The Twenty-Something Predicament

Since graduating from university, I have found myself entering a terrifying limbo between student and young professional that I term ‘the twenty-something predicament’. This position, occupied by so many other graduates my age, leaves you feeling younger and almost more naive than when you were innocently panicking about what colour cutlery you should buy for the start of university.  It’s the dawning realisation that there is no longer a logical next step planned ahead for you, and the even scarier realisation that you will now be viewed by other people as an ‘adult’.

Yet this ‘adulting’ still feels like you’re trying on a jumper that is two sizes too big, and you find yourself still looking for an older, more adulty adult to tell you what to do and how to do it.

You feel like an inbetweener; suspended between the student life of daytime napping and week day hangovers and the adult life of council tax and responsibility.

Arguably, the scariest realisation after graduating is the prospect of working a low paid 9-5 job that is far from the exciting career you had in mind. You begin to panic when family members and old school friends ask you the dreaded question:

‘So, what are you doing now?’

At first you try to justify your low paid admin job with ramblings of travelling and saving plans, in an attempt to convince the questioner (and yourself), that this job is only temporary, and that you haven’t spent near to 2 and a half months trolling through countless job sites to find that perfect graduate opportunity.

Even when you do apply for these graduate jobs, or get as far as an interview, you find yourself hearing echoes of:

‘You don’t have enough experience’.

This encapsulates the endless paradox faced by all young people looking for work – you need experience to get experience. Throughout school, it is drilled into you that you need to get GCSE’s in order to get A Levels, in order to get to university and get a degree. However, no one prepares you for the reality of the working world, where well paid jobs often require both a decent degree and bags of experience. The result? Herds of inexperienced graduates with first class degrees stumbling into the world of work, often unable to bag themselves a basic office job let alone a permanent graduate opportunity.

You soon realise that your degree does not land you with an amazing job straight out of uni, but that you need to work your way up the job ladder just like everyone else. It leaves you feeling as though you are not quite ready to fill the shoes of the ‘young professional’ role, especially when just a few months ago you were eating supernoodles out of a pan in your onesie at 2.35 on a Wednesday afternoon.

And that is the twenty-something predicament; the quarter life crisis; the ‘what on earth am I doing now’ scenario.

My Response to Farage’s Thoughts on the NHS

In 2012, a video was leaked staring UKIP leader Nigel Farage telling UKIP supports his views on the NHS and UK healthcare. He is quoted to say “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.” (The Independent).

The belief that the UK would benefit from a privatized healthcare system is extremely problematic. A minority of UK citizens may have had the fortune of never having needed to use the NHS for any long-term illness, suffered by themselves or close friends or family. I on the other hand, have had experience with the NHS and all their valuable services for the majority of my life. When I was 10, my mother died of breast cancer at 47 years old, having battled with the disease on and off for several years. At one point, we were even told that she was clear of cancer, before it sadly returned and tragically took her life. Throughout her years suffering with cancer, I distinctly remember numerous trips to Nottingham City Hospital, where she often had to spend a few nights or get chemotherapy treatment. As well as the upsetting memories I possess of her in hospital, I also have memories of caring, wonderful staff, who my mother was always fond of. My family have always struggled to meet ends financially, but through the NHS we were rewarded with a few extra years to spend with my mum, even enjoying fantastic holidays to Spain and Cyprus when her cancer was in its better stages. Without the NHS, it’s likely that we would have lost her a lot sooner due to the cost of health insurance and treatment.

Ten years later, and I’ve now been revisiting the same hospital, where my dad has been recovering from a stroke he had on Christmas Eve. Yet again, the staff have been incredible. Despite having to work on Christmas Day, the staff at the hospital were friendly and cheerful, supplying the patients with a Christmas-style dinner and crackers (much to our delight) to keep everyone’s spirits up. The hospital even featured a ‘League of Friends’ who delivered presents to the patients; my dad received aftershave, a tie and a Christmas card! This gesture may sound like a small one, but for my family, who had all our Christmas plans sadly disrupted, it really meant a lot knowing that the staff were going out of their way to look after my dad. During the time my dad has spent at the hospital, he has made countless friends with the staff, including a favourite nurse who puts up with his repeated jokes, and his physio. His physio even took the time to find myself and my dad’s partner to show us how we could perform a massage on my dad’s hand (which he had lost all movement and feeling in) to help regain some movement. My dad also told me how the physio took a moment to enjoy a coffee and chocolate with him – his favourite part of the day! It’s little acts like this that make me truly realise how valuable the NHS is for many families and individuals. It is a unique part of British culture that makes me proud to be part of a nation that can help people from any background to prolong and save lives.

