtrendsetter

2011. The sudden urge to chop it all off. I specifically remember showing a photo of, and explaining to my mum’s hairdresser friend that I wanted it cut like, Frankie from The Saturdays. Remember The Saturdays? Remember Frankie? Remember her extremely short hair? That’s how I wanted mine cut, and that’s how I got it cut. Again, in retrospect? Laughable. But, the maintenance? OH-SO EASY.

2012. After several cuts to maintain the oh-so short hairstyle (and dyes to upkeep its jet blackness), I decided to grow out my hair. The grow-out stage from such a style is the absolute worst. Not only was it shorter on one side than the other, but it was also impossible to tie up for a really long time; I followed the terrible trend at the time to input as many bobby pins in the back as possible.

2013-2015. Sixth form. The “bun” all day, every day period. By the time my hair had finally reached the “long bob” stage, I was able to tie it in a bun – and not just any bun, but the neatest bun. Fortunately for me, hair donuts were a real hairstyle staple at the time and thus allowed me to tie my hair in a neat bun. Oh, and dip-dye was a real trend at the time, too, so my mum dip-dyed my back-to-natural brown hair blonde.

2016. My first year of university. By this point, my hair finally looked nice enough to leave down after two years of growing it out. As I was already used to in my high school years, I would take the time to straighten my hair once it had dried after a wash and proceed to use my straighteners briefly in the mornings when getting ready so as to ensure it stayed straight throughout the day.

2017. By the time I reached my second year of university, I realised that my hair had become “long” again; it was becoming too much to maintain before, during and after every wash. My solution? Tying it in plaits every single night and untying the plaits in the morning for a “beach waves” look created from the plaits every single day. Eventually, this routine became almost as easy to maintain as my previously short hair.

2018-2020. My hair has become too long for me to cope with. I’m surprised I’ve got this far without mentioning how bloody thick my hair is; hence, when it’s long, it’s like trying to maintain a bloody lion’s mane (don’t get me wrong, I’m really appreciative that my hair is so healthy; my comparisons are meant for exaggeration!). Now, I have the urge to again chop it all off. Just not so short this time.

In preparation for my chop (before I cancelled my appointment back in March), I researched everything I needed to know about donating hair to The Little Princess Trust. I am delighted to confirm that my hair is fit for donation according to their terms and conditions and, as mentioned previously, the demand for longer hair donations continues to grow. Hence, I intend to donate at least 14 inches of hair (I’m not quite sure how long my hair is at present in inches – I just know that I want to cut it to a long bob so, if my hair below my shoulders is actually longer than 14 inches right now, great!).

Your hair is a part of you. Just as you like to take care of your body by showering, moisturising and exercising, remember to take care of your hair. Do some research into its type to find the right shampoos and conditioners for you. Take the time to put a mask on it every now and then. Brush it gently. And, if you can, consider donating it to those who don’t have such an ability.

Take care of your hair – and take care.

Love,

Little Pav ♡