Let’s Never Grow Up

This year, I turn twenty. That is so strange to me. Twenty seems like it should be some kind of cut-off point. You’re no longer a teenager at twenty. It’s the age when you’re expected to start putting your teenage tendencies behind you and try to act like an adult. Legally in the UK, you become an adult at eighteen, although most of us seem to think that we’re adults on our sixteenth birthdays. The truth is, we’re not. We’re only pretending.

At nineteen, we’re more like adults-in-training than real, proper, responsibility-having adults. I mean, yes, we have responsibilities but everything that we need to worry about is still way ahead in the future. We’re only tasting freedom. Especially us students – it’s all just practise. All of the Big Things – getting our own house, having a career, kids, marriage – for most of us, are things that might happen eventually but not right now, so we don’t have to think about it. Some of us might have our own houses already. A lot of us have jobs, and most people will be at least thinking about what career they want to work in. Some nineteