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.
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.
Hello and welcome to Episode 5 of Little Pav’s Little Chats, 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?
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 Little Pav’s Little Chats!
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.
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; 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I’m a perfectionist. I always have been. It’s just another trait of my hyper-organised self which I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog already (I even offer how-to guides which focus on being more organised). To a perfectionist, the slightest of errors, mistakes and mishaps that transpire on the daily can be extremely irritating, not to mention hindering to their routine. To my perfectionist self, here are the 5 most annoying things that occur in everyday life.
1. Making small mistakes when handwriting
Don’t even get me started. (I know, I know – I’m the one who chose to start with this.) Though I don’t handwrite anywhere near as much as I used to at school these days (some might say penmanship is a lost art – especially amongst millennials – due to the rise of technology), I still handwrite quite regularly. At university, I used to handwrite my lecture notes (before I invested in a mini – and thus transportable – laptop), jot key dates in my diary and annotate all over printed readings; at work, I now create daily to-do lists, take notes during conference calls and scribble new information in training sessions. Nevertheless, I feel ~almost~ just as annoyed with myself when I make a mistake whilst handwriting now as I did when I was at school. I was so bad at school that, sometimes, I’d write my homework all over again and, sometimes, not just once, but twice. Maybe even thrice. I had to teach myself that it was okay to make a mistake and learn to accept that, sometimes, the only option was to cross it out and carry on; we didn’t have time to rewrite essays in exams or controlled environments. I remember a teacher – I think it was my Spanish teacher – requesting for us to simply cross them out with a nice neat line as opposed to a big fat scribble, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. Still, I don’t particularly like it.
2. Proofreading everything over and over
Now that academic assignments are predominantly – if not, completely – digitised, it’s even easier to proofread our work which, in turn, is a minefield for us perfectionists. Like I said, at school, we’d often lack the time to scan our exams or controlled assessments unless we’d finished early – even then, we might not have had the ability to spot mistakes as easily as we can now. In contrast, at university, I’d often finish my assignments with ample time to proofread them before the submission deadline. Again, I’d proofread them not just once, but multiple times (I think my proofreading guide validates just how obsessed with proofreading I am). I read them in my head, read them to others, had the “read aloud” function on Microsoft Word read them to me… you name it, I proofread my assignments in every way possible – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis (that, I didn’t read to anyone else; I think it would have dehumanised them). I know what you’re thinking: why? Why the hell spend so much time proofreading one assignment? Does it even matter? And, you know what? No, it probably doesn’t matter that much, so long as you meet the criteria, have a generally well-presented document and execute your argument or findings articulately, but it mattered to me. (And, if you look at the criteria, it kind of does matter.)
3. Over planning for any event
What am I going to wear? What do I need to take? How will I get there? These are just some of the many questions that occur to you prior to any event. But, do they occur on the day? No, no; they occur weeks in advance. Maybe even months. Booked a concert in August but it’s not till February? “Ah, it’s going to be winter. I could wear boots! Actually, I don’t want my feet to ache. Those ones are quite comfortable, though. Maybe I’ll just wear trainers. Yes. Jeans and a nice top with trainers. No. What if I want to wear a playsuit? Oh, I don’t bloody know!” And the thought process goesa little like that. Every. Single. Time. Also, I don’t know about you, but I have to prepare for the following day the night before. I don’t think I’ve ever picked a work outfit the morning of; it’s got to be out, ironed and ready to go as soon as I wake up. Likewise, I’ve never waited until the morning to plan a journey. For instance, every single night before work, I plan my route on Citymapper before I go to sleep and thus set my wake-up alarm accordingly. I don’t know why. Perhaps because my shifts vary. Perhaps because I’m ~that~ organised. Perhaps because I’m crazy. The point is: anything can happen that can impact your journey, so better to be safe than sorry, amiright?
4. Aiming for perfectly styled hair
Perfectionists and hair? Bloody nightmare. Whenever I choose to tie my hair up in a bun or ponytail, no matter where I’m going (that’s right – that includes staying in), it’s got to be smooth. SMOOTH. I cannot stand lumps and bumps anywhere in my hair when wearing it up, and it’s annoying af. It genuinely impedes my life. I’ve missed buses and trains to university, work and countless other destinations aplenty as a result of taking multiple attempts to tie my hair up smoothly (thanks to my hyper-organisation, however, I always leave early and thus almost always arrive at my destination with time to spare). Nonetheless, I’ve learned that my hair behaves best on the days after I’ve washed it, as the freshness from the wash projects a glossy finish, and after I’ve applied dry shampoo to it, as the powder from the product leaves a matted finish; hence, I aim to only tie my hair up on these occasions. It goes without saying that us perfectionists too cannot deal with kinks in our hair when leaving it down; after having spent approximately one hour to straighten my thick, long ass hair, when a kink forms in it just as I’ve arrived somewhere, I am LIVID. What’s the bloody point, eh?
5. Placing anything and everything particularly
The wardrobe. The dressing table. The drawers. The bathroom cupboard. The windowsill. No matter the location, everything has to be placed in a particular manner. Take my wardrobe, for example: all my clothes are organised into category; from left to right, it currently goes: jackets, dresses, jumpsuits and playsuits, sweatshirts and jumpers, cardigans, “nice” tops, blouses and shirts, trousers. Why? Because, well, it’s just logical (in my head, anyway). Then, take the drawers to my dressing table: “first in, last out” as they say; so, in my drawer full of hair products, my most used items – like hair brushes – are at the top, and least used items – like curling tongs (ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat) – are at the bottom. Again, why? Because it’s convenient. Finally, take my chest of drawers: the tops, jeans and pyjamas have to be folded not just any way, but my way (just kidding – “my” way is no different from that of traditional folding methods, apart from jeans which I learnt a super cool folding technique for when working in fashion retail). Let me repeat: why? Because it’s neat! Don’t mess with my placements, thank you very much.
If anything, this blog has just established that I’m a total nutcase. But that’s okay, because my fellow perfectionists can relate. I hope.
Since the UK government advised that “non-essential” retailers could reopen their stores from 15 June after almost three months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s no surprise that a multitude of companies – big and small – jumped at the chance to get back to business. This means that most non-essential workers have returned – or will return – to work after being furloughed and warned to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of the cruel disease: myself included. As a non-essential worker, I can wholeheartedly say that I am so thankful to all our key workers for continuing to work – and especially hard, that is – and risking their lives during such an unprecedented time. Also as a non-essential worker, I can honestly claim that I understand the impact of COVID-19 on smaller businesses who had no choice but to quickly transition and adapt to remote operations; my fiancé Daniel brought his office home not long before the whole country quarantined. And, as a non-essential worker, I can openly admit that I experienced my fair share of emotions throughout my time on furlough, predominantly uselessness, anxiety and even envy. Uselessness due to the inability to make my contribution to society. Anxiety due to the uncertainty surrounding the global situation. Envy due to the reality that those who could work from home at least remained occupied. Nonetheless, for us non-essential workers, the time to imperatively stay at home provided an opportunity to explore, utilise and perhaps even master our creativity. For some, that creativity is cooking. For others, that creativity is drawing. For me, that creativity is writing. It was during this pandemic that I finally took the plunge to set up this blog to fulfil my passion for writing not only as a pastime, but also a necessary outlet. Although my usual position is store-based, I was considerately offered by my employer the opportunity to temporarily work from home within a different department given my exceptional circumstances of living with Daniel who has a severe case of Crohn’s disease; of course, I gratefully accepted such an offer and am therefore – though not in my usual position – back to work.
