What I would tell my just-graduated, 22-year-old self

Recently, someone I had only just met asked me what my advice would be for getting through your twenties. As well as making me feel positively antique (yes OK I am over 30 now), it got me thinking – what the hell would I say to 22 year old me to make those years better?

In the conversation I was having, my focus was money (it was a work meeting after all). Take the trip. Take the risk. Get the credit card (sensibly). You will regret what you don’t do. That should be printed in every uni handbook, sent via email to every 20 year old wondering what to do next because it is the truest thing anyone will ever say. I have so many regrets, and almost every one is what I didn’t do.

So what would I say? I choose 22 because that was when I graduated from uni, spat out into the world with First Class Honours and barely a penny to my name, a freshly broken heart and zero plans other than ‘find internship’ since that seemed to be what everyone else was plotting. But if I could talk now to that anxious, lost 22 year old? This is what I’d say…

  1. Learn to be brave. Confidence and courage are things I’ve never had but perhaps if I’d started trying to find them earlier I’d be in a different place by now. You got a First! You live in London! You survived a flat share that almost broke you! You’ve got this.
  2. Get over it faster. It’ll take time, sure, but don’t let one person determine the rest of your twenties. Now’s the time to meet all those people you didn’t while you were at uni. Go on dates, the bad ones make great stories if nothing else.
  3. Talk to the doctor and don’t take no for an answer. You don’t have to live with constant worry. You do need to worry about that thing they’re brushing off as nothing. Just keep asking.
  4. You’re going to be poor for a while. No one can live on £10 a day (thanks, online internship), even if in 9 years you won’t believe how cheap your rent used to be (message from the future – it’s now almost double, soz). But once you’re not quite so poor, start saving. Everyone else is. Whether you spend it on the flat you desperately want or that trip to NYC one day, just save. And then once you can afford your rent and food? Get a credit card and use it – carefully – to do all those things that everyone else seems to magically be able to afford.
  5. See your family as much as you can. Open up to them. Spend real time with them. Appreciate them. Visit nan and grandad. Call your uncle every week. Be interested and listen. Realise that listening is so much more important than talking.
  6. Don’t watch Lost, at all, it is a proper waste of time. Damages, however, is excellent.
  7. The close friends you’ve always wanted are about to spring into your life. Don’t panic about the people who don’t make time for you anymore; everyone you need is right there in front of you.
  8. Do more. Learn Spanish. Play the piano. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Go to that weird fitness class. Drink tequila. Stay over at a friend’s even though you feel like the most awkward person to ever live. Visit that friend in Argentina (with that credit card I mentioned). You can make more money but you can never make more time.
  9. Know your worth at work. There are going to be bosses who tell you you’re nothing (yeah, to your face), who want to make you look and feel small, but that’s not about you. The one thing you’ve always been confident on is that when it comes to work, you do your best. Keep doing your best. It’s better to be good than to be popular.
  10. Twitter is going to change your life. Embrace it, but for god’s sake don’t write in text-speak. That shit will come back to haunt you via something called Timehop.
Image via GIPHY

What’s the rush?

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I know I live in one of the busiest cities in the world and that Londoners are rather known for having no time, charging through life at speed whether ‘life’ be a Tesco queue or a tube gate, but still. I am utterly exhausted. Not by everything that I have to do (which is quite a lot, when I think about it… *doesn’t think about it*) but by always, forever, every day being in a rush. Everything is a rush.

I leap out of bed in a rush. I eat my breakfast in a rush. I brush my teeth in such a rush that sometimes it hurts. I get dressed in a rush (and this is probably clear from what I am wearing and the fact I’ve recently decided trainers are totally OK for work). I cleanse in a rush (and I write about beauty for a living, this is not OK). I rush through the three tubes it takes me to get to work, sweaty and heart racing, as if my life depends on it. To be fair it sort of does, since I need my job, but you get what I mean.

I send emails in a rush. I pee in a rush*. I go and get my lunch in a rush and then I eat it at speed at my desk. Often followed by an anti acid for obvious reasons. I talk in a rush and work in a rush, hoping that I’ll get home in time to pop to Sainsbury’s in a rush before I power walk home and then cook in a rush, choosing the fastest and easiest thing to make so that the precious few hours afterwards are mine to rush through as I please.

One of my most upsetting rushes is the shower. I usually have this while my dinner cooks (read: heats in the oven). Living in a shared house aged 30 means it’s one of the only times in the day that I am truly alone with my thoughts and doing something for ME (and the benefit of anyone in whiffing distance). It’s soothing, too, or should be, shouldn’t it? But no. I have to shower in a rush, either because a flatmate jumped in before me and now my dinner is burning, or simply because I chose the fastest thing for dinner and surprise, surprise it’s nearly done. Then I forget whether I even did the shampoo (did I?) because I must get dinner finished before the house burns down, must watch that programme that I’m really into, must get X Y and Z done in between rushing through 40 WhatsApp notifications before rushing off to bed come midnight.

I can imagine certain people reading this and thinking, ugh, London life. But I don’t think we can blame London for this. I certainly don’t. In fact I’m fairly sure I was exactly the same when I lived in my little idyllic village in Sussex and worked at my local leisure centre. Everything fast, everything a little furious, too much to do, too little time. When has there ever been enough time?

The iPhone doesn’t help. Sometimes I’ll get to 6:15pm, standing and waiting on the tube platform wishing I could just be home like RIGHT NOW, and realise that I’ve barely looked at anything all day. You know, really LOOKED and *seen* it. And then I will put my phone away smugly, looking at everyone else who is neck-bent and hooked on their phones around me, thinking how silly they are; I’ll step onto the tube and stand next to a bunch of strangers and think, as hot and crowded as this is, at least I’m not doing anything, because I can’t. I have to just stand here and wait for four whole stops. Enforced slowness is the only way to slow me down.

Of course, someone who plans things, those weird, organised planners, probably wouldn’t have this problem. They probably waft through life on a perfect schedule of timed appointments, timed lunches and blissfully long showers, while I find de-stressing solace in four stops on the Circle line.

Wait, so is the tube – unreliable, clunky and expensive as it is – secretly keeping me sane? Now there’s a scary thought…

 

*This one is a worry. Please do tell me in the comments if you can relate to this, or of course anything in this post. Make me feel better. Thanks!

Who do you look up to?

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After a few recent conversations with journalists, PRs and friends, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about success, and specifically successful women – how they get there, and how they treat others once they’re there. I’ve started to think about who I look up to, too; thanks to a mixture of social media, my career progression and my many goals, it’s changing all the time, but one thing that remains constant is that I look to other women for my inspiration. What’s different, though, is that I used to see power, status or a job title as motivational, whereas now the women I aspire to be like are the ones who have got my back.

I grew up in a house full of women; with two sisters and my mum around me my poor dad barely got a say in anything (yes we will be keeping the kitten and can we please instruct you on how to move our bedroom around yet again?). I’ve always been a girl’s girl and aside from some light schoolgirl bickering it never occurred to me to compete with other girls – they were my friends, my sisters, my mentors, my idols. I wanted to be like every one of them and for them to want to be my friend too.

Working in the beauty industry, you get used to working with women; though my first job was in a place run by men in sharp suits, it was the women who managed the teams that I struck an instant bond with – supporting, motivating, understanding without an ounce of being patronising despite their broader experience, I’m proud to count them as some of my closest friends today and have relied on their advice and shared mine in times of stress at work and beyond. And beauty isn’t bitchy in the way that I expected it could be; sure, you get the odd person who likes themselves more than they like being nice to others but for the most part the beauty birds are made up of throughly good eggs.

It’s this that makes me love my work. I’ve met so many incredible women through it – thoughtful PRs, helpful interns, talented writers, inventive designers and smart editors, who without this career I might never have met. And girls may be girls, chatting and gossiping and sharing and conferring, but unlike school the ones you remember and look up to are not necessarily the coolest; not the prettiest or the most popular; not the ones with the most money, followers or the best wardrobe (though many have all of this and more, the sods). The women who stay in my mind and who I look forward to meeting again, or who I hope to work with one day if I don’t already are the kind ones, the smart ones, the ones who are generous with their time and who treat you as an equal. The ones who want to cheerlead your every accomplishment and buy you a glass of wine for your every disappointment.

Through Twitter and my job I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to women who have done just that – who’ve picked up the phone when I’m having a work wobble or who give their honest advice on everything from freelancing to half-hearted book ideas to this very blog. I can honestly say this is the most important thing I’ve learned in my career – to get ahead, you need support and to be supportive; from the intern at the bottom of the ladder who helps their team to nail a project to the editor who recommends that intern for their dream job.

We live in a time where comparison anxiety is rife; I have to remind myself daily to stop analysing my successes on the basis of others’, which is damn hard in this writing game where every day you hear of another person five years younger getting a book deal, or a job which you’re still working towards. No good can come of comparison, though, and frankly I’m happy to be the girl who works her ass off that nobody really knows, rather than the one who reached the top but who nobody wants to work with.

Social media doesn’t make this easy – we can all see a curated view of how someone is doing in their career and we all know it can cause jealousy, but on the flip side it’s also the place where we can champion each other’s achievements, recommend others and share what we learn as we go. It’s so true that the media and the opportunities within in it are very much about who you know… but that needn’t make it exclusive. You’ll never regret helping someone else out, be it with a contact or advice on their next pitch; and those you help will never forget that you did. Hopefully, they’ll follow your lead and will pay it forward next time someone needs that boost. That’s pretty inspiring in itself.