Auld Lang Syne

As the clock hit midnight on New Year’s Eve, I welcomed in 2017 on the dance floor of Remedies, my hometown’s only night club, coated in glitter, wearing sparkly, tinsel covered head boppers my mum had made me, singing loudly (and badly) with some of my closest friends and my older brother. It was magical.

It’s been 10 days since that night and I’ve already had a busy January full of friends, family, university work and Harry Potter marathons.

Before I can talk about the year to come and the hopes and goals I’ve set myself leading into 2017, I feel as though I should first reflect on 2016, so I’ve split this post into two sections.

2016

While the year started out incredibly, with high results at university, having three articles published during my work experience, a trip to London for my birthday and an actual social life, it went quickly downhill from there. My grandmother had several strokes, leading her to need constant medical care, my beautiful goddaughter was hospitalised with meningococcal and suspected septicaemia, I was hospitalised with a stomach ulcer; all this in the first six weeks of 2016, and things didn’t exactly improve from there. Between Brexit and Trump, my faith in humanity slowly slipped away and was replaced with bewilderment at how people could support such divisive campaigns when we have worked so long and hard for acceptance and diversity.

Between February and August my personal life improved significantly, I was on medicine to soothe the ulcer, my grandmother was adjusting to life in her new nursing home and my goddaughter was recovering as though she’d never been so ill in the first place. However my contentment was abruptly changed when I went through the worst breakup I’ve ever had (detailed in my previous blog post ‘Somebody That I Used To Know‘) and was thrown into a spiral of heartbreak and bitterness which lasted for the remainder of 2016 and made my life at university 10x harder than I had anticipated.

From August onwards I not only lost the person I loved so deeply, I lost contact with my goddaughter and her mother (it only for about 6 weeks thankfully), I wrote off my Ford in a my first car accident, my stomach ulcer returned, I realised I couldn’t return to cheerleading with all of the university work I had to manage alongside my job at Lush, my ex smashed my car windscreen and I had a near-mental breakdown attempting to juggle all the work I had and found myself either at work or at university where I would often stay until at least 10pm trying to get everything done. It was horrific. When Christmas finally arrived I wasn’t even excited because I just so desperately wanted the year to end.

Despite all the awfulness that happened, it would be unfair of me to say that 2016 was a year solely full of heartbreak, sadness and stress, because it wasn’t all so bad. Some of my highlights include:

  • My goddaughter saying my name for the first time
  • Visiting London with my mum for my birthday where we had afternoon tea at Harrods, wandered around the Natural History Museum and saw Matilda the musical on the West End
  • Competing in three Cheerleading competitions with UWE Comets Galaxy (placing 1st in the last of them)
  • Visiting the Harry Potter studios in London
  • A six hour hiking date from Clevedon to Portishead
  • Finishing my fourth year of university with a high 2:1
  • A two and a half week trip to Georgia and Florida where I spent time with some of my favourite people and got to laze by the beach and pool in the sunshine, eat incredible food, I held an alligator, went paddleboarding with manatees, watched the sunrise over Cocoa Beach, drank my weight in Pina Coladas and visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
  • Taking a trip to my home of Devon with my ex, which included a walking tour of my hometown, double dates with my favourite couples and a long, incredible walk across Woolacombe Bay, over Baggy Point to Croyde Bay for icecream, then back again where we met up with my mum (and dog) and had fish & chips overlooking the beach
  • Seeing Busted live in Manchester with an old friend
  • Summer evenings spent body boarding at Croyde Bay with my mum and her friend
  • Being caught in a lightning storm while peddle-o-ing on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park
  • Meeting a member of Earth, Wine and Fire
  • Visiting a crocodilian zoo in Oxfordshire followed by lunch and a rainy walk in Bourton-on-the-Water
  • A week-long camping trip to the New Forest
  • Getting a job at Lush Cosmetics
  • Celebrating my Uncle’s woodland wedding in the New Forest with my whole family (well, the whole of my Dad’s side of the family)
  • Discovering Bingo Lingo at Motion and Propaganda at The Fleece
  • Becoming friends with some of the most supportive, kind and incredible people that have been my saving grace over the last few months
  • Kesha liking my Instagram selfie of me dressed as her for Halloween (link to the instagram picture- https://www.instagram.com/p/BMM8hbLDW42/)
  • Taking a trip to Disneyland Paris with one of my best friends and walking up the Eiffel Tower, seeing the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame and Love Lock Bridge during our day trip to Paris
  • Taking a trip to Liverpool for my Uncle’s 40th birthday
  • Taking a trip to Nottingham to start production on my Final Year Project
  • Opening the brand new Lush shop in Cribbs Causeway, not only did I get to help Head Office merch the shop before it opened, I got to work to work the VIP opening event and put the first ever transaction of the new shop through the till
  • Ice skating with one of my cheerleading friends for her birthday
  • Chai latte dates with one of my best friends
  • Dressing up in matching ‘Mrs Claus’ costumes with my best friends from home and going for a night out in our hometown
  • Christmas baking with my goddaughter
  • Celebrating Christmas multiple times with my family, my goddaughter’s family and my Dad’s family
  • Harry Potter marathons

While it was undoubtedly an overall terrible year, it did have some incredible moments full of love, happiness, friends and family (and Harry Potter marathons) that I wouldn’t take back for anything. I grew up so much in 2016 and I learnt that you have to keep going and make the best out of a bad situation, which has lead to some incredible moments and even more incredible friendships.