Though I’ve only been back to work for five days, I’m knackered. That’s right: I’ve been back to work for just five days and I’m knackered. Don’t judge me. Or do. I probably would. My first week back consisted of day-long online training sessions for my new provisional role. Given that the company I work for is global, the sessions were conducted by leaders from several countries; my group included colleagues from an array of European locations. Hence, while the sessions ran from 9am to 5pm for most, they ran from 8am to 4pm for those of us in the UK. Yep, us Brits were the ones ~blessed~ with the ~beautiful~ 8am starts. Nevertheless, my overly-organised instincts drove me to set my alarm for 06:55 each day to provide me enough time to wake up, make an extra-strong coffee and log on for an intense day of learning new information, systems and processes, intaking more caffeine than I had during the entirety of lockdown and resisting the urge to fall asleep in the midst of a live 8-hour session on Microsoft Teams (don’t get me wrong, the trainers were fantastic, but it’s easy to lose concentration when you’re tired and instructed to watch a screen for so long). While I endeavoured to maintain a regular routine throughout my time on furlough by waking up at around 08:30 daily, dressing in standard everyday outfits like a band tee and jeans (yep, I was that person who opted to lounge in jeans as opposed to joggers or leggings) and trying to accomplish something, like walking my fur baby Diesel, hosting a virtual pub quiz or writing these blogs, I wasn’t doing anything that drained me of energy per se. Namely, I wasn’t waking up at 06:55 to acquire overabundant knowledge. Better yet, I wasn’t working. I have therefore concluded that it’s okay to be knackered after just five days of being back to work. It’s going to take time for me to adjust to this “new normal”, and that’s perfectly fine.
Immediately after sharing my first introductory post upon creating this blog in the beginning of May, I jotted a further ten potential blog titles down and proceeded to post a blog almost daily. That first post, although short and sweet, ignited a spark in me that had been fuelling for years. To reiterate said post, I’d been wanting to create a blog for ages because I have always enjoyed writing. From September 2015 to September 2019, however, all I’d written were more academic assignments than one can fathom for my bachelor’s and master’s studies. For four whole years, I’d never written anything for me; the rationale for creating this blog was to remedy that. Now that I’m back to work, however (again, I know it’s only been five days – forgive me), I’ve been wondering if I’ll be able to keep my blog going; “what can I write about now my life has restored its mundanity?”, “how can I write a blog when I’m this tired?”, “when can I write these blogs now?”. That said, here I am, writing a blog whilst feeling knackered in my spare time.
I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t want to feel deprived of time after being fortunate enough to just enjoy my time at home whilst key and office-based workers strenuously carried on with their duties. I don’t want to fall back into the routine of “eat, sleep, work, repeat” which I guiltily found myself trapped in once I’d started working full-time after completing my studies last September; leaving the house at 7am, getting home at 7pm and feeling too exhausted to do anything else – feeling like the only times I ever saw Daniel were when we got into bed at night and woke up in the mornings. But, you know what? I don’t think I will. I don’t think I will stop writing. I don’t think will feel time deprived. I don’t think I will find myself trapped in the eat-sleep-work-repeat routine again. Though I might not have as much time to write as frequently as I did during lockdown, I won’t let that stop me from writing altogether.
Luckily for me, I now get to experience the official “work from home” life for the first time which I believe will not only ease me back into a balanced routine, but also encourage me to make more time outside of work for myself, my friends and my loved ones. Then, once I return to the more familiar normality, I’ll use my commute time to write or even pick up another new hobby like reading books (as I’ve intended to for a really, really long time), I’ll make more of an effort to see my friends after work (even if I am exhausted) and, most importantly, I’ll make the most of my time out of work with my family and Daniel (even more so than I do now).
To my fellow non-essential and long-lasting furloughed workers returning to work, don’t forget to continue to utilise, explore and master the creativity you executed throughout your time at home. I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has certainly enhanced my realisation that work isn’t worth the stress that it often causes us. Yes, it’s important to take work seriously in more demanding situations. Yes, it’s important to work hard in order to progress in your career. Yes, it’s important to fight until you secure a job you love. But, when you come home, make sure to brush it off by doing something for you. Whether that’s cooking, drawing, writing, reading, painting, exercising, playing video games, experimenting with makeup or simply chatting with your loved ones, after witnessing the worst across the world, I hope you feel inspired to set aside the time to do more of what you love. Not only is it so fundamental for your mental health, but it will always be worth it because – as the saying goes – life’s too short. Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity.
Anybody who owns a pet would agree that pets are not just pets; they are members of the family. And incredibly special members, too. Be it a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a hamster or a monkey (in Ross Geller’s case) to name a few, pets can have a huge impact on humans’ lives. In my lifetime, we have owned a total of four pets in our household: two hamsters and two dogs. My older brother Mikey and I each owned a hamster when we were young; I called mine Fiddles because he was extremely fiddly in the little cardboard box we brought him home in, and Mikey named his Chomper because he almost chomped his way out of his little cardboard box. Unfortunately, Chomper lived for only 9 months, but Fiddles lived for a good three years. I remember going into school the day after he died and crying for almost the entire day because that hamster was my little buddy; he meant a lot to me. I would look forward to seeing him when I came home from school and putting him in his big pink ball to roll around my bedroom in. It was whilst we had these hamsters, or at least Fiddles, that we as a family welcomed our first dog into our home: a beautiful blue Staffy who we called Sky. This month will mark one year since we lost our beloved Sky and, quite frankly, I’m still not over it. I miss her daily; we all do. Although we still have our handsome half-Staffy-half-Sharpei Diesel to keep us going, we still feel pain and sadness when we think about our baby “Skyly”.
Sky was the epitome of a Staffy’s true nature: she was so friendly, so loving, so gentle, so sweet and so happy. She was so friendly to absolutely everybody she met. She was so loving to each and every one of us in the family. She was so gentle when she’d take a treat from our hands. She was so sweet in the way she communicated with us. She was so happy to see us every time we’d come home from wherever we’d been. When she was really young, as soon as I’d walk in the door from school, she would run to me, jump like crazy and her tail would wag like there’s no tomorrow. As she got older, she became unable to come to the door to welcome us home, but you could just see how happy she was when we approached her and cried “HELLO, SKY!” ecstatically. Then, after she’d just passed away, there was a really weird feeling in the air. Every time we came home, it felt instinctive to cry “HELLO, SKY!”, but she was no longer there. Now, we say hello to her urn in a more heart-rending way. Every time we’d take Diesel for a walk, we’d see her harness and lead hanging inside the cupboard next to Diesel’s. They still live there. We still see them daily. It still induces pain. Every time I’d go downstairs at night to grab a glass of water for bed, I’d expect to hear her snoring away on the sofa where she slept for the last few years of her life. I can still hear it so clearly in my mind. Almost a year on, these memories of her still occur daily.