As well as benefiting my family greatly for the illnesses suffered by my parents, the NHS has also provided myself and my sister with mental health care. Back when we were in school, my sister and I were both diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and we both had difficulty coming to terms with our mother’s death. For this, we were offered counselling services and treatment, which has helped us both tremendously. We are both now happy and confident, and have rediscovered our love of studying, resulting in us both studying at university. Without the counselling, who knows if either of us would even have continued to stay at school, let alone enroll at university. At my university now, I am still able to see a doctor regularly for check ups on my mental well-being; something I truly value when university and family life gets stressful.

Overall, the NHS benefits the lives of countless people and families across the UK. Without it, who knows where our lives would be, or who wouldn’t even be in them. If it wasn’t for the chemotherapy my mother received, we may not have had our memorable holiday in Cyprus just before she died. If the ambulance hadn’t arrived in time for my dad, and if he wasn’t able to stay in the hospital for as long as he has, who knows what state of health he would be in now. I know that it is not just my family that is extremely grateful for the invaluable care provided for the NHS, and I only hope that this fantastic service continues, free of charge.

Are You A Beaver? Cos Dam – Tinder Tales.

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I’ve recently made the mistake of getting the ‘app’ ‘Tinder’ again. I say again, as I had this app briefly during my second year of university, but soon deleted it after my friends caused mayhem on my account. For those who don’t know, Tinder is a dating app, self described as ‘the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you. Swipe right to like or left to pass. If someone likes you back, it’s a match!’ Sounds simple enough.

I first heard about this app at the beginning of 2014, after seeing a couple of my housemates swiping to and fro in front of the TV most evenings. We would often go on each other’s accounts, unleashing witty and crude comebacks to cheesy pick up lines from males, usually along the lines of ‘Are you a beaver? Cos dam’. It seemed harmless enough, and so I decided to get it myself. I soon realised that I didn’t quite get the point of this app, after constantly swiping right just because someone had a pet in their picture or had dressed up as the nerdy character Moss from the TV show ‘The IT Crowd’. This, in addition to my friends deciding to swipe ‘yes’ for everyone that popped up one drunken night, led to over 100 matches and a phone that never stopped going off. We eventually all got bored and the app was soon deleted.

A few days ago however, I decided to get it again, after hearing a friend having talked about using it recently. They also told me that they knew couples who had successfully met and started dating through Tinder. Why not try using it properly this time? I thought, you never know. So I tried to be pickier this time around, and I only swiped right for a couple of people before starting a conversation with someone. Let’s call him Tim. Tim seemed nice enough, had similar interests and we kept a conversation up for the rest of the day. Suddenly at the end of the day, he started asking me to send him photos so he could ‘see what it is he’s dealing with’. Although I knew that Tinder had a reputation for being a ‘sex app’, it’s safe to say that this is not what I was expecting on my first day of using it. I politely declined, and made excuses about going to bed, planning to end the conversation for good. However, the next day I woke up to a blunt message from Tim: ‘Guess we’re not talking anymore then’, before stating that he ‘was looking for something physical and nothing long term’. I responded telling him that I didn’t even know what I was looking for yet, as I’ve only had the app for one day, but it all felt a bit much what he was asking me, and that I was sorry, but wasn’t interested. This is when things took a turn for the worse. Tim started to get really angry at me, accusing me of ‘leading him on’, and telling me that I ‘should have been honest from the beginning’.

As well as being extremely baffled as to how I led him on, I was also now pretty angry. Why do some guys feel that they have the right to ask girls they have never met to send them explicit photographs of themselves? And why then do they feel that it is acceptable to have a go at the girl because it is thrown back in their face?