2017

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I welcomed in the New Year spectacularly, it was just how I imagined it would be and was without a doubt one of the best New Year’s Eves I’ve had. Singing to Auld Lang Syne at midnight with confetti canons going off was a perfect beginning to 2017 and a wonderful way of ending a terrible year.

This year is going to be an important one for me as it’s the year I finally graduate my from undergraduate degree, which means I have from now until May to work as hard as I possibly can to achieve the results I want. While I was originally hell bent on graduating with a First, I’ve come to accept that I will be happy with a 2:1 for my degree. I’m super excited to start production on my final project which is a ten minute documentary on the misconceptions of British Cheerleading, I’ll be following the East Midlands Cheerleading Academy from training through to the ICC Nationals in March and I can’t wait to produce this piece which will hopefully shed a light on the sport I am so passionate about. I also get to design an activism campaign, which will likely focus on the protection of Alligators in Florida and write three feature length articles which will be pitched to various journalism outlets in hopes of publication.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do once I graduate in July, and whilst I intend to apply for the BBC and ITV trainee schemes, there’s a very slim chance I will be accepted due to the volume of applicants compared to the places they have on these schemes, so I have decided to continue my education with a Masters degree. That isn’t to say I won’t take an incredible job offer if it comes along, but in the likely event that doesn’t happen, I’ll be able to take a more in-depth look at Journalism and graduate with an accreditation which is something I’ve missed out on during my BA. Before writing this post, I submitted my application to two Masters courses, one at my current university and one at a Red Brick university, I plan to apply to at least one or two more to increase my chances of getting onto a course I can be passionate and excited about.

In 2017 I also hope to return to cheerleading as this break from the sport has been awful, I miss it terribly, hence why I chose it for my final project focus. I also hope to take a trip abroad at the end of May for a few weeks, preferably to volunteer as a teacher on a tropical island, but I’m still working out the details and possibilities.

While I’m not setting myself any resolutions this year, I have decided that I need to focus on myself and put myself first. One of my biggest flaws is that I care too much for people that don’t appreciate it and I change what I’m doing to accommodate others, I give too much to people who just care about taking and giving nothing back. I find it hard to tell people ‘No’ sometimes because I’m so worried I’ll disappoint them or they’ll get mad at me and I find myself taking the blame for things that aren’t my fault in order to appease others. It’s something I need to stop, I need to realise when a person or situation is worth my effort, because I give so much of myself to the people I care about, friends, family and people I’m romantically involved with; it’s draining to receive nothing back. So for my own mental health, I need to change that, which won’t be easy, but it will be worth it because I’ll hopefully be far less stressed and have more love and energy to give myself which will make a stronger person in the long run.

I would also like to read more, write more (including blogging), take more photographs, wear head boppers to every occasion that lends itself to them, spend more time outside and learn to fully appreciate my own company.

I hope 2017 is a year full of love, health, happiness, glitter, Harry Potter marathons, singing in the car, dancing the night away, friendship, family and positivity. Here’s to an exciting new year, I wish you all the best!

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Somebody That I Used To Know

“And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now”

– Taylor Swift

It’s something we will all deal with at some point in our lives- the end of a relationship you whole heartedly believed would work. I’m not sure if anyone has yet mastered how to deal with the breakdown of emotions that follows such a soul crushing event, I definitely haven’t.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m okay for a while now, but after I broke down in tears because my course leader asked how I’ve been this semester, I kind of figured it was time to admit that actually, I’m really not okay. So I decided to write. I’m not sure if it will help at all, but I do know that it can’t make anything worse, therefore it’s worth a try.

Brace yourselves, it’s going to be a long one.  