Just like humans, dogs have their own characteristics that make them who they are. While Sky enjoyed a cuddle from us and would kiss us all over our faces in her gentle manner, she also liked her own space. After a lovely cuddle, she’d tell us once she’d had enough; she’d make a cute guzzling sound as if to say “okay, can I sleep now?”. Once we’d come home from the park, she’d head to her spot on the sofa and remain there for as long as she deemed necessary to recuperate. Diesel, on the other hand, cannot have enough cuddles or get any closer. He wants to be with any one of us twenty-four-seven. It’s almost like he has separation anxiety; as soon as we stop stroking him, he indicates that he wants more by tapping us with his paw or manoeuvring his head under our arms. Even after a long walk, he’ll still follow any one of us around the house, but especially my mum (probably because she’s forever running around like a madwoman – love you mummy). Now, we’ll often find ourselves saying how we miss all the little things about Sky, like “I miss the way her head would lift up, her ears would rise and she’d release a sweet “ruff!” when we come home” or “remember when she was really little and she loved to play catch with her chicken toy in the kitchen?”. It’s so lovely that we can reminisce on all the things that she did that would make us smile, laugh or utter “that’s enough playing now, Sky”.
Unfortunately, Sky had a lot of issues throughout her lifetime. For almost her entire life, she had trouble with her skin; it was always red in soreness and she would want to constantly scratch where it was irritating her. We would apply all sorts of creams to her skin to reduce the irritation. When she was around 5, she was diagnosed with cancer upon being taken to the vet due to our concern about her enlarged lymph nodes. She underwent chemotherapy for a few months, but this changed her drastically. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t sleep; she wasn’t herself. We decided that it was best that she discontinued the treatment because we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer; we would continue to give her medicine daily, though. This was, consequently, the best course of action; she could walk, she could sleep and she was her happy self again. Then, not long after her cancer diagnosis, she unexpectedly had a seizure one night in my mum and dad’s bedroom. I still remember the scream I heard my mum cry. It woke me abruptly. They thought the worst was happening. Thankfully, it only lasted around 1 minute and, a few minutes after, she came around. The next day, they took her to the vet who diagnosed her with epilepsy for which she was provided more medicine. In the first few months following her diagnosis, her seizures were very frequent; she’d have at least a couple a week. Once her medication kicked in, however, they became less frequent and shorter in duration. Eventually, we (predominantly my amazing mum) had an inkling as to when she was “due” a seizure and we’d prepare with a towel to clean her up afterwards.
In spite of all these issues, however, Sky still went about her daily life as her friendly, loving, gentle, sweet and happy self. In spite of it all, she was still always so happy to see us, always so excited to go for a walk and always so content being in our presence.
I still remember the day she passed away like it was yesterday. Dan and I were awoken by my dad opening our bedroom door at around 3am; “Sky’s gone”, he said quickly. “What?!”, I screamed as I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. There I saw her, lying on the kitchen floor, slowly losing her breath. She was still breathing once I’d made it downstairs, but lifelessly. Luckily, I got to say goodbye as I was crying uncontrollably (like I am now). By the time Dan made it down the stairs a few seconds later, she took her last breath in my mum’s arms. It was horrible but, in hindsight, consoling to know that she went in the comfort of her own home. The home that she’d lived in for her almost 13 years of living. She passed away on 23 June 2019; she would have turned 13 on 13 July 2019. Once she’d let go, my mum and dad gently lifted her into her bed in the spot she passed on the kitchen floor. For the first couple of hours after her passing, we all stayed downstairs near her and continued to cry it out. Eventually, as we were so tired, we went back to bed (apart from my mum who stayed on the sofa in the dining room next to the kitchen) and would call the vet in the morning to arrange taking her in. We also called Mikey who moved out a couple of years ago now in the morning to let him know and he quickly made plans to come home to take her to the vet with us. I met him at the bottom of our road to prepare him for what he was about to see; our beautiful, beloved Sky asleep in her bed on the kitchen floor. Though there was no longer any life in her, she still looked so beautiful in her sleep. Early that afternoon, my mum and dad, Mikey, Dan and I took her to the Stone Lion in Wimbledon. My mum, dad and Mikey all went together in my mum’s car to make enough room for Sky in the back while Dan and I followed behind.
Saying our final goodbye to her at the vet was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. Knowing we’d never see our beautiful, friendly, gentle, sweet and happy Skyly ever again was unbearable. However, we’d picked a lovely grey urn – similar to the colour of her blue coat – accented with small silver paw prints for her ashes and, now, we have somewhat come to terms with knowing that she is in there, still with us.
Even though we all anticipated that the day would eventually come, especially as she became less active as she got older, you can still never truly prepare for such an event. Like I said at the start, we still have our Diesel to keep us going; we still go for daily dog walks, have a happy, handsome face to come home to and are forever embraced with his cuddles, but our home is not the same. We all still miss Sky on a daily basis. We still look at pictures of her every day. We still talk about her all the time. As our first dog, and with her gorgeous temperament, Sky will always have a special place in our heart.
The virtual pub quiz has seemingly taken the world by storm amid the coronavirus pandemic. As families and friends across the globe have gone weeks – even months – without seeing each other to assist in stopping the spread of COVID-19, many – including my own – have turned to hosting and/or engaging in regular virtual pub quizzes over the likes of Zoom to keep in touch and spark a little joy during what is such an unprecedented time. While they might have become a cliché now, I for one can certainly say they’ve helped me to stay somewhat sane; they have provided opportunities to keep me occupied and have something to look forward to. Being an extrovert, I’ve confidently jumped at the chance to create and host a quiz on a few occasions now. The first few times I volunteered, I had many ideas for quiz rounds; the last time (a mere 24 hours ago), however, I admittedly had no more of my own. All my and others’ ideas had been executed already. Alas, for the first time, I turned to Google for the apparently highly-searched “virtual pub quiz ideas”. In light of my virtual pub quiz brain fart, I’ve amalgamated some ideas for quiz rounds from quizzes I’ve previously created, participated in and discovered amongst Google’s many responses for those who might be stuck for ideas for their next virtual pub quiz, too.
1. “Name that musical”
In the first virtual pub quiz I hosted, my first round was inspired by a quiz I’d come across during one of my casual Facebook strolls; a “name that musical” quiz. Similarly to this quiz, my version merely included still images from 12 different classic musicals on one PowerPoint slide for everybody to examine and cry “argh, I know that one!” as they tried to jog their memories or inadvertently confuse Les Misérables with The Greatest Showman. A simple Google search will generate plentiful musical names and images to inspire this round. Or, if you want to make it a little more interactive, you could include or play clips from classic musical numbers and ask your participants to name the iconic musical, song and even artist for some extra points, too.
2. Celebrity couples
One of the most fun rounds I’ve created for a virtual pub quiz is a “celebrity couples” round whereby I listed 10 celebrity couples, past and present, but eliminated the vowels from their names. For instance, for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it appeared “brdptt & nglnjl”; for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman “tmcrs & nclkdmn”; and Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas “sphtrnr & jjns”. This can be really fun for your participants as they may be able to identify one name but struggle to remember the other half of the couple. It’s especially funny if you hear them muttering them to themselves, too, but that can actually help! (Say “brdptt” and “tmcrs” aloud and they ~ almost ~ sound like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, right?)
