#LittleChats: with Jess Brown

Hello and welcome to Episode 8 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twentysomethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay to not have your life figured out in your twenties! Hereafter, I chat with the lovely Jess, a 23-year-old BSc Psychology graduate from the University of Sheffield and MA Arts Policy and Management student at Birkbeck University of London! Alongside her studies, Jess works in a management and social media role in hospitality and has recently launched her own platform called Creative Graduate which we’ll come to a little later. If Jess isn’t studying or working, she’s probably singing – often without realising – either Lady Gaga or a spontaneous singsong about her workday; she believes being on furlough has been a welcome break for her colleagues (though I’m sure that’s not true)! With that, let’s hear about Jess’ experiences as a student, graduate and twentysomething…

Image description: #LittleChats with Jess Brown

Hey, Jess! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I can’t wait to hear about your journey as a student and graduate. Firstly, what did you study at bachelor’s level and why?

Thank you for having me! I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Sheffield and graduated in 2018. I always found Psychology really interesting and, after I decided not to pursue drama and theatre post-A level, it seemed my next obvious option. I actually wasn’t supposed to go to Sheffield – I just missed out on my offer at the University of Birmingham, and I decided against my insurance choice of Chester. I then essentially chose Sheffield at random, which was probably the best spur of the moment decision I ever made! I can’t imagine my life without the fantastic experiences I had there and the friends I made.

Amazing!
You’re now studying for a master’s degree in quite a different subject, right? Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate study?

My master’s definitely seems worlds away from my undergraduate degree, but Psychology actually offered me a lot of transferable skills which have come in really useful, so I don’t regret it. I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in Psychology by the end of my second year; my plan was to leave uni and get a job in theatre, another arts industry or a charity organisation. This was very much easier said than done, and I was continually told I didn’t have enough experience even though I was positive I could do the job well! My lack of formal experience (in similar roles) was really holding me back, and the highly competitive nature of these jobs meant my transferable skills just weren’t enough for them. Despite this, after a year of searching, I finally secured a salaried job in a London events agency but, just before I was due to start, the pandemic hit. I lost the job offer and was placed on furlough from my hospitality job. At this point, I felt hopeless about my future, as well as the future of the arts industry. After a lot of reflection during the first lockdown, I did some research into postgraduate study and found the Arts Policy and Management course at Birkbeck University of London which has the option of placement within the course, which really solidified my decision. I thought that going back to study and incorporating a placement would put me in great stead to get a role in the industry when it recovers. I can safely say I made a great decision; I’m really enjoying the course and the people I’ve met through it!

That’s’ great to hear!
You mentioned the pandemic which you’ve also been studying for your master’s during. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you as a student, and do you think it’ll pose further challenges for you as a graduate?

Remote study has been full of a lot of ups and downs. I can’t fault Birkbeck’s handling of the situation and being on furlough has given me luxurious amounts of time to complete my work which has been lovely. However, the course is very discussion-based, and it can definitely get wearing when you spend half a session checking that everyone can see or hear each other. I do feel lucky that I’m not someone who’s paying for accommodation that I can’t use, but I would have liked to access some more resources that I’m paying my fees for. I also feel like I’m missing out on the experience; I’ve never even been to my university, which feels strange to say. I’m looking forward to hopefully having some in-person teaching next year, and to be able to visit the library! The biggest challenge I think has been motivation; I was always someone who chose to work in a cafe or library because I struggle to focus at home, but I’ve gotten more used to it and try to motivate myself as much as I can – taking lots of short breaks is key! As a graduate, I’m really concerned about the arts and cultural industries because they’ve been largely neglected by the government since the start of the pandemic, and lack of funding is a historic problem for this sector. I know there will be a lot of people who have been unable to work in these industries so this, in combination with the lack of funding, is likely to create a surplus of candidates for every role. Therefore, I think it’s really important that people support the arts and cultural industries as much as they can when things can reopen and continue to pressure the government to recognise that these industries are a backbone of UK society.

As a theatre fanatic, I couldn’t agree more!
You recently embarked on a new adventure by launching your own platform called Creative Graduate! Tell us about Creative Graduate and how it came to be.

Creative Graduate in its current form started in January 2021, but I had the idea for the account over a year ago; it was just something I’d never gotten started with. I’ve always been a fan of student and graduate blogs and accounts such as Gals Who Graduate and Pretty Little Marketer and knew that I was really keen to share my own advice and experiences. My thinking behind the account was that I hadn’t seen many targeted at people in the creative industries and I thought, during this time in particular, it could be a really good thing to have a support network. Creative Graduate provides advice, tips, weekly Q&As with creative grads, blog posts and a job board for roles in the industry. The community has grown to over 700 followers on Instagram in just over a month which has blown me away! I’m very grateful to have everyone’s support and very pleased that CG is helping people. It’s something I’m really proud of and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future; I already have some plans and ideas in the pipeline.

You should be proud!
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

To my first-year self: stop comparing yourself to other people and do what makes you happy. All experience helps carve your future, and all of this experience is useful in one way or another. (Oh, and do some more work!)

Absolutely! Thank you for your time, Jess, and good luck with everything!

What a great chat! From Jess, we can learn several lessons: firstly, that – no matter the subject – your degree offers an array of skills that are invaluable to any industry; also, that the arts and cultural industries are integral to society (everyone loves to go to the cinema, the theatre or a concert outside of lockdown!); and last but not least, that hard work and perseverance pays off! For graduates, the job hunt is not only testing but also extremely competitive – especially in the current climate – so, like Jess, why not consider postgraduate study or create your own platform based on your niche to enhance your experience? Nevertheless, remember that you are not alone; as Jess mentions, the Gals Who Graduate, Pretty Little Marketer and now Creative Graduate platforms are great for us students, graduates and twentysomethings for advice, resources and even just to find others to talk to in similar situations. You can find Jess on Instagram @creativegraduate!

Did you enjoy Jess’ story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Jess on #LittleChats!

What piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

It’s funny: I’ve asked every participant of my #LittleChats series so far what piece of advice they’d give to their younger selves, but I’ve never been asked the question myself. It’s a tough question and, unless you don’t think too much on it and stick to the cliché “be yourself!11!1!!”, everybody’s answers will be different dependent on their experiences. My younger years – particularly my high school years – were some of the worst years of my life despite the fact that I was very much myself; I was always taught not to care about others’ opinions of me. Of course, this advice isn’t always easy to follow when you’re being bullied – it’s inevitable to feel hurt by others’ words, especially mean af high school kids – but, in hindsight, I was probably bullied because I was myself. That’s the sad reality of bullies; they pick on the characteristics that make you unique, predominantly because they’re jealous that they don’t possess them themselves. I gave up quickly on trying to fit in in high school because it was obvious that I was different from the onset. I had an unhealthy obsession for the Jonas Brothers, but I also loved the likes of You Me At Six, Paramore and blink-182. Weirdo. I dyed my hair jet black and had layers upon layers which I backcombed every day to create a beehive-scene look. Weirdo. I would look forward to going home after school on a Tuesday and watching Countdown followed by The Common Denominator followed by Four In A Bed on Channel 4 (though nobody knew this until now). Total weirdo. Once I realised that I was different, I embraced it and learnt to ignore the haters. So, if not “be yourself”, what would Little Pav tell little-Little Pav?

Image description: A pink and purple sky with clouds

One piece of advice I often like to share with others is “whatever you do, do it for you”. I suppose this extends from the notion of not caring about how others perceive you; why waste your time trying to please others when you can spend it investing in becoming the best version of yourself? As well as ~ embracing ~ myself (*vomits a little*), I’ve always been one to follow this advice and ~ chase ~ what I want, if you will (*vomits a little more*). Take this: when I was choosing my GCSE options in Year 8 (we started our GCSE subjects one year earlier at my school – not the coursework or exams, just the subjects for ~ fun ~ I guess, though it most definitely wasn’t fun), I opted for Drama, Music and Dance; the infamous “triple threat”. Before we submitted our choices, however, we were invited to attend a meeting to discuss our options with a member of staff. Any member of staff. You could have chosen Geography, Media and French and been assigned an Art teacher to discuss your options with. I don’t even know who the member of staff I met with was; for all I know, she could’ve been a dinner lady. Anyway, I went with my mum, and the discussion went a little like this:

“So, Sophie, what GCSE subjects have you chosen?”

*clears throat* “Drama, Music and Dance!” *smiles confidently*

“Hmm… Are you sure? This doesn’t seem like a very secure pathway.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I love all these subjects.”

“That’s great, but have you considered something academic to balance your options?”

“No… I also love English and Spanish, which I’ve chosen as my mandatory language, so I don’t need to choose anything else.”

“Right… But you might be better off choosing something like Business Studies, no?”

“No, I’ve thought about it and I want to do Drama, Music and Dance. That doesn’t mean I won’t be successful.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying…”

You get the gist. And, to be clear, that is what she was saying; she was insinuating that if I merely chose “non-academic” subjects that I’d have no security later in life. Well, here I am, with a Bachelors in English Language and Linguistics and a Masters in Global Marketing. Take that, lady! My point is, even though she was adamant that I chose subjects more strongly associated with job ~ security ~ (which most teachers wrongly do, let’s be honest), I went with my gut. I always knew I wanted to pursue either English, Spanish or the Arts, and I did. I also opted for English Literature, English Language, Dance and Spanish at AS level and continued all but Spanish at A2. Which conveniently reminds me: I loved, and was really good at, Spanish (and I envy sixteen-year-old Sophie’s ability to walk into her AS exam and write a 7-page essay entirely in Spanish) but, after Year 12, I was done. AS Spanish was bloody difficult and, when I’d narrowed my prospective degree choices to English and Dance and therefore decided to drop Spanish, I told one of my A level Spanish teachers to which he responded: “but… wouldn’t it be better to drop Dance?”. Don’t. Even. I was livid. I genuinely cried to this teacher due to the stress that AS Spanish had caused me, and he had the audacity to tell me that I should drop Dance – one of my all-time favourite subjects – instead? No. I wasn’t having it. And I didn’t. To be fair, I really miss it now and would love to pick it up again, but the studying of it in line with the curriculum completely sucked the fun out of it for me. Again, my point is: I did what I wanted. And I’m happy. So, after that anecdote, we’ve established that I wouldn’t necessarily need to tell my younger self to “do what you want”.

I’m also one to quote the proverb “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end” now and then. Again, this alludes to my miserable high school years. I hated high school throughout its entire five-year timespan; that’s a bloody long time to feel miserable. Even though I was eventually comfortable in myself, I still hated feeling like a misfit; it was lonely, it was depressing and it was consuming. Nonetheless, as I mention in my World Mental Health Day blog, I finally found happiness in sixth form. I encountered more like-minded people, was no longer infected by toxic friendships and had more freedom. No school uniform. No vile bullies. No unnecessary drama. In the end, everything was okay. Hence my belief in that proverb. And my belief in it continues; as my fiancé was experiencing hell with his Crohn’s disease, I was hopeful that it would get better, and it has. It’s a chronic illness and there’s no cure as of yet, so of course there are worse days, but things are okay. Arguably, then, this piece of advice is a contender. However, even though I was miserable throughout my high school career, I was always somewhat hopeful that things would get better in that respect, too; I believed that I would make friends later in life, which I have who I’m incredibly grateful for, and pulled through by focusing on achieving good grades.

And that was my issue.

I’ve never seen or heard two words more frequently collocated than conscientious and attitude. Every academic tutoring, every parents’ evening, every end-of-year report: my teachers would always say that I had a “conscientious attitude”. And it’s true; I worked my damned ass off. In retrospect, it was partly a coping mechanism – throwing myself in my studies to escape my misery – but it was also in my nature; I come from a family of grafters. Except on a Tuesday when I would switch on Channel 4 and watch game shows consecutively first, as soon as I stepped in the door from school, I would crack on with my homework. Thinking about it, we had a lot of homework. If it wasn’t a mock English essay, it was a practise Maths paper. If it wasn’t Drama coursework, it was Dance theory. If it wasn’t Spanish reading, it was Spanish writing. And, boy, did it keep me occupied. Honestly, I don’t know how people completed such as well as galivanting the streets of our local town after school every evening; what that tells me is that they didn’t really try. And I tried. Hence the good grades.

But that was my issue.

Said “conscientious attitude” continued throughout my university studies. I would write as detailed lecture notes as I could, research beyond the recommended readings and study every assignment’s brief to its core. Even the 2,000-word assignments I left to write on the day of the deadline (because we’ve all been there), I was able to produce a good-quality piece of work because I’d prepared with detailed notes, further reading and a plan that aligned with the brief. And, again, I achieved good grades.

Still, that is my issue.

Although it’s all well and good to work hard and achieve good grades, it can be really debilitating. While I studied and worked my ass off, I never relaxed. I never allowed myself room to breathe or to let go. From my GCSEs through to postgraduate study, I was so completely engrossed in my studies that I didn’t really have any hobbies or interests other than to “do well”. And, while it resulted in good grades, it lacked selfcare – something I’ve developed an ever-growing passion for of late. Now it’s even clearer why. Before my GCSEs, I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London for 5 years and absolutely loved them. Every Saturday, I’d put on either a white tee with a large red SYTS logo or a black tee with a small red SYTS logo and head with my mum to London via the overground to Waterloo and the tube to Marylebone. I’d always have a ham and cheese toastie in the Green Room before class – it was almost like a ritual – and we’d stop off at M&S in Waterloo Station and grab a small pot of sushi for the train journey back. It was so nice to have a hobby outside of school; especially drama, which was so pedantic at school but so liberating there. The reason I quit was due to the need to focus on my GCSEs and, from then on, I submerged myself in my studies and never got out.

When I started university, people would ask me “what do you like to do in your spare time?” and I’d ponder “well, I like to dance”. As I advanced through my GCSEs, I developed a particularly strong passion for Dance. That’s Dance with a capital D, not dance with a lowercase d. There’s a significant difference. Dance with a capital D refers to the subject; dance with a lowercase d refers to the art. I was so completely passionate about performing contemporary dance as part of GCSE and A level Dance and grew better and better at it with every performance but, aside from the subject, I didn’t really dance much outside of school. I choreographed my own routines now and then and ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club in Year 10 where I taught my routines, but it was still at school. As I progressed through university, I realised that I was no longer a Dancer, and – again – that my hobbies revolved around my studies. Now, I was passionate about Linguistics.

While there is some truth in that I chose English Language and Linguistics at undergraduate because I was always good at English at school and always preferred Language over Literature, I was genuinely passionate about the subject. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have discovered such a passion had I not worked hard for it, but I find it so fascinating and, as I watch Countdown now (or still), I admire Susie Dent as she so ardently shares her findings on the derivation of a word or phrase in Dictionary Corner. There is so much to Linguistics; in simple terms, it’s “the scientific study of language”, but it’s actually so much more than that. Not only is it the scientific study, but also the psychological study, the sociological study, the phonological study and the etymological study of language. It’s understanding language in different contexts. It’s understanding that language comes in a variety of forms; spoken, sign and pictorial, to name a few. It’s understanding the connection of all the languages of the world (so, to answer the all-common assumption “does linguistics mean you can speak loads of languages?”, no – we don’t know an abundance of languages, but we have certainly explored many; most of which you’ve probably never even heard of). Anyway, as I said, it’s bloody fascinating. Although it’s extremely important to choose a subject you love for your degree, I didn’t really have a hobby alongside my undergraduate apart from binge-watching Friends in between working on assignments and playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my commute to university. Similarly to my situation with Dance, my main pastime outside my degree was linguistics-related: the Roehampton Linguistics Society, which I founded with my “linguigals” who are equally as passionate about the subject as I am. I loved the society; I made friends for life, felt more motivated to complete my assignments and had events to look forward to, but I’d still go home and watch Friends for so long that Netflix would rudely ask “Are you still watching Friends?” repeatedly.

As I unfold in this blog, when I started my postgraduate degree, I conducted a huge Instagram follow spree to familiarise myself with the way large brands were exploiting social media as a marketing tool as – after all – I was about to study Marketing. I considered all the brands I’ve ever seen or used or liked, searched their names and clicked their “follow” button. To my surprise, most of the brands I thought of were makeup brands. I’ve worn makeup ever since I was 11; I started wearing foundation solely to conceal my acne, but I would continue to add more products into the mix – blusher, eyeliner, mascara – as I developed through my teenage years. But, back then, all makeup ever was to me was an element of my daily routine. Nothing more, nothing less. I added more products into the mix as I would notice that wearing foundation alone washed me out, and so I would apply a little blusher to add a healthy glow, a little eyeliner to enhance my eyes and a little mascara to accentuate them further. Makeup was just something that us teenage girls did, right? However, little did we know then the impact of brands. Only once I engaged in this follow spree had it occurred to me that I am a “loyal” customer to certain brands, particularly Clinique. For five whole years, I stuck with Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which I would apply with a Clinique Foundation Brush and remove with Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover. Clinique, Clinique, Clinique. Honestly, I didn’t realise how much of a huge brand Clinique is until I was about 18. I used it because my mum used it, and she’s always been familiar with big beauty brands, but me? I was completely oblivious; I used it due to sheer influence. During my university years, I branched out on brands to add to my makeup kit, but I still didn’t really know whether what I invested in was actually from “good”, or even renowned, brands; I remember asking my mum after I’d tried Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer for the first time “have you heard of Benefit?” and she looked at me as if to say “well, duh”, but exclaimed “yes – they’re a really good brand!”. Oblivious. Then, after I’d followed Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram, I came across Lisa Potter-Dixon – who was previously their Head Makeup Artist – on their Instagram Live, and the rest is history.

Throughout my postgraduate studies, I became more and more interested in beauty. I discovered more beauty experts through Lisa and her podcast which she co-hosted with fellow makeup artist Hannah Martin Life and Lipstick, including Emma Guns, Bobbi Brown and Caroline Hirons, and would watch endless makeup tutorials, beauty unboxings and all the rest. I was totally surprised myself as I’d always thought makeup tutorials these days merely consisted of cakey, contour-heavy looks, but I’d finally come across artists who create beautiful looks without all the huss and fuss of layering and contouring. I finally found a hobby. Now, I consider myself a total beauty nerd; I know of endless beauty brands – good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, up-and-coming and over-the-hill – and all the beauty terminology. But, most importantly? I love it.

Thanks to my ever-growing interest in beauty, I’ve become interested in listening to more podcasts (like The Emma Guns Show), trying more new products (predominantly beauty products, but they’re still new) and watching more video tutorials (something other than Friends!). Not only do I want to do more of all this in 2021, but I want to develop even more hobbies, like reading actual books, which I haven’t done in years. I’ve always enjoyed reading blogs, articles and non-fiction pieces – which probably further influenced my preference of English Language over English Literature – but I want to hold, smell (yes, smell) and enjoy a good book.

So, back to the initial question: what piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

Worry less, relax more. It’s that simple.

Since my teenage years, and through all my adult life thus far, I’ve been constantly worried. Worried about “doing well”. Worried about making others proud. Worried about the consequences if I didn’t “do well”. No one else was worried; no one else cared if I had or hadn’t “done well”. What does that even mean? To me, it meant achieving good grades, but everyone else – my teachers, my professors, my parents, my partner and my friends – they would’ve been proud of me regardless. I could’ve failed my GCSEs, my A levels and my degrees, and they’d still be proud. They’d still be proud because I still would’ve walked away having tried. I just didn’t need to try as hard; I needed to relax more.

Working hard is in my nature. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to work hard and allow myself time to relax. And that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe I should’ve started earlier, but at least I’m working on it now.

Worry less, relax more.

#LittleChats: with Georgia Bacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Georgia on #LittleChats!

Lockdown 3.0: Are we just exhausted?

Lockdown 3.0 has hit different.

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

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

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

Image description: An unmade bed in front of a window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Little Pav ♡

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

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

Image description: A notebook with flowers tucked inside

It costs nothing to be kind

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

We can all do better

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

Never take life for granted

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

There is hope for the future

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

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

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

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

What lessons did you learn this year?

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

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Here we go again: Coping with the Christmas lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Remember to be kind this Christmas

Are you okay?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and remember to be kind this Christmas.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

#LittleChats: with Zoe Wells

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

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

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

No problem, thank you for asking me!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree! Thank you so much, Zoe!

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

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

#LittleChats: with Georgia Weekes

Hello and welcome to Episode 5 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twentysomethings 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 twentysomething?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Georgia on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Mia Ustun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a) Four-year undergraduate degree

b) Two-year postgraduate degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soph, thank you so much for this interview!

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

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

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

#LittleChats: with Natasha Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow! So, are you enjoying your current role?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you enjoy Natasha’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Natasha on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Megan Warren-Figgess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love that! Megan, thank you so much!

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

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

#LittleChats: with Hannah Shirley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, god… it was so long ago… 🤔

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET MORE SLEEP!

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

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

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

Did you enjoy Hannah’s story? Stay tuned more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Hannah on #LittleChats!

My favourites on Instagram: Enhancing the Instagram experience

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

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

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

1. Caroline Hirons (@carolinehirons)

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

2. Lisa Potter-Dixon (@lisapotterdixon)

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

3. Ateh Jewel (@atehjewel)

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

4. Chloe Plumstead (@chloeplumstead)

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

5. The Megan Edit (@themeganedit)

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

6. Emily Clare Skinner (@emilyclareskinner)

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

7. Bang on Style (@bangonstyle)

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

8. Das Penman (@das.penman)

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

9. Lucy Mountain (@lucymountain)

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

10. Gals Who Graduate (@galswhograduate)

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

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

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

Lockdown 2.0: What’s different this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy gaming!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

The annoyances of being a perfectionist

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.

Image description: A laptop, a plant and some planners on a desk

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 goes a 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.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity

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.

Image description: A flatlay of a laptop, a coffee and a cupcake on a bed

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.

It’s been almost a year and I’m still not over losing my dog

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”.

Image description: Sky as an adorable puppy

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.

Image description: Me kissing Sky

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”.

Image description: Sky posing in the hallway

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.

Image decription: Sky sitting on the sofa

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.

I love you, Skyly. Forever and always. ♡

Running out of ideas for your next virtual pub quiz? Here’s some inspiration

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 help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many have turned to hosting and/or engaging in virtual pub quizzes over the likes of Zoom to keep in touch and spark a little joy during what is such an uncertain time. While they might have become a cliché now, I for one can certainly say that virtual pub quizzes have helped me to stay somewhat sane, especially being on furlough. As an extrovert, I’ve confidently jumped at the chance to host a virtual pub quiz on a few occasions now however, though I had many ideas for rounds the first few times, I was stumped the last time (a mere 24 hours ago); alas, 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 rounds from quizzes I’ve previously created, participated in and/or discovered amongst Google’s abundant responses for those who might be stumped for ideas for their next virtual pub quiz, too.

Image description: A neon sign that reads “Cocktails”

1.    Name That Musical

In the first virtual pub quiz I hosted, my first round was inspired by a quiz I’d come across among 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 & Angelina Jolie brdptt & nglnjl, for Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman tmcrs & nclkdmn and Sophie Turner & 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

The idea for a Noughties 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 participants 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. 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 Warner Bros. 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, a Warner Bros. round 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 allowed 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).

Gif description: Monica from Friends saying “That’s not even a word!”

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 for 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.

7.    Catchphrase

During a Zoom catch-up and virtual pub quiz with my linguigals (my group of friends who I talk about in this blog which, coincidentally, unfolds my pandemic experience so far), 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 a colleague of mine did, 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.

8.    Logos

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. A Logos round essentially requires you to display an array of brand logos, but excluding obvious details such as the name or an iconic symbol (you can find loads of photoshopped logos 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. 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 popular – or, if you want to spice it up, more obscure – TV Show Sets. 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.

Bonus Round: General Knowledge

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!

Love,

Little Pav ♡