It all started at a Super Bowl party back in February. It was the first time I’d attended an event with people from my course outside of university, and that’s when I met him. Only three of us managed to stay up for the whole game, everyone else had either passed out or gone home. As I was heading off to bed he asked me to go on a date with him and I laughed it off because he was very intoxicated. The next day he got in contact and after a little chit chat the date idea came up again; this time I accepted. We talked non-stop for weeks, but when the date came around, I was hospitalised with a stomach ulcer, forcing us to reschedule. We finally got to go on our much anticipated date and he took me for a three course meal at the Cosy Club; we were there talking for hours. He took me on a five hour hike (from Clevedon to Portishead via Redcliffe Bay) on our second date and it was beautiful. Within a couple weeks of our first date we were going out on dates all the time, talking non-stop and making future plans, then finally he asked me to be his girlfriend. Everything was incredible and I felt on top of the world. We would go hiking at every opportunity we got, he’d take me for dinner, we’d watch films and we just couldn’t get enough of one another’s company. Even when he was at work and it was empty, he’d ask me to come see him and we’d have a couple of drinks then play ping pong terribly. I became close friends with his housemates who were also on my course and they would tell me how happy he was with me and how he’d become a better person. We finished up the year at university and our super long summer holidays started; cue the travelling. I jetted off first, heading Stateside for two and a half weeks, he was next with a trip to California, then a few weeks later he went to Poland, then back to his home up North. We tried to spend as much quality time together in the gaps as we could; we’d go to my hometown in the South West, which is full of hiking spots, we’d go on day trips in and around Bristol and just do as much as we could. We would spend hours talking about everything, past, present and future, we planned to move to New Zealand together and to travel the world after graduation. I fell so deeply in love with him and he became my biggest motivation. But it became difficult to build a solid foundation for our relationship when we’d have a few weeks together before one of us would jet off and we’d barely be able to talk. Cracks started forming and arguments began. I’m a big advocate of talking through issues, but he wasn’t. Our methods for dealing with conflict were so wildly different that eventually the arguments became more and more frequent as previous ones still hadn’t been solved. He started to worry that maybe we were too different for each other, I maintained then, as I still do now, that it was more of a breakdown in communication. Things got a bit rocky. But then we took a camping trip to the New Forest and it was wonderful. We had this whole little woodland area to ourselves, a little walk away was a huge lake with water sports and also a quiet fishing lake. The weather was beautiful that week and we had no electricity or internet. We went paddle boarding, walked all around the forest, took a trip to the beach where we played in the ocean, visited the town I was born in, had BBQ’s every night, chilled by the lake, and at night, we’d watch the stars together. The whole trip restored my faith in our relationship. Then he went home for 10 days and when he returned, he was very distant and within a week, it was over. The day we broke up I sat and cried my heart out in his room, he was very patient and assured me that he would miss me until the day he dies, but we just couldn’t be in a relationship anymore. I left and went to my uncles wedding in the same place as where we’d been camping and he jetted off to Canada for three weeks.

I wish the story ended there- that we broke up, went our separate ways and were both able to find happiness. But no, because I was silly enough to get involved with someone on my university course, I still have to see him. We didn’t speak a word for six weeks but then the semester started.

I saw him around a couple of time during the first week of university which was difficult. But nothing like sharing a module with him. There were 56 people in our lecture, he sat at the back, I at the front (of course). We were split into four different seminar groups, so the chances of being put with him were slim, so I thought. I walked into my seminar after a two hour break and I didn’t recognise anyone, but him. I had to endure two emotionally exhausting hours sat in a room avoiding eye contact with him at all costs. Needless to say I went straight to the pub afterwards.

The next day he text a friend I was with (he didn’t know I was with them at the time) and told them how much he missed me and wished he could talk to me. Cue me bursting into tears in the middle of a pub and drinking a bottle of wine to myself. The next day he text me asking to talk because we would be attending the same event that night, I said no (after crying on my kitchen floor and eating chicken nuggets for an hour first). When I saw him that night it got pretty dramatic. For some silly reason, as I was leaving I went over to say goodbye and we ended up hugging in the middle of the dance floor in tears. Later in the night he started crying telling me that he needed me in his life and couldn’t lose me again- cue tears from me (there was a lot of crying that weekend). He took me for dinner the night after that, then disappeared home for a few days to clear his head. When he got back to Bristol we agreed to take things slowly and try again. For a good couple weeks things were back to being amazing with us and we talked about how badly we missed each other and that we were glad to be back in each other’s lives. Then he started being distant before ending it again.

Breakup 2.0 hurt just as much as the first time and if there’s one piece of advice I wish I’d listened to, it’s to not go back down that road. Or at least made sure he was 100% invested in making it work first. In the very wise words of John Green “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” I really should have seen it coming.

A couple weeks after the second break up, I was heading to bed and I saw that I had six missed calls from him, stupidly I called him back and he was very drunk, and very angry. I listened to voicemails he’d sent me which included ‘I need to talk to you’, ‘you’re a b**ch and I hate you’ and ‘I’m in love with you’, along with some pretty worrying stuff. I went to pick him up so I knew he’d get home safe before he could do anything silly. Terrible idea. After finding out that he had a new girlfriend (less than two weeks after we broke up) and having him scream and shout at me while violently pushing me around because apparently I was seeing someone new (not true may I add), I ended up with a smashed windscreen. In his defence he did apologise and pay for the damages- but that doesn’t do anything to fix the emotional trauma the situation caused me.

It’s been about four weeks now since that happened and I’m amazed at how badly it’s still affecting me. Every time I’m in university on the same days as him I feel on edge, every time I go out I worry that I might bump into him, even just scrolling through Facebook makes me anxious in case a friend of mine tags him in something I see. I just don’t know how to emotionally process seeing him, it turns my brain to jelly. He went home again recently so I didn’t have to worry about seeing him for a while, but now he’s back I’ve got that same knotted feeling in my stomach all the time.

Whenever he walks past or into the same room as me at university, everyone’s eyes turn to see how I’ll react, and I know it’s because people are aware of how badly I’m coping and they care, but I also wish he’d have to deal with it every now and then. Not a day goes by that I don’t get asked about him- why we broke up, if we’ve spoken recently, if I miss him etc. and I wish, just once, that someone would ask him instead of me.

The biggest challenge of seeing him all the time is how the hell to do you act around someone that was once everything to you and is now just a stranger with memories? Avoiding eye contact is hard, talking is hard. Everything is hard, every day is hard. Life hurts with him still in it, and it hurts without him in it too, there’s just nothing I’ve found that eases up that dull ache I constantly feel. He sat in front of me in the last lecture we had together and despite my best efforts to concentrate, all I could think about were the memories I have of us. It’s the strangest feeling to be around him, because we shared so much with each other and now we can’t even look each other in the eye.

I can go for days feeling okay, then something happens to trigger all those feelings and add a little more salt to the wound. Something as simple as a picking up a random box of Jaffa cakes in a shop to see they have his name written on them, or having a guest lecturer with his name. We even studied a hurricane named after him during a seminar I had recently. My work Christmas party is being held at the Cosy Club (when I mentioned that it’s where I had my first date with him, the person organising it did ask whether I was okay with it or not). It’s like I can’t escape him at all, but he probably never has to deal with it; I doubt he even thinks about anything between us anymore.

One of the most important things that I’ve learnt from all this is that healing is not a linear process. If you read the many blog posts, books and articles out there that tell you what to do after a break up, they make it out as though if you follow their ‘top 10 tips’, you’ll be over it in no time. But that isn’t how it works.

I must’ve spent the first two weeks of breakup part 1 reading about how to move on and get over it, I had a whole game plan of how I was going to pick myself back up and be happy again- admittedly I did start feeling a little happier for the most part, but the smallest things would remind me of him, like they still do now, and I’d be back to square one. No surprises that when I saw him for the first time, six weeks post-break up, I had an anxiety attack (or two) and ended up in one of my university lecturers office having a minor breakdown at the prospect of having class with him- great way to start your final year of university.

Of course I know that things will be okay eventually. As much as it kills me right now that he won’t be a part of my future, I know I will move on and be successful without him. But I just wish that process would speed up, because whilst being so sad all the time is doing wonders for my university work (it’s literally all I do in my free time), I would love to start feeling myself again.

So for now I’m going to keep doing the best thing I can do in this situation: I’m going to continue to surround myself with wonderful people that lift me up, I’m going to listen to my favourite songs as loud as I can and sing along to them in the car, I’m going to put 100% into my university work, when I have the time I’m going to dance the nights away and I’m going to focus on filling my life with the little things that make me happy, like bubble baths and chai lattes, and eventually everything will seem a little brighter, and without really noticing at all, I’ll get over him. I’ll be thankful for the memories we shared; because they were incredible.

It wasn’t just a broken heart and a smashed windscreen he gave me, he restored my love for the outdoors and passion for travel, and for that, I could never thank him enough. Despite how badly he’s hurt me, I still hope he gets the best out of life. I whole heartedly believe in him and how far he will go if he puts his mind to it; I’ll always be cheering him on from the sidelines.

To anyone out there going through a through a break up, or through any kind of rough patch, just remember that we all take our own time to deal with emotions and the coping methods that work for some people, may not work for you. But once you find that thing that does help put you back on your feet- hold onto it tightly because once you’ve got that, you’ve done half the battle.

“happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

– Albus Dumbledore

Honey, I’m Home

 

It’s been about 9 months since I lasted posted, which is terrible effort especially since, according to my stats, people are still reading this thing.

In my defence, the last 9 months have been hectic to say the least: I competed in three Cheerleading competitions with UWE Comets Galaxy (placing 1st in the last of them), finally visited the Harry Potter studios in London, rediscovered my love of the outdoors, stumbled into a relationship with someone I adored, finished my fourth year of university with a solid 2:1, took a trip over the pond to visit my dear friends in Georgia, watched the sunrise over Cocoa Beach, Florida from the balcony of my best friend’s beach house, went paddle boarding with manatees, held an alligator, went to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, saw Busted live, spent countless summer evenings body boarding at Croyde Bay with my Mum, went hiking in all the beautiful spots in and around Bristol, went on a peddle-o in Hyde Park during a lightning storm, visited an alligator zoo, met one of the members of Earth, Wind and Fire, took a camping trip to the New Forest, got a job at LUSH Cosmetics, found myself heartbroken at the sudden end of a relationship, reunited with my Dad’s side of the family at my Uncle’s woodland wedding, took a trip to the LUSH Spa, wrote off my car in my first car accident, started my final year of university, found myself back with the same boy that hurt me, welcomed my younger brother to uni in Bristol, got the flu, found myself heartbroken AGAIN, discovered the weirdest game of Bingo ever, rekindled my passion for baths, ended up with a smashed windscreen thanks to an angry ex, went to Disneyland Paris, spent the day in Paris where I saw the Mona Lisa and walked up the Eiffel Tower, embraced my Scouse roots with a trip to Liverpool, took another trip to the LUSH Spa and most recently stayed up all night to watch the US Presidential Election Results.

Writing it all down like that it sounds like I’ve had an amazing few months (with a couple of exceptions), but of course I left out the more mundane parts, like the fact that for the last three months all I seem to do is go to university, go to work, then get home and do more university work.

In one of the last posts I wrote- ‘Feeling 22’-I said that I wanted to fill my years with adventure and hard work, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. However I feel like I should have found more time to write, especially since it’s one of my favourite things to do and extremely therapeutic.

I think one of the issues I’ve had is finding my blog writing niche; I like to write about a plethora of topics, from public relations to baking experiments. But I’ve decided not to focus too much on what my niche is and instead just write about whatever I’m feeling like writing about at the time, that way I get a lot more publishable posts written and hopefully my blog will start to recover from the many months of abandonment I feel so guilty about.

I’m going to start trying to ‘group’ my posts better using the tabs on the menu bar, that way if you’ve come looking for PR related posts, you know where to find them without scrolling through all the other unrelated posts, likewise if you’ve come for baking tips.

So to those who’ve kept reading this whole time, thank you. I promise to provide you with new content as often as I can.

Work Experience with ‘Perfect Wedding’ Magazine

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m trying to get a few different work experience placements within the journalism and public relations career field. There’s so many sectors to them both, and I feel like dipping my toes into each area while I’m a student will help me to choose one to focus on and potentially tailor my dissertation towards. Also, it will be a big help when I’m looking for work post-uni.

Last month, I spent four days working with ‘Perfect Wedding’ magazine, which is owned by Immediate Media. Magazine writing has always been high on my list of potential careers, so it was really interesting to actually go and see how it all works behind the scenes. I worked for the online version of the magazine, rather than the copy that goes to print.

On my first day, I was asked to research the magazine, read all their articles and then compile a list of potential articles based on what I thought they were missing and would be useful to the reader base. I was also given the log in details to their Pinterest account and was given free reign over posting, which was incredible as I have a slight addiction to Pinterest and it was great to use it productively, rather than as a procrastination tool.

After several hours reading most of their articles, both online and in the print versions they’d given me, I managed to get together a list of about 10 articles I thought people might be interested in. I talked over the online editor and she loved my ideas and put them in order of her favourite and asked me to start writing and get as many as I could done and also to explore their servers to find photos to go with each article.

The first article I wrote was about gift ideas for the morning of the wedding. At first it was really difficult to get into the style of the magazine, but the editor told me just to write as if I was talking to my best friend and to keep it light-hearted. This article went through about four rounds of editing before it was published, but I’m happy with the copy that finally went onto their website –

Your Ultimate Wedding Morning Gift Guide

The second one I wrote is probably my favourite as I got to focus on one of my biggest passions- cakes. I complied a list of some popular wedding cake flavours and explained what they are and what they work with in terms of flavours and decorations. It made me very hungry. Since I’d gotten into the style with the last one, this article took a lot less time to write and it was only edited twice before it was publishable. If you read any of them, I would suggest reading this one –

The Ultimate Wedding Cake Flavour Guide

For the last one I decided to do something a little different and create a gallery, you know,  one of those really annoying picture collections that you have to spend ages clicking through, one of them. Slightly ironic because they’re my pet hate in online magazines! I spent hours trawling through Instagram searching for photos of creative engagement announcements and then trying to find something to say about each one to go with the picture. I discovered that they are three times as much effort to create as they are to click through, although they require a lot less editing! So if you fancy having a click through here it is –

9 Creative Engagement Announcement Ideas

Between writing and drooling over pictures of cakes, I was creating and adding to their Pinterest boards, I started one of alternatives to the traditional Wedding Cake which included macaron towers and stacks of donuts.

Overall it was a great few days and I really enjoyed myself, but I think that after a while, writing about weddings would lose it’s appeal, there’s only so many things you can write about. Of course there’s always the latest fashion trends and celebrity weddings, but I find that a little superficial and I think if I were to work for a magazine, I would like to work for a baking one, or one aimed at an age group rather than a topic- like Cosmopolitan. However, I would like to work for a company that holds more meaning and can make a difference to someones life in the long run, like a charity perhaps.

Now I’ve completed one work experience, I’m excited to start looking for another and hopefully try a new area for my next one!

 

Feeling 22

‘Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22’ – Taylor Swift

Last weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I spent a wonderful few days in London with my mum, visiting the natural history museum, going for afternoon tea at Harrods and seeing Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre. I also had two birthday meals, one with friends and family from home and another with friends from my cheerleading team in Bristol. It was an amazing way to celebrate turning another year older.

But I woke up the morning after my birthday with the realisation that I was properly an adult now, 18-21 were the warm up years, and now this is the real thing. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I’m a ‘grown up’, that thing I’d spent so many years fearing and thought of as un-relatable and light years away. It snuck up on me pretty quickly I must admit.

I thought being a grown up was about owning a house, having a full time job and starting your own family and that it would all happen instantly and easily. I thought that by 22 I would have, or at least be close to having all those things; needless to say, I was wrong about that. I still have a year and a half left of my degree and I’ve no idea what direction I want to take post-uni, whether to do a masters, to go and teach English abroad or to go straight into the journalism/public relations career field. I’m no closer to that illusion of adulthood than I was when I was 16, but I think I’m okay with that.

I’ve realised that being an adult isn’t about saving for a house deposit or planning a fancy wedding, it’s about gaining experience and having adventures that make you a better person and open the door to opportunities for whatever it is you want to do in the future.

Personally, I plan to fill my years with adventure and hard work. While I’m still a student, I want to work hard at my degree and get work experience across various sectors of journalism and public relations, but I’m also want to spend long summer days at the beach and dance the nights away with the friends I consider family. I’ve realised that being an adult doesn’t limit you to grown up things, but it opens the doors to so many endless possibilities.

I’m not mad or upset that life didn’t go as I had planned when I was a kid, because I’ve had the most incredible 22 years of life and I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson – ‘Life isn’t about the destination, but the journey that gets us there.’

Merry New Year

My unintentional Christmas holiday hiatus has come to an end; while I had every intention of continuing to post over my university break, I was so busy with friends and family that I didn’t have time to sleep, let alone write a whole blog post! So here’s wishing you all a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and a combination of both of those in one post.

Christmas was fantastic this year; my godfather was visiting from New Zealand and my mum came home for a week from the Channel Islands. Since mum wasn’t home until December 20th, it was up to me to organize Christmas and leaving such a big responsibility to a Christmas addict wasn’t a smart decision: I got a 10ft tree that didn’t fit in our living room, so we had to cut off the top and I got a Turkey big enough to feed 10 people when there was only three of us eating it, but hey, we had lunch and dinner sorted for the following week #turkeysandwiches.

I finished my present shopping in November, so I didn’t have to worry about annoying Christmas crowds and rushing to get everything sorted, which was awesome; I’m going to make sure I do that every year. I was really happy that everyone loved their presents, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to get people, so it was nice to know my efforts were appreciated. I think my favourite moment was when I surprised my mum with a stocking from ‘Santa’, she still gives me one, so I decided to do the same for her, but she had no idea! It was also my first year being a godmother, I went to see my goddaughter and her mamma on Christmas day which was wonderful, little Felicity loved the Peppa Pig ride on toy I gave her.

I’ve been struggling with the boxing day blues for the last couple of weeks, but it’s time to accept that the festive season is over and I have to go back to life without my tacky Christmas leggings and I just hope that every Christmas can be as magical as this one.

I spent New Year’s Eve with some guys I’ve been friends with for years, and it was fantastic. We had a beer pong competition and let off fireworks at midnight, what more can you want from NYE? Whilst I don’t have a clear memory of anything past 1am, my Snapchat story was full of hilarity the next morning and it was definitely one for the ages.

I always feel a weird sense of grief when a year comes to an end, it’s an odd feeling and it probably means I’m taking this whole new year thing way too seriously; but I get quite sad that another year is over and I feel quite emotional for the people that are no longer with us and aren’t able to celebrate a new year. I spent most of 2015 with someone that I don’t talk to anymore and it’s weird to me that they won’t be a part of 2016; again, I think I’m taking this new year thing way too seriously.

But I am really excited for 2016, it’ll be the last whole year that I’m a full-time student, I get to tailor the last year of my degree to what I’d like to study and I’m excited to start working on my final project. I also want to figure out what I want to do when I graduate; I love both PR and journalism, and I’d like to get work experience in both areas to see which is better suited to me.

I don’t really have a specific resolution this year, I just want to make the most of every opportunity and become the best that I can be. I’m working on putting together a bucket list that I can post on here, and every time I complete something, I’ll write a post about it; I also want to take loads more pictures, because I like the idea of having a bookcase full of photo albums that I can look through when I’m old and wrinkly.

It’s starting to look like an exciting year and I have many things to look forward to already; here’s to hoping 2016 is a year full of love and happiness with friends and family.

‘The Reputation Economy’ by Michael Fertik

“Of course, reputation has always been important. Just ask anyone who has ever lived in a small town about how long a reputation can last and how long it can color your interactions. ”

In ‘The Reputation Economy’, Michael Fertik details how easy it is to leave an online footprint and how our lives can be affected by the decisions we make in the digital world. It urges us to be careful when posting negatively online, because will be used against us at some point in the future; especially in the event of one becoming a public figure.