3. The noughties
This idea for a round is a particularly fun one for both millennials and previous generations alike. It emits a sense of nostalgia for you as you gather the questions and your family and friends as they take themselves back to a time where the likes of Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Destiny’s Child were plastered all over MTV and playing on every radio station repeatedly. With questions like “Which Outkast song contains the lyrics Never meant to make your daughter cry // I apologize a trillion times?”, “Which female singer partnered with Nelly to release Dilemma in 2002?” and “In which year did Kylie Minogue release the single Can’t Get You Out of My Head?”, you’ll be sure to witness your participants scratching their heads.
4. Warner Bros.
I won’t lie, I was quite proud of myself when I thought of this for a round. Rather than your typical Disney round which – don’t @ me – I’m not too much of a fan of myself (don’t get me wrong, many Disney films I love, but anything Disney Princess I’ve never particularly enjoyed), I thought: “why not Warner Bros. instead?”. Similarly to the “noughties” round, Warner Bros. can make you feel very nostalgic; questions like “Which 1996 hit single featured on the Space Jam soundtrack?” will remind you of easier days. Plus, it provided an opportunity for me to ask a Friends-related question which everybody was expecting from me in my first quiz: “What is the title of the famous Friends episode where Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to Chandler and Joey?” (if you know, you know).
5. “Finish the lyric”
Instead of the all too familiar “listen to this and name the song and artist”, you can switch up a music round by asking your participants to “finish the lyric”. This idea for a round when I was creating my second virtual pub quiz was inspired by a video that went viral of a lady being asked to “finish the lyric” by the videographer who sang a lyric from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Shallow. I provided 10 lyrics from 10 different songs in a list format, again on a PowerPoint slide, and asked them to simply provide the following lyric as an answer. You can make it even harder by merely reading the lyrics as opposed to singing them; your participants might recognise the lyric but forget the tune, making it more difficult for them to do as the round asks.
6. Social media
In a world where virtual pub quizzes over Zoom have become the norm for occupying time as “non-essential” workers are imperatively staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly likely that your participants will be familiar with some facts on social media. To some, social media still sounds like a relatively new concept, but questions such as “In which year was Facebook launched?” and “Which early social network was bought by ITV in 2005 for £120m?” will soon make them realise that social media has been around for a lot longer than they might think. And, for those of us who have been using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the like since or soon after they launched, they will be a breeze.
During a Zoom catchup and virtual pub quiz with my linguigals (my group of friends who I talk about in this blog which, coincidentally, unfolds my pandemic experience), one of my linguigals was hosting and included a Catchphrase-like round (‘like’ referring to the Catchphrase TV show). It was quite different from your usual quiz round as, much like the TV show, we were shown a series of images which referenced common catchphrases, and the first to “buzz in” and shout it out earned the point. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I stole the idea for my next virtual pub quiz (thanks, G!). You could even, like my fiancé and I have also participated in, create a game show-themed quiz, including the likes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Price is Right and Family Fortunes as rounds.
Does anybody else remember when an app called The Logo Quiz was all anybody could ever talk about circa 2010? Yes? No? If so, this one’s a bit like that. If not, this idea for a round essentially requires you to display images of an array of brands but excluding obvious details such as their name or an iconic symbol (you can find loads of photoshopped logo images on Google). Or, rather than asking your participants to merely identify the brands, you could also do a “this or that” and display two images of the same brand beside one another but, again, with minor details changed like the orientation of a symbol or the order of the colours (which is what I did). Since it’s been a good decade there or thereabouts since The Logo Quiz was prevalent, this one was fun for me to do.
9. Album covers
Another friend of mine in their virtual pub quiz created a round which included a number of photoshopped images of famous album covers; similarly to the logos as explained above, obvious elements like the album or artist’s name were edited out. Admittedly, on her version, I didn’t recognise any of the album covers until they were revealed (~ obviously ~), making me question my music knowledge which is usually pretty good – or so I thought. Again, these images can quite easily be found on Google for you to include in your next virtual pub quiz. This idea for a round is a fun way to test your participants’ music knowledge (or lack of) and perhaps even decipher the kind of music they’re into, too.
10. TV show sets
Another good idea for a virtual pub quiz round is to show your participants an abundance of images of the sets of popular – or, if you want to spice it up, more obscure – TV shows. With the likes of Netflix also having conquered many households across the globe over the last few years with their variety of television series, dramas and movies, this will – similarly to the album covers round – unveil how much (or how little) TV your participants watch. This round is again quite unusual; instead of the “identify the theme song” or “who said this quote in which television series?”, you can utilise the screen-sharing function on Zoom to display such images and get your participants thinking.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you can’t go wrong with a “general knowledge” round (I usually leave this round till last). These rounds are always a success for both you and your participants as you can ask any burning questions that didn’t fit elsewhere in your quiz and it’s a fun way to test your family and friends’, well, general knowledge. If you’re unsure on what kind of questions to ask, there are millions – and that’s probably not an exaggeration – just waiting to be searched on Google.
As per, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).
Stay safe, stay home and enjoy your next virtual pub quiz!
This summer will mark four years since my fiancé Daniel and I started living together. I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way; I love waking up to him every morning and going to sleep beside him every night, especially after a long, hard-working day. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say we haven’t always had it easy. Our first couple of years of cohabiting in particular were extremely difficult; not due to “typical” living-with-your-partner inconveniences like fighting over leaving the toilet seat up, putting dirty clothes on top of as opposed to in the washing basket (which, I must say, is incredibly frustrating) and feeling on top of one another, but something very different: Crohn’s disease. Daniel was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in September 2016 – which, at the time, was one of the worst cases in the UK – and, boy, have we been on one hell of a rollercoaster ever since. Needless to say, his diagnosis has not only continued to strengthen our relationship, but drastically change our outlooks on life. As today is World IBD Day, I wanted to share my story on what it’s like to witness first-hand the impact of a chronic illness on someone’s life and the impact it can have on their partner (like me) too, but not before I give a brief overview of Crohn’s disease and its symptoms.
For those of you who aren’t completely aware, Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system and is one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), the other being Ulcerative Colitis (ref: Crohn’s and Colitis UK). It is said to be hereditary and, while there are different forms of treatment such as drugs and surgery, there is currently no cure. As Daniel’s case is severe, he takes a multitude of medications daily as well as an injection weekly. The symptoms that Daniel experienced before his diagnosis, and still experiences regularly, include abdominal pain and (if you’re squeamish, brace yourself) diarrhoea, tiredness and fatigue and feeling generally unwell. A full list of the symptoms can also be found on the link referenced earlier.
Now, for the story. As I said, Daniel was diagnosed in September 2016. He suffered from the aforementioned symptoms and more for about nine months prior and underwent innumerable tests and scans before he was finally diagnosed via a colonoscopy, following which they explained to us that it looked like Daniel had – shockingly – had the disease for around five-to-seven years already. These months leading up to his diagnosis were some of the hardest for the both of us; it was horrible for Daniel to continue to experience pain and suffering for reasons the GP couldn’t even decipher, and equally horrible for me to watch him suffer and continuously wonder why. Daniel even turned to private care for a little while in hope that they could more accurately discover what was wrong; alas, even they couldn’t and misdiagnosed it as whooping cough. Unfortunately, it took Daniel to collapse at his desk at work based near Wimbledon and have his colleagues call an ambulance for him which took him to St. George’s Hospital in Tooting to finally figure it out. Ever since, Daniel has been under the supervision of some of the best doctors and surgeons at this hospital who have been an incredible help in making the experience smoother and easier to cope with for the both of us.
Following his diagnosis, Daniel had to stay in hospital for a little while so that his blood and sugar levels could be monitored and he could be rehydrated after losing so much water in his body due to the diarrhoea. However, the following month – October 2016 – saw an even more unfortunate event for Daniel; whilst resting in his hospital bed surrounded by his parents, my parents and me, his bowel perforated and thus required immediate surgery. Just before which, I vividly remember a lovely stoma nurse coming to talk to Daniel and me all about having and caring for a stoma bag. Essentially, in order to give Daniel’s bowel a rest and allow him to recover from the symptoms he had been suffering, his doctors and surgeons decided that some of his large intestine would need to be removed and he would need a temporary stoma bag through an operation called a colectomy with ileostomy. This is – again, squeamish readers, prepare yourselves – a procedure whereby the intestine is brought to the surface of the stomach, and an opening is made so that digestive waste is passed through the stomach and into a bag rather than through the bottom; the opening on the stomach is called a stoma (ref: Crohn’s and Colitis UK). The period of time for which Daniel would have a stoma bag was uncertain as his doctors and surgeons would assess his progress and evaluate a time when they deemed it necessary.
The information about stoma bags was fed to us so suddenly that neither Daniel nor I were able to fully absorb it all at once. We were provided a kit with all stoma care needs including a large source of stoma bags when replacement was necessary, some curved scissors to help cut the hole in the bag for the stoma to the correct size (as stoma sizes vary) and various other supplies; a handful of leaflets and handouts all about life with a stoma bag; and a number of websites to navigate and phone numbers to call whenever we needed help. Nonetheless, almost everything we learnt about stoma bags was acquired through practise. Living with each other meant that I could help Daniel whenever he required it at home, be it to clean the stoma, change the bag or look after him when he continued to experience the usual Crohn’s disease symptoms. In fact, although the stoma was intended to help Daniel in the long run, his experience with it was still awful; he vomited every morning and night, struggled to digest a number of foods and was completely bed-bound, all whilst also experiencing the pain from the surgery on his stomach and the mental burden of it all (I can feel the water works coming on for me right about now). What’s more, when I met Daniel, he couldn’t even swallow a tablet; now, he had to start taking a surplus of drugs (the most he has been on at one time is thirty-three; now, he takes at least eight a day).
As the one not living with the condition nor the stoma, but living alongside the person with them, all I wanted to do for Daniel was stay positive, encourage him to keep fighting and continue to remind him that he wasn’t alone in this battle because – as cliché as it may sound – he had me by his side. Notwithstanding, this experience inevitably came with its downfalls on my part, too. The same month Daniel was diagnosed, I had just begun my second year of university. Fortunately, as I briefly mentioned in my blog about living at home for university, I had transferred to a university closer to home to continue my studies from second year not with the intention to live with Daniel (we managed the long-distance relationship quite well, actually), but because I faced my own battles with anxiety during my first year. And, even more fortunately, my new university (Roehampton) just so happened to not be far from the hospital in which Daniel would stay for months on end. So, every day after my lectures during the beginning of my second year, I would head straight to the bus stop outside of campus, jump on the 493 to St. George’s Hospital and sit beside Daniel in his hospital bed to keep him company. A lot of the time, whilst Daniel kept himself occupied by watching movies on Netflix on his phone, I had my laptop open to complete some uni work; being in each other’s presence was enough. Other times, we would merely have a chat, watch something together or, if he had family or friends visiting, we would be occupied by their company. Again, this time was certainly not easy for us, but we got through it together.
Almost exactly one year on from his diagnosis, and eleven months from his major surgery (as Daniel continued to have minor surgeries with his stoma; I gave up on keeping count of the number of endoscopies he’s had a long time ago), the time finally came for Daniel’s stoma to be reversed. Despite the horrible side-effects, his doctors and nurses internally saw a huge improvement on his bowel and intestines from the culmination of his drugs and the stoma. As it was September 2017, I had at this time just begun my final year of university and would, again, try my best to look after Daniel post-surgery alongside my studies. Not only was he bed-bound again, but he also had two large scars to recover from as well as the mental struggle to adapt to some sort of normality again; in layman’s terms, he got his bottom ~ back ~.
Now, Daniel is much better than he was. Of course, he still experiences flare-ups in his intestines every now and then which is normal for somebody with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis and has had to take trips to the hospital aplenty, but together we have learnt how to manage everyday life with Crohn’s. As I mentioned earlier, his daily drug intake has reduced from a whopping thirty-three to around eight, and the continuation of taking these drugs alongside his weekly injection have greatly assisted in the management of the condition. That’s not to say that we don’t get a scare every so often, like the possibility that he will have to stay in hospital for a long period of time again or – especially in times like now with the coronavirus pandemic – he’ll fall really ill again, but if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s to stay positive. We count ourselves so lucky every day that we live together and have each other by our sides during hard times and, whatever our future holds, I think it’s fair to say that we are both well-prepared.
Please be reminded that this is Daniel’s Crohn’s story; everybody’s IBD experience is different. Currently, it is estimated that Crohn’s disease affects about one in every 650 people in the UK and Ulcerative Colitis about one in every 420 people in the UK. When Daniel was diagnosed and I would tell people that he has Crohn’s disease, a common response was “what’s that?”. Four years on, I am pleased to report that people seem much more aware of it when I tell them as they either know or know of someone with the condition. Nevertheless, there still seems to be a lack of general awareness around IBD, and that is what today – World IBD Day – is all about. Given the above figures, it is likely that someone you know has Crohn’s or Colitis, so why not do some more research into them by heading to the Crohn’s and Colitis UK website or by following them on social media? Likewise, if you or someone you know is suffering from similar symptoms and is yet to discover what you or they might have, please ensure that you or they get checked out.
To those like Daniel with an IBD, happy World IBD Day! To my readers, thank you for reading and I hope this has assisted in the growth of awareness around IBD. Also, to the NHS, as we hear daily at present, thank you so much for the support and care you provide people like Daniel. And, of course, to my Daniel, I am so proud of you for all that you’ve achieved and all that you’ve been through. Despite all this, you have continued to work incredibly hard in your full-time role at an amazing and supportive firm called Z group, have passed a number of AAT exams and continue to conduct voluntary work for the Royal Air Force Air Cadets (RAFAC). You are an inspiration. ♡
To me, being (very) short is a large part of my identity. More often than not, my height is the first thing people notice about me. At school, however, I was almost made to feel like it was problematic; the observation “you’re so short!” was made daily (that’s right: every single day for five whole years), to which my response to the boys would be a sarcastic “well, obviously” and to the girls a nicer “haha, I know”. I’ve learned as I’ve grown older (and no further in height), however, to love my shortness; needless to say, it certainly comes with its disadvantages when trying to accomplish everyday tasks. In light of such, I thought I’d gather some of the perks and the not-so-easy aspects of being as short as I am, beginning with the latter.
