Where I am Now

It has happened – I have finally got to the point where I can say that I have finished university and my time in education (unless I’ve failed my final exam and messed up all my coursework so will have to do retakes in August, but hopefully that won’t be the case). Finishing university has always been a huge milestone for me, and tied up with the fact that I have never not been in education, it’s a big one. When you’re in school, you dream of the day that you won’t have to be in school any longer. No more exams, no more essays, no more petty childish drama – and pretty much all three happen still in university. I say ‘you’, which realistically is a big assumption to make on behalf of everyone reading this, but what I’m trying to grasp at is that feeling of anticipating the next stage of your life. I, for one, had big expectations of what I would be like once I’d finished in education. I had hopes, dreams, and plenty of those pesky assumptions which I’m now having to reflect on.

The first big thing is independence, which in essence I have achieved in terms of living away from home during university months, doing my own washing, cooking etc etc. Yet when I was younger independence did not look like going down to tesco just before it shuts because you needed to put a wash on and have run out of tablets. It did not look like eating the same meal for three nights in a row because you want to save money. It did not like forgetting simple things every now and then because you’re tired, such as hot ceramic dishes do not mix with cold water. I know, I know, it’s all about living and learning and growing and bettering yourself, but that mantra does no good at 1am drying your bed sheets with a hairdryer because you forgot about the wash you put on.

One big thing I always thought about was what job I would have – and the dream job has changed many, many times. Becoming an author (and by that I mean a good author who has people who like their books so much that they can making a living out of it) has always been a dream job, but there are always others that pop in and out of my mind. First I wanted to be a professional horse rider, then a pop star, and then deciding I wasn’t a good enough singer so a songwriter. Recently, the dream is to be in publishing, and I certainly expected to have a job lined up and ready once university was finished. Yet, here I am, and all those hopeful publishing applications I sent out have been returned with a ‘thanks, but no’. You’re always told that you go to school, then to university, then you’ll get a job – but nobody really talks that much about the in-between. When applying for universities, no one told me about how, even if I do well and get a great degree, a job won’t be there waiting for me. They didn’t tell me that even if you work your arse off not only at your degree but at applying for jobs, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll get one either.

With the job dreams also come the social life dreams, and I always assumed that by the time university was over I would be in a committed, happy relationship with someone who could celebrate with me over all those job offers I had coming in. Again, Little Miss Assumption over here, but when I was younger that was what I thought was the most important. It was like a list of items to take the Life Goals Supermarket, and you would tick each one as you went along. Job? Tick. Relationship? Tick. What else was needed?

I knew I was going to forget a big one, and that is the dream I’ve had for a long long time, probably starting at about 10 years old – and perhaps the saddest one when I look back at it. What I wanted all through secondary school was beauty. And isn’t that just awful? Sure, sure, we can just argue and brush it off by saying that society makes us try to value what we’re born with (looks, parent’s wealth, lack of both) over what we earn for ourselves (perseverance, patience, kindness). And sure, we can all stand around and say that no society, we will not be partaking in that thank you very much. But at the end of the day, when I would go home at 12 years old and look in the mirror, all I would see was acne, a big nose, un-styled hair, and chubby patches all over. I’ve spoken a lot about acne and appearances in the past and how I now feel more confident, but I’m still filled with the memories of standing in front of a mirror and wishing that there were no mirrors in the world so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. Wishing that there was some way to exchange your face for a new one. Wishing that there was a way that meant I could live my life without anyone looking at me. And I wished for that day in the future, the day when I finished school for good, when puberty should have been and gone and left me unblemished, with clear smooth skin, great hair, and a body I was happy with. That was what was going to be my biggest marker of how far I had come.

But, as is the way of life, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Here I am, university finished, but just after the days of stress with my emotions all over the place and a few days of very hot weather, I’ve had another skin breakout. I have red spots dotted around my face like some flicked paint at me with a toothbrush. I’ve got black heads on my chin and nose, and something resembling Mount Etna on my neck. You stare in that pesky mirror and it’s pretty hard to think that you haven’t come that far at all.