If this book was written in a less academic manner, it would be a perfect gift for my 12 year old sister and I think it would be great to stack on secondary school shelves, as it would be an invaluable tool for teenagers who don’t quite understand the damaging effect that posting negative content on social media can have in the future. While offering some great advice on the realm of managing online footprints and written eloquently, the repetition makes it seem somewhat patronizing, I feel like 242 pages was a little excessive and the same message could have been conveyed in a much smaller e-book.

As a graduate from Harvard Law School, Fertik initially worked in software, it was after reading up about cyber-bullying that he created his company ‘Reputation.com’. I’m all for people being innovative, but I think that founding a reputation management company without experience in that field kind of defies the point; I think if Fertik had spent time working in the PR industry, I’d be able to take him more seriously; it might just be me, but I have more faith in those with a proven track record.

Fertik doesn’t just discuss the danger of negative content, he also details the importance of creating an online presence in order to succeed in today’s world, he advises the reader to keep their digital profiles up to date with professional content that can secure them a job without needing to apply. He encourages one to engage with ‘influencers’ online in order to stand out: ‘By making smart comments, sharing interesting articles, and engaging with others in your field online, in a respectful, intelligent conversation, you can demonstrate to the world that you are professional.’

My favourite chapter in the book was chapter eight: Portable; Do NBA Stars Make Good Babysitters? And used the example of hiring LeBron James as a babysitter, despite having no access to knowledge about his skills with children, as about 99% of the information about him on the web is basketball related; but in this new ‘reputation economy’ information about all of our skills across the board will be accessible on the same domain. I’m still not sure how LeBron fits into all this, I think I just liked the American sports reference.

Overall this book is written well, but the actual content tends to make the same point in a variety of ways, often in a confusing way. I feel like most people are wise enough to understand the reputation our digital footprints can give us without needing to read this book, and if not then you probably shouldn’t be using the internet.

The one with the journalists becoming PR pros

It seems that over the last several years, job opportunities available in the traditional journalism industry have become harder to come across; since 2001, a third of editorial jobs have been lost across the country. Despite an increase in the number of students going to university to study a degree in journalism, they may not be able to find a job in a newsroom post-university.

Maybe it’s time to take a leaf out of the seniors book and turn their attention to PR or advertising. Two lecturers of mine at UWE began their career in journalism, before making the move to PR, as did Sarah Pinch, head of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations; it’s become one of the normal ways of getting into the PR industry.

I can understand why, journalists are taught all the essential writing skills and they have the knowledge of what the people want and know how to communicate with the world; despite the writing styles being different, it’s easier to learn a new style of writing than it is to learn how to be a professional wordsmith and how to communicate on a global platform.

PR has done such a graceful job of adapting to life with the internet and I’m sure there’s much more creativity left to come, with PR stunts we haven’t even thought of and more innovative ways to get us talking.

While I think that traditional, newsroom journalism is on its last legs, I do believe that it will somehow find a way to thrive in this era, even if that means the move from all online means and the extinction of the tabloid paper; but I think we’re a few years off of that.

The one with the conflict caused by convergence

My last blog post ‘The One With The Definition Of Journalism And Public Relations’ outlined the basics of what each industry works towards and how they have worked together over the ages, despite being immensely different. The nature of both professions has changed drastically since their humble beginnings; but it is this new age that revolves around the power of social media, that has shaken up the communications industry entirely and brought about many new challenges for professionals in both sectors.

Convergence has changed the way we consume media in all forms; while we used to get our news from a newspaper, our adverts from television breaks and our music from the radio, we can now get all of these from one source: the internet. On YouTube alone we have the opportunity to watch the news and listen to music, and before the video starts, we’re made to watch an advert.

In 2009, James Murdoch introduced this idea of an ‘all-media market’:

“What were once separate forms of communication, or separate media, are now increasingly interconnected and exchangeable. So we no longer have a TV market, a newspaper market, a publishing market.”

Nowadays we’re more likely to see a news story on Twitter before we see it on the news; journalists have taken up searching through Twitter to find stories worth broadcasting. Before a News Day last semester I would scroll through my feed and search ‘Cabot’ or ‘Bristol’ to find stories to present at the morning news meeting, it’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.

The age of the internet has given public relations the chance to thrive and has given the whole industry a new lease of life as it were. Journalism, however, seems to be having difficulties with this new landscape.

Public relations no longer needs to rely on journalists to get their message into the world, social media can do that for them, in a much better way too: people are more likely to trust the opinion of someone they know, than a faceless company. The best PR stunts rely on social media and the power of the ‘share’ button, knowing exactly what needs to be done to achieve the glory of ‘going viral’, which is a PR pro’s dream; they can just sit back and watch the internet do their job for them.

One of the smartest PR stunts of 2015 was the Cinnamon Toast Crunch ‘Selfie Spoon’, which capitalized on the obsession of posting pictures of everything you eat on Instagram, and the tagline for the campaign was borderline genius: “Everyone loves a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but if you don’t post it on social media, did it really happen?” (You can read more about that here).