This is pretty much how I responded to Tim; I told him I was sick of guys expecting girls to do things for them and thinking it’s okay to then harass and insult them once they are denied. I blocked him after this, so fortunately I don’t know what torrent of further verbal abuse he had in store, but I’m gad to be rid of him.

So after two attempts at ‘tindering’, it’s safe to say that I’ve given up, yet again. As I’m aware, many people are successful on this dating app, and maybe it is possible if you persevere. Maybe this app is also for the thick skinned, who are better at ignoring or shooting down the idiotic, egotistical males. I don’t know whether I ‘led’ Tim on or not. Maybe I should have been more explicit in saying ‘no’ rather than skirting around the subject and trying to ignore him. However, I still stand by the fact that no one deserves to be shouted at simply for refusing to expose themselves to a complete stranger.

From Writer’s Block to Creativity Overload

For the past few years I’ve experienced a huge writer’s block; an excruciating experience that I’m sure has befallen many aspiring bloggers and writers. It started when several stories I was working on a few years ago accidentally got wiped from my laptop, and despite my sister and I trying to retrieve them, we had no luck. Although none of these stories were even close to be considered readable yet, this was still a frustrating situation which led me to become too unmotivated to begin anything new. Since then, I’ve written little bits here and there, but nothing that I’ve yet felt passionate about pursuing.

Until now. I’ve had an idea for a novel floating about in my head for a while now, but have struggled to begin writing it. After my first ever blog post the other day however, I began writing – and lo and behold, I managed to squeeze out over 1000 words of this new story. Now that may not seem like a lot to some people, but for someone who has not written more than a few sentences of fiction for years, this was a miracle. Now I thought I’d share a few ideas that may have contributed to this sudden burst of creativity, and an escape from the dreaded writer’s block!

1. Stephen King’s Novel On Writing: I finished reading this a few weeks ago, and it is amazing. King provides many useful tips for ‘good’ writing in this novel, drawing from his own feedback from editors, publishing companies and other writers. The book also acts as an autobiography of his writing life; taking us on a journey from his first short story publications in local magazines, to publishing his first novel Carrie, and finally up until the writing process of On Writing. He even includes a short first draft of fiction at the end, before showing us the editorial process with all his annotations. King also recommends that aspiring writers read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White, (also a very useful book, but not as much of an entertaining read)! On Writing therefore was an inspirational book for me, and got me itching to get back into writing straight away. A highly recommended read.

2. Read a guilty pleasure/something fun: As a current undergraduate English Literature student, I read a wide variety of books, many of which are often a challenge, and not something that I would usually read by choice. Over the last few years, I’ve been attempting to work my way through many classic works of literature, most of which I do enjoy. I often do get a bit bogged down with reading, as I’m required to read so much for my course, that it often takes time away from reading something fun. Now that it’s the summer however, I am planning to read a few guilty pleasures, or more enjoyable books. I’m currently reading the first book in the Game of Thrones series, having been an avid fan of the television series for a few years. This is a perfect example of an enjoyable read for me, as I don’t often read many books of the fantasy genre. Sometimes therefore, it’s nice to just relax and read something pleasurable, and a bit different to previous reads, to get the creative cogs moving again.

3. When you find something you feel passionate about, take advantage of it straight away: I recently watched Murdered by My Boyfriend, and was reduced to both anger and tears. This motivated me to reach for my laptop immediately after and write a blog post, something that I’ve never done. There have been so many times when I’ve felt strongly about something and felt that I could write an entire essay on the subject, but then I let it slide and forget about it before writing anything down. By the time I remember it again, it feels too late to step back into the shoes of that moment, where emotions were at a high. It is essential therefore to write down these ideas as soon as they appear.

4. Have a good cry! This is a bit of a silly suggestion, but it weirdly helped me yesterday when I started working on my novel idea. I was feel guilty about having an unproductive day, and was generally just feeling overwhelmed by everything. I had a little cry with my dad however, complaining that I wasn’t good at anything and about how I never write anymore, and next thing I know, I’m writing! Which leads to my final point:

5. Cut yourself some slack: I’m sure many of you feel the same as I do sometimes, and you beat yourself up because you’ve not done everything you’d set out to do that day, or you’ve perhaps had months of unproductive activity. Whatever the situation, you need to just forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up about it. Instead, sometimes you need to just accept that the day hasn’t gone so well, but that there will always be inspiring days around the corner!