Then I have to slap myself for being so melodramatic. Because I am not that twelve year old girl thinking that people won’t like me just because I have a spot on my chin. Like, jesus christ Eleanor, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it kinda hurts when you poke it, but it’s just a spot. There’s the magic of makeup if you’re feeling super downhearted but other than that, your face and your looks do not define you. Twelve-year-old me hardly knew how to write paragraphs, and here I am having just written a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic I love on top of my various other coursework and exam revision. On top of that I have worked every single weekend for almost two years now so that I can keep living in London and support myself. On top of that I have been going to different opportunities to make contacts and get work experience. And on top of that I’ve surrounded myself with friends who I love (and who assure me they love me back when I’m not being so ridiculously melodramatic).

And so, like most of these blog posts go, this has turned from reflection to being a self-affirmation that whilst all my hopes and dreams haven’t exactly come to pass, I’ve realised that they’re allowed to change a bit. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a bestselling author telling the story of how she almost let a pimple keep her from chasing her dream, and everyone will say, “Man, she was a melodramatic child”.

Dealing with Rejection

I’m just going to hold up my hands and say it: “I am crap at dealing with rejection”. I mean, let’s be honest, when you’ve just been rejected (from a job you applied for, a relationship you may have/have not been invested in, turned down by friends), the last thing you want to hear are those well-meaning souls who tell you it’s just not meant to be, or something must be around the corner, or something better will come along. Sure, those are more than welcome but personally, I don’t want to hear them immediately after being rejected. I want to shout, scream, cry, and do all three at the same time. All I want from other people is maybe a hug and for them to whisper “they/he/she/it is a bastard”. Because in those first few moments, I want to just be completely irrational and I need people to just tolerate my “the world is ending” moment so I can just get it out my system. Then bring me sugary snacks, cups of tea, and help me pick up the pieces.

This week has been my finals week, and I am now officially finished with university. Unfortunately this week I also heard back from all the grad schemes and summer work experience opportunities I applied for – all with a negative. In retrospect, I can nod and say “Ok, yes, they were the biggest companies with everyone and their mothers applying, so the competition was incredible fierce, but at the time? No way. At the time all I wanted to do was cry and give up. I wanted to cuddle up in my bed with some chocolate and watch a feel good film whilst I sobbed at the fact that I wasn’t wanted. Because, at least for me right now, it’s not just because I was rejected. It’s the addition of the fact that it’s a job that I really wanted, and I’m a soon-to-be university graduate hoping to get into my chosen field. So getting rejected? Felt like a kick in the teeth. And to have them on the week of my final exam? Like an extra kick when I’m on the ground for good measure.

That’s when everyone brings out the corny sayings: they don’t know what they’re missing, if they knew you they wouldn’t reject you, they just don’t understand, you’ll just get something better next time, chin up chuck etc etc. Again, it’s all meant well and after a day or so I feel like I can take those lines and feel happy after receiving them, but just after I’ve been rejected and staring at the empty abyss with no certainty about my future? Telling me I’ll get something better ‘next time’ just doesn’t do it for me, as although the person saying that is just trying to cheer you up, both of you know that there is no actual truth in that statement – that we know of. Sure, something could come along that’s better, but something could just as easily not come along – I’m presuming, of course, that you can’t see the future.

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is to the plight of being rejected. I want to be the person who, when they get rejected, can just keep their chin up and move on. For now, though, I need that time just after – be it thirty minutes, an hour, or even half a day where I can just mope and feel sorry for myself. After a good angry venting session, it feels pretty cathartic. Once you expel those emotions it feels so much easier to move onto the next thing. And whilst it was a bitch to be rejected during revision, the revision itself had a strong enough pull for me to get my act together that I was able to move on relatively quick. Don’t get me wrong, I cried down the phone to my mum about how I was a failure, but soon enough after got back to reading about the contrasting presentations of the House of Fame between Ovid, Jonson, and Chaucer.

I think one thing does hold true though; whilst sometimes you need to have a cry or shout in anger, it does good to go into that next day fresh and determined. Instead of letting a rejection kick you down and keep you down, let it just knock you off guard for a moment before getting back into the ring and fighting on. At least, that’s what I’ll try to tell myself next time.

The Dating Game

The internet is weird. I think we can all relate to that, but when you throw in dating as well? Utter. Madness. It’s become a pretty normal thing in modern culture to meet a partner online, and for that matter meet friends online as well, and there are thousands of people using online dating. From Matched.com to Tinder, you may try one profile for a week then delete it or have five on the go. After a few years of living, and attempting to date, in London I’ve had my fair share of weird and wonderful messages, and from them I’ve had some great dates and some even better anecdotes.

Maybe it’s the romantic in me, and I’m sure there’s a little one in all of us, that ideally wants to meet someone not online. The classic meeting whilst out in the evening and they buy your drink, or you buy theirs, or the friendly encounter on the street. But the truth of the matter is that if someone approaches me on the street and asks for my number, no matter how cute I think you are, I’ll probably automatically say ‘Sorry, I’m in a relationship’ and make a hasty exit. Partly due to the culture we live in now, or maybe just in London, where social interactions between strangers on the street isn’t considered ‘normal’, and partly due to the many horror stories of being kidnapped and harmed that play on your mind whenever a stranger approaches. So, at least for now, online dating it is, and what better way to discuss it than with a post with my favourite ever messages – all of which are on the weird and whacky side.

Just a side note before we begin – some of these will be typed out instead of posting a picture to protect the identity of the person contacting me, whether they deserve my so called ‘protection’ or not.

To start with, an honourable mention to the random chap on my instagram who, in regards to a photo that showed my feet in fluffy socks, a book, and some chocolate, said, “Sexy stocks @stammydodger I’d so worship them and reply inbox”. First off, thanks for the instagram like and comment, I can always appreciate that, but I’m not a girl who really thinks giant fluffy polka-dot socks are sexy, and to make it worse the sentence loses all meaning at the end. First rule of making contact: grammar.

Let’s have a look at some opening lines – a very important thing, of course. You want to come across as friendly, but also interesting, without looking desperate or weird. A difficult feat to pull off, I know, but that line will guarantee how far that conversation will go. So here are my first two examples:

The first “lol whats up my lil croissant” and the second “Your dog looks very loveable/And So do you/Hahaha” to which I replied “Yes hilarious”. The first one, whilst bizarre, made me laugh – so I continued the conversation. It’s weird, it’s whacky, and definitely hit or miss – starting off with ‘lol’ is definitely a risky move. The second conversation I ended straight after replying. Starting the conversation off in reference to my dog is usually always a winner (I do love my dog) and extending the compliment to me is a bit off a ‘roll your eyes’ move, but what tops it off is the ‘Hahaha’. Overall, a hilarious interaction, just not one that I was going to continue.

Pictures are always important, and if you’re online dating they are even more so – because, let’s face it, we’re all vain, shallow little creatures. So sometimes if you send someone a message, they may comment on your photos – especially if you can’t actually see the person in any of them (as was what happened in my case). In response to these comments, or anything at all really, many people like to use a comeback or set up a joke. In the second case the guy wanted a recent picture, to which I made a joke and he responded with, what I assume, was a classic line. Corny as can be, and whilst it may work for you, it ain’t for me.

Sometimes it’s good to know what the other person is looking for, and other times it is not.

The first image makes me laugh to this day – in retrospect, it is perfectly friendly but stating exactly what the other person is looking for. Whilst I replied with a negative response, the other person was perfectly friendly and wished me well. However this second opener of ‘I honestly don’t remember liking you’ referencing the act of ‘liking’ each other to ‘match’, was an instant thumbs down. Definitely would not recommend. Not pictured is a message I received from someone who says “Hey, I am quite taken with your photos, would you like a sugar daddy style relationship? If so I would like to discuss it to fit my lifestyle”. Although this was definitely not for me, the message made me laugh a lot before deleting it. First off, the formal nature of the message is above and beyond, and to end it stating that you need something to fit your lifestyle with no mention of the other person? Brilliant.

And, finally, my favourite ever interaction. I’ll just leave it pictured below, for your enjoyment.

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Take note people: get the name right of the person you’re messaging. And on that note, I wish you all luck in your online dating adventures.