• Reaching for things. While climbing on the kitchen worktop to grab something from the elevated cupboards can be fun at times, it definitely has its downfalls; the fear of slipping off and cracking your head open on the tiled floor is one extreme, yet very possible, example. In our kitchen at home, we genuinely have a little stool for us shorties (my mum and me, mainly), which, when I do rightly decide to pull it out instead of recklessly jumping around, makes life a hell of a lot easier. It’s a shame it’s not socially acceptable to carry a stool to the supermarket when you can’t reach for something on the top shelf; though I’m not embarrassed to find either an employee or a passerby and laugh “I’m sorry, could you grab that for me, please?” (in my overly polite British manner), when nobody’s available, what do you do? Well, if I’m feeling brave, I might riskily attempt to place one foot on the bottom shelf to bump me up a notch, or scout for another item that I can use as a manoeuvring device to shuffle the item on the top shelf closer to me. If those options fail, well, great: I can’t buy my essentials because of my damn little legs.
• Public transport. Every time I opt to get on the train in rush hour and have to painfully stand as I gawk at and envy those who sit comfortably in the red-cushioned seats, I always wonder what the viewpoint for taller people is like; “they can actually see other people? Like, they can see across the entire carriage?”. Because, every single time, I involuntarily end up in the midst of a taller guy’s sweaty armpit, an older lady’s side-boob and a school kid’s Nike rucksack as we all hold onto the bright orange handrail for dear life. What’s more, commuters on public transport only care about themselves and their own comfort, so I have to endure this pleasurable combination of sweat, boobs and bags crushing me for the entirety of my journey. I know what you’re thinking: “if you drove, you could avoid all this havoc!”. Well, one: I don’t have my license yet, as driving is just another thing I’ve managed to conjure up an excuse for the procrastination; two: when I’m travelling to Central London… nah, I wouldn’t drive anyway; and three: public transport is ~ relatively ~ cheap and works for me anyway so, for that reason, I might as well try to learn to embrace the revulsion that is the “07:57 South Western Railway service to London Waterloo”.
• Always. Being. Told. Everywhere I go, everything I do, everyone I meet; I’m always the shortest one. That, I don’t mind; it’s the mere constant need for everybody to remind me all the time. I’ve heard the “oh my God, you’re so tiny!”, “wow, how come you’re so short?” and “oh, you’re so cute!” more times than you can imagine. Well, guess what? I’m the one who’s 4’9”, so I am very aware of the fact that I’m “so tiny” or however you want to describe it. I’m a product of a full-Greek-Cypriot mother and a half-Burmese, quarter-Irish and a little bit of Italian, French and apparently Native American Indian (according to my auntie’s ancestry test; isn’t that AWESOME?) father, so that’s probably why I’m so short, since you asked. And finally, you think it’s cute? Aw, shucks. (That’s my favourite remark, really.)
• People offering to do things for you. Contrary to the nuisance of trying to reach for things myself, oftentimes people will kindly offer to grab things from a great height for me to save me from straining my oh-so-tiny arms and legs. Be it at work reaching for my diary above the desk, in the university library aiming to reach for a book from up above or at home struggling to obtain a glass to quickly quench my thirst, there are many considerate people out there who look out for their smol friends and family members (thanks, guys).
• Fitting into junior-sized shoes. This doesn’t necessarily apply to short people, but people with small feet, and I’m sure each and every one of us would agree that being able to buy trainers from the junior section is a blessing. I mean, they’re usually half the bloody price of the size 5-and-aboves! If you’re a size 4 like me or below and have been shopping in the general shoe section, you’ve wasted hella money, my friend. Most places I’ve shopped at for trainers and boots have a junior section, and if they don’t, then maybe – just maybe – I won’t shop there.
• I LOVE IT. As I said, I’ve learned to love my shortness. It contributes to the characteristics that make me… me. In some ways, I also feel like it enhances my femininity (not that tall girls aren’t beautiful, because they are – shoutout to my tol friends!). I sometimes even forget myself just how short I am; I’ll be cuddling Dan and he’ll impulsively point it out (just like the rest of ‘em) after almost 5 years of being together, or I’ll order some trousers from the petite section online and make the mistake of not checking the leg length and thinking “eh, they’ll be fine” and, unsurprisingly, they’ll still be too long (top tip for my fellow shorties: buy cropped-length trousers and jeans for average-sized people for the perfectly-lengthed bottoms for yourself). But, when I remember, it makes me happy.
Short people, tall people, ALL people: remember, we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways! But, in particular, to all my fellow tiny people: may we embrace our fun-sized selves together!
Little Pav ♡
(If you hadn’t figured already, do you see where the blog name comes from now?)
From the ages of thirteen to nineteen, I was so sure I wanted to be a high school teacher. Certain, in fact. I was so sure, I was doing everything I could to gain as much teaching experience as possible alongside my GCSE, A level and university studies to add to my CV. Six years is a really long time to be certain about the career path you intend to pursue – so long, the plan inevitably became like a comfort blanket for me. The notion of “knowing” what I wanted to do in the future made the journey there seem a hell of a lot easier. When it came to choosing my A levels, I didn’t need to think twice; I knew I loved English, Spanish and Dance, so those subjects I chose. I developed such a passion for English Language during my A level studies, I confirmed that’s what I wanted to study at university. In order to be a high school teacher, I knew I had to complete a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) upon completion of my bachelor’s. Basically, I had my life all figured out. Sweet. Done. Easy. Or, so I thought.
During my second year of university, I started to have my doubts and change my mind as to whether I still wanted to pursue teaching and, honestly, I didn’t know how to handle or respond to my thoughts. “I was so sure teaching was the career for me – why am I changing my mind now?” “Is it normal to start changing my mind so suddenly?” “Is it too late?” Because. Yes. No. They are the short answers to those three questions in consecutive order. The long answers? One: I was changing my mind then because I had been studying for my degree for almost two years up to that point, and I had learnt so much not only about my course of study, but also about life as a student, essential life skills and friendships to name a few; I continuously found myself inspired by my surroundings and was therefore growing as an individual. Two: it was normal to change my mind so suddenly as the plan to become a teacher remained subconsciously in my mind whilst I was letting my surroundings sink in; when the doubts found an opportunity, they hit like a ton of bricks. And three: it definitely wasn’t too late to start changing my mind because I still had a whole year to complete my degree, arrange meetings with my academic advisor and conduct some research into my growing interests; and, most shockingly of all, I was only nineteen. Of course, I hadn’t realised all this at the time; I was extremely confused and most certainly couldn’t find a solution alone. But, before I go on to explain how I approached my thoughts and accepted that I no longer wanted to be a teacher, let’s backtrack a little. You’re probably wondering why I was so certain that high school teaching was the career for me from such a young age. Here’s the story.