Encouraging participation on popular platforms like Instagram and Twitter has worked wonders for the world of public relations and PR professionals have been given the chance to be more creative with their campaigns and know that there will always be an audience. Tracking the success of PR stunt is also easier, as most have an accompanying hash tag, you can monitor the usage and the reactions people have. These hash tags also make interacting with customers online far easier, which is often a good way to resolve issues and be on a more personal level to the people you are trying to appeal to.

Public relations has always been funded in house, the aim of the profession has never been to create revenue for a company; but to create a buzz and a positive image.

Journalism had to join the party with convergence, but it’s not doing it many favours. We used to tune in to the evening news or buy the morning paper to hear about what was going on in the world, but with the news available online, we hear about stories as they happen and so the need for television and tabloid news is becoming somewhat null and void. This means the traditional way of funding journalism is being taken away; Journalism has always been funded by people purchasing newspapers, paying for a TV license and advertising, but now that it’s had to move onto the internet and become free to access, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fund this form of media.

Take the Guardian for example. Once solely a British tabloid, it now has an international agenda and has newsrooms across the world; but with all their content so readily available on the internet, no one feels the need to pay for their newspaper anymore, which threatens the mere existence of the agency. Becoming an online global organisation is a dangerous move for any journalism firm that is funded through people purchasing their content.

However, it’s not all bad for journalists: whilst they may be having difficulty financially, they’ve been given more opportunities to interact with the public, which is something needed to succeed in today’s digital age. User generated content (UGC) is being used by almost every journalism agency; even the BBC has joined in by having a ‘Have Your Say’ page on their website which encourages users to donate material to be used in programming and on their website.

UGC has made the breaking of stories much easier, pictures are available in an instant and whilst they may not be clear at times, they add to the atmosphere of an event and are a good way to narrate a story until the official camera crews can get there. Take the Tunisia beach attacks in 2015 for example, shaky footage of a gunman down the corner of a hotel emerged as the attack was happening and was used by most news broadcasters; it perfectly demonstrated the terror of the events and the unprofessional standard added to the pure horror of this story. There’s something about a genuine witness account that really helps the story to hit home. It was also easier to get eye-witness accounts of the event, the BBC gave a number for people to text in and phone-ins were also welcomed. This helped immensely when putting together a timeline of what happened and broke the hearts of most of the British public.

UGC really helps to bring a story to life and we have the age of convergence to thank for that. It’s difficult to predict how far convergence is likely to go and whether or not it’ll become easier for the journalism industry to keep funding itself; I feel like it’s such an important industry and has been around for so long that it will always find a way to get by, but who knows? Convergence hath no fury.

The one with the definition of journalism and public relations

In the Oxford English Dictionary, public relations is described as: ‘the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.’

In essence, public relations is basically the wingman of the communications industry; while areas like marketing and advertising focus their attention on telling the world why what they have to offer is good, public relations is making oneself so good that other people will make the case for you:

“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.” – S. H. Simmons

The phrase ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ rings very true in the world of PR, as long as people are talking, you’re getting attention. Take Starbucks for example; by removing festive shapes from their red cups during the Christmas season, the Twitterverse deemed them as starting a ‘war on Christmas’ and the hash tag #MerryChristmasStarbucks started to trend worldwide (You can read more about that in my blog post ‘How Starsbucks Stole Christmas‘). Despite this being seemingly negative publicity, it still kept them in the lime light and did nothing to damage their reputation.

The OED describes Journalism as: ‘the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.’

Journalism is a narrative of news, it’s the process of finding stories happening worldwide and broadcasting them to the public in a way that will appeal to them. People have always looked negatively on the journalists, with them often being referred to as ‘Vultures’ due to the nature of the industry; having to report on hard hitting stories moments after they happen, which involves them having to interview the recently bereaved which can be seen as insensitive.

“We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers.” – Helen Thomas

Journalists have a duty to inform the public of what is going on around the world, and one would like to think that for the most part, they give an unbiased version of events. However, some news agencies do have their own ‘agenda’ which are echoed in stories and can mislead readers into believing a certain stance on an event.

From their very definitions, these professions are different in most aspects, on paper the only similarity is their ability to craft words into beautifully written sentences that do exactly what they want them to; professional wordsmiths.

While these professions are very different in their agenda and what they produce, they’ve always relied on one another to work; PR professionals used to sit in offices writing press releases and then send them to journalists who would rewrite and broadcast them to the world. Press releases almost always contain a story worth publishing, from the opening of a new restaurant or something more serious like the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal; point being, is that when presented with a press release, it saves the journalist time and effort in going out to find a story. It’s a win, win for both parties.

But since the birth and domination of the internet, the relationship between PR and journalism has become increasingly one-sided. While journalists still use press releases to find stories, PR pros no longer need journalists to broadcast their content to the world; social media can do that for them. In the words of my lecturer Richard Bailey (PR professional and editor of ‘Behind The Spin‘): ‘The power is no longer on the desk of a single journalist.’

My next post in this blog series will detail the struggles of the age of convergence and discuss the potential for the future of both public relations and journalism.