Murdered By My Boyfriend

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I’ve just finished watching BBC’s shocking drama ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, which tells the true story of a seventeen year old girl, who becomes a victim of domestic violence. This sixty minute drama gives us an insight into Ashley and Reece’s four year abusive relationship; from their very first meeting right up until Reece brutally murders Ashley with his fists and an ironing board. Poignant and gripping, it’s safe to say that this drama left me feeling emotional and physically sick, and spurned me on to write my first blog post. At the end of the programme, we are left with the words “It took 4 years for Ashley to die. In that time, at least 229 other women in Britain were murdered as a result of domestic violence.” This shocking statistic reiterates just how common domestic violence continues to be, and highlights how it can often go on unnoticed for years. In this drama, Ashley’s friends continuously beg her to leave Reece, and the police are frequently called by neighbours, friends, and Ashley herself. Yet her death was still not prevented. So why was this case? And why are so many women still being murdered as a result of domestic violence?

Women’s Aid suggest that one reason for this is because domestic violence is still a ‘hidden crime’, with many women often attempting to hide signs of abuse from their friends and family. They propose a possible list of reasons, including self-blaming and fear, both of which are portrayed in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’. At several points during this drama, Ashley tells her friend that she provoked Reece, and continues to defend him because he’s a ‘good father’ to their daughter. This therefore raises a major issue of domestic abuse, that leads to many cases going unnoticed, or being unreported.

In particular for me, it was scary how much this drama resonated familiar moments from past relationships. Fortunately, I have never been a victim of physical domestic violence, however I have been a victim of verbal abuse by an ex boyfriend, which often made me fearful for my physical safety. According to domesticviolence.org, “verbal domestic abuse is one of the most serious forms of domestic violence”, and can have damaging psychological effects for the victim. During this one relationship, I was constantly criticized by my boyfriend, and was subjected to name calling, swearing and disrespect. As is common with most victims, I blamed myself for everything, and would continue to focus on the positives of the relationship, despite feeling utterly miserable. One example in particular of my ex boyfriend turning his bad behaviour around onto me, was when he would flirt and meet up with other girls behind my back. Understandably, this led me to become more paranoid, and I would go through his phone where I continued to find inappropriate messages from girls and I would bring it up with him. He would then shout at me, and made the argument about me going through his phone, which is still a violation of privacy yes, but does not justify his bad behaviour. This situation was mirrored exactly in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, when Ashley found texts from another girl on Reece’s phone, informing her of his affair. Yet, similarly to my ex boyfriend, Reece turned the situation onto Ashley, and reminded her how ‘well he treated her’, bringing to light a further issue experienced by victims; feeling guilty. During this moment, Reece constantly interrogates Ashley, asking her ‘do I give you money?’ ‘Do I babysit while you’re out?’ before arguing that he treats her ‘like a princess’. Chillingly, this reflects my past situation with my ex, with him using the exact same line ‘I treat you like a princess’, in an attempt to prove how well he treated me when I accused him of treating me badly. Therefore a major problem felt by all victims of domestic abuse is that of self-blame and guilt, caused by a cruel psychological entrapment from the perpetrator.

Thankfully, as I said, I was never subjected to abuse on a more serious level, and I can only empathise to some extent with the poor women who become victims to domestic abuse, and frighteningly, death. This drama was very powerful in its message of domestic abuse, as it demonstrates the harmful effects of both verbal and physical violence; which according to The Guardian, “More than 1.1 million or 7% of women and 720,000 or 4% of men have been victims of…in the past year”. Shockingly, domestic abuse is still one of the most commonly reported crimes in the UK, and not everyone is lucky enough to escape from an abusive relationship. Ashley was only 17 when she met Reece, a hardworking college student with her whole life ahead of her. A life that was painfully cut short by someone she loved. How many more victims will there be?