Before thirteen, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what I wanted to do in life, but I had an idea; “something in English or performing arts” was my thinking. As I’ve said a few times on my blog now, writing has always been a passion of mine. Likewise, when I was younger, I was extremely passionate about performing arts; I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London every Saturday from the ages of about nine to fifteen and, as I’ve also mentioned before, I have always enjoyed writing songs. Then, when I started high school, I began to develop an ever-growing passion for contemporary dance. I found not only dancing myself, but also the professional choreographers and works that we studied exciting, intriguing and thrilling. When it came to choosing my GCSEs then, along with the core English, Maths and Science and mandatory foreign language (as my school specialised in languages), I went for the triple threat: Drama, Music and Dance. During our first year of working towards our GCSEs in these three subjects, we also completed work towards a smaller award called the Bronze Arts Award (which, for some reason, they stretched across one whole academic year when it could have easily been completed in one half-term). The requirements to complete this award for each subject were similar: for all of them, I remember that we had to give a presentation based on a person who inspires us in that area. For Dance, however, I specifically remember that we had to lead our own lesson, either individually or in pairs, which would be recorded to send to the examination board.
The lesson had to include the following: a pulse-raiser, a mobiliser for the knees and a physical game. We were required to create a lesson plan and write a script to provide to the examiners, too. I remember rehearsing my butt off for this lesson like my life depended on it. I had just begun my GCSEs; life was gettin’ serious, K? The night before, I read over my script again and again and again until I was somewhat satisfied. The day of, I was shitting myself. I walked into the dance studio feeling sick to my stomach. I was “number four” of thirty-odd in the class to approach the task, and the first to do it alone. I remember my teacher pointing the tiny camcorder (yep, that’s what was used back in 2011) toward me as I stood facing my classmates in front of the mirror-covered wall. I was holding my script shakily. “Ready?”, my teacher smiled. “Yep”, I responded hesitantly. Beep! The recording, and thus my lesson, begun.
To cut an already long story short: my lesson went really well. As soon as I heard the ‘beep’, I instinctively dropped my script to the floor beside me. It felt like it had just removed itself from my hands. I didn’t need it; I’d rehearsed enough, I guess. Beep! As the recording stopped, my teacher slowly brought the hand in which she was holding up the camera back down to her hip and blurted “how good was that?” to the rest of the class. Commotion. Everybody in the class was crying “Sophie, that was so good!”, “wow, have you taught before?”. Even those in my class who bullied me outside of class were saying nice things – I mean, what is that about? “You’ve got a career in teaching”, my teacher continued; “that was incredible”. At the age of thirteen, hearing that “you’ve got a career” in something feels pretty amazing; it provides a sense of confidence, achievement and direction. And so, from that day, it was decided: “I’m going to be a teacher!”. From that day, as I said in the beginning, I did everything I could to build my teaching portfolio: I ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club when I was in Year 10, I was nominated to be a tutor for a Year 11 English student when I was in Year 12 and I opted to complete the Volunteering In School’s Award (VISA) by helping my Dance teacher in her Year 9 lessons also whilst I was in Year 12.
Further, just before I started my degree in English Language and Linguistics, we were given the opportunity to elect one subject module per semester in our first year; the others were compulsory. Or, in place of a different elective module per semester, we also had the option to study Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) – another qualification which enables you to do as the title says upon completion – which would continue into our second year and thus take over a couple of elective module blocks in that year, too. “A teaching module? Tick.” When the teaching of that module – or qualification – began, I really enjoyed the first few lessons, predominantly because they focused on the recapping of English grammar, syntax, morphology, etymology, phonology; the nitty-gritty of the English language, which I’m an utter nerd for. However, when we began to learn how to teach this nitty-gritty content to a second-language learner, I didn’t enjoy it so much. “That rules out teaching English as a second language, then”, I thought. That was the extent of my thoughts. Notwithstanding, the unfulfillment of this module directed me to contact someone at the university about the possibility of discontinuing the qualification (and therefore merely gaining the amount of credits equivalent to that of one module) and choosing a different module to study in the spring semester, which was fine. Instead of the second part to TESOL, then, I elected a module called Language, Mind and Brain. “Now, this is what I’m talking about; this is what I came to study.” It was basically psycholinguistics, a branch of linguistics which is just SO cool, and it’s true; I came to university to study English Language and Linguistics, and this module was one awesome aspect of that. The other compulsory modules across the year covered semantics, phonology, grammar and discourse, which all contribute to what linguistics is about, too.
So, teaching English as a foreign language was a no-go. “Fine. No worries, I’ll just stick to teaching curriculum English.” Following this discovery, I decided to continue as I finally figured in my first year through to my second year; to choose modules that concentrated on the elements of linguistics that I was genuinely interested in, rather than bothering so much about choosing modules that partly aligned with my teaching plans. I intended to study for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s which would qualify me to teach anyway, so I decided to enjoy my course’s content while I could. Then, during one of my Forensic Linguistics lectures in the spring semester of second year, two third-year girls were invited into our lecture to discuss the opportunities my university offered to gain work experience over the summer through their internship scheme. “It’s so easy to sign up”, one said, “you just have to go to the website, create a profile, and when you see an internship post that sounds interesting to you, you just upload your CV and wait for a member of the internship scheme team to contact you!”. That does sound easy, right? So, when I got home, I entered the URL in my laptop, signed up, and on the home screen of the website popped up a plethora of internship roles in London which, once you clicked on them, had a job description and a “send my CV” button appear. It really was easy. Although I couldn’t find one teaching-related internship, I thought I’d try my luck and send my CV to any role which sounding interesting to me; incidentally, they were all related to social media marketing. Whilst I was studying, I was also working as a part-time Crew Trainer at McDonald’s, so it inadvertently became an opportunity for to develop my professional portfolio as opposed to my teaching one.
The next day, and I mean not even twenty-four hours after I’d sent my CV to various places, I received a call from a recruiter who worked for the internship scheme at my university. “Four of the employers would like to meet you tomorrow!” he cried. I was in a state of shock. What was it about my CV that made me appear an ideal candidate for marketing? The fact that I have a good command of the English language? That’s all I could think of. Anyway, the recruiter and I agreed that meeting all four employers in various places in London in one day was a bit absurd, so we’d arranged a date for two and would get back in touch to arrange the other two. The first interview I’d attended was for a twelve-week internship as a PR & Marketing Assistant for a luxury baby-and-children’s furniture brand. Again, long story short: the interview went really well, and the day after that, the recruiter told me the job was mine if I wanted it. “That’s great!”, I said excitedly, “but what about the other interviews?” It turned out that all the other internships were only intended to last between two-to-four weeks, so I cancelled the pending interviews, accepted the role as PR & Marketing Assistant in Central London and consequently, after almost three-and-a-half years, quit my part-time job at McDonald’s to focus on the internship (I wasn’t too worried about not finding another job during my final year; I was quite confident that, after this internship, I’d have ample experience).
Throughout my twelve weeks in this role, I’d gained experience and skills aplenty. I’d learned everything I needed to know about social media marketing for a small business; I learned how to use specific marketing tools such as WordPress (hence why I’m here!), Buffer and MailChimp, I created three-to-four social media posts daily for their social media and wrote blogs and newsletters weekly for their website. However, when I was offered an extension of the internship (namely, the opportunity to continue to work for them remotely or in store on the weekends alongside my final-year studies), I safely declined. My bachelor’s degree was very research-and-written heavy and, truthfully, I didn’t want to commit myself to having to write blogs when I had an abundance of assignments to complete. Nevertheless, when I’d started my final year, I’d arranged a meeting with my academic advisor and positively told her all about my internship experience. “Now I’m really confused as to what I want to do in life”, I said. “Do marketing”, she replied abruptly. “Marketing. You enjoyed that internship, right? That’s just a taster.” She was right; everything I did during that internship was just a microcosm of what a career in marketing holds. “I could do marketing, I guess.” And so, after a long, well-needed chat with my academic advisor, I’d decided that instead of studying for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s degree, I’d study for a master’s in Global Marketing Management.
I realise now that the reason I didn’t know how to handle my thoughts as to why I was changing my mind about what I wanted to do in life was because, as I said near the start, I was comfortable. I knew what I wanted, where I was going and pursuing my goals seemed pretty easy. Then, when I started to consider other avenues, I didn’t enjoy the feeling of escaping of my comfort zone and exploring something new. It’s like I almost believed that teaching was destined for me and that I shouldn’t even allow any other career prospect to enter my mind. Well, I was wrong. Studying for a marketing-based master’s degree was the best decision I’ve ever made; not only did it open my eyes to the business world and enable me to recognise the impact of brands on our everyday lives, but it also taught me an array of life skills that are essential in every workplace, something that teaching might have lacked. If you’re changing your mind about what you want to do in life, just know that it’s O.K.; I did, and it worked out wonderfully.
I came across this quote on a post shared by Glamour UK on Instagram during my evening social media scroll one day last week and, damn, did it hit home. Just a couple of days before, my linguigals (the name I’ve assigned to my gal friends with whom I studied linguistics at university with; original, right?) and I were discussing this very topic on our group chat: how we’ve kept ourselves occupied during lockdown. One bravely revealed before-and-after photos upon completing a 30-day workout challenge (in which she looked INCREDIBLE), two painfully cried that they have predominantly been swamped in master’s assignments (I know that feeling, girls) and another proudly declared that she has managed to consume a whole can of Pringles to herself (this one clearly wins). While us linguigals always intend to empower one another, this conversation had the opposite – and unintentional on their behalf, I know – effect on me: it made me feel useless. While most of my friends have been working their arses off to keep fit or submit assignments displaying the best of their abilities (or eat as many snacks as possible, in one’s case), what have I been doing? As I mentioned briefly in my previous blog: playing Animal Crossing. A lot of it, for that matter. “For over 205 hours or more”, my Nintendo Switch profile confidently tells me. Call me mad. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. I am all those things.
Of course, that isn’t all I’ve been doing (though, undoubtedly, it has taken up a lot of my time). I’ve ensured that I take my dog (my sweet, sweet Diesel) for a long walk at least once a day, be it alone or with my mum, dad and/or fiancé Dan, for both mine and Diesel’s good. I’ve been playing ball in the garden with Diesel when the weather has been too nice to stay in my bedroom glued to the Switch. I’ve emptied my (and Dan’s) entire wardrobe and chest of drawers out only to place our clothes back in, but more neatly. But, is that enough? Should I be doing more? If so, what should I be doing? These are just a few of the many questions that began to occur to me following the aforementioned conversation with my friends. Beforehand, I believed that everything that I was doing was fine; it didn’t even cross my mind that I “should” be doing anything else or differently. In fact, from the onset, I perceived this time as an opportunity for me to rest and recuperate after a few full-on years of studying (“half a decade”, almost, as one of my linguigals pointed out when reassuring me that how I’ve spent my time is O.K. also). After completing my A levels in July 2015, I went straight on to study for my bachelor’s from September 2015. After completing my bachelor’s in May 2018, I went straight on to study for my master’s from September 2018. After completing my master’s in September 2019, I went straight into full-time work that same month. I’ve never taken a break, like a gap year or simply “time off” to give my mind and body a rest. Up until that conversation, I counted myself lucky that I didn’t have any assignments to complete for once; I counted myself lucky that I had so much time to spend on the wonder that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Upon expressing how I began to feel a little bummed to my linguigals after seeing their successes, each and every one of them reminded me that there is no “right or wrong” way to spend our time in quarantine (don’t they sound amazing? That, they are!). In sum, our conversation – and, subsequently, that Glamour UK post – made me realise that the pandemic experience is different for everyone, and it most certainly isn’t a competition as to who has achieved the most during this time we have imperatively stayed at home to protect ourselves and each other. To some, it has provided an opportunity to learn new or pick up old hobbies such as exercising, cooking and reading; to others, it has provided a break for their mental and physical health. The latter is most certainly what I relate to the most, and however you have spent your time is O.K., too.
To all our NHS and key workers, thank you so much for what you do. To those who, like me, have stayed at home to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, how have you been spending your time at home? I’d love to know!
Except that it does, but it’s not a “proper” title. I guess my point is that this blog doesn’t have a specific theme; as my first blog post, it’s an introduction to myself, my blog and a smattering of other nonsense fused into one. If you’re reading this, you probably came across a post that I shared on another form of social media excitedly announcing that I finally got round to creating my own blog and kindly opted to visit. If that’s the case, or not, thank you – and welcome to my very first blog post! As I’ve kept my bio short and sweet, I thought I would use my first post as an opportunity to introduce what I intend for my blog to be about.
It is true when I say that I’ve been wanting to set up a personal blog for a really long time now, but I’ve always managed to conjure up an excuse for the procrastination; “I have too many assignments to do”, “it requires too much effort”, “too little people will be interested”… Well, since I am no longer a student (as I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in July 2018 and master’s degree in January 2020), it wasn’t as much effort to set up as I anticipated (now that I’ve got the hang of WordPress as this is the second website I’ve built after my business one) and I realised that I shouldn’t want to do this for anyone but myself (although, of course, I do hope at least some people will enjoy reading my content), I thought: what better time than now to begin? What’s more, as I write this, we are in a time like no other: a pandemic, during which I have spent most of my time – like many others across the globe – playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch (which, while we’re on the subject, I must say really IS worth all the hype), and the remainder pondering what I can do now that will benefit my future. Hence, Little Pav was born.
Writing has always been a hobby of mine; I have written songs since I was about eight years young and English (Language, especially) was one of my favourite subjects at school alongside Spanish and Dance, and so I went on to study English Language and Linguistics at university. However, whenever I’ve told anyone that writing is one of my favourite pastimes, the only pieces I’ve ever had to showcase are, well, academic assignments; I’ve always kept my songs to myself (even my family or fiancé haven’t heard a single one of them!) and every blog I’ve ever written has gone unpublished because I’ve never had a platform to post them on. I mean, I did write several blogs for a luxury baby-and-children’s furniture company based in London that I worked for as a PR & Marketing Intern in the summer of 2017 which are still available to view however, unless you’re a well-to-do mother, it’s pretty difficult to persuade your family and friends to read your review on a £20,000-baby-cradle (I’m serious, the prices were INSANE).
As a twenty-something who has recently completed both undergraduate and postgraduate study, set up a small business since graduating and been in a relationship for almost five years to name a few, I have a lot that I want – and am excited – to share! Whether you’re seeking advice as to how to succeed in your studies, wondering where to begin in starting up your business or merely interested in my take on something that every young adult experiences, I hope that Little Pav will become your place to resort to for that kind of content. Rest assured I have a lot of ideas as to what to write about in mind, so stay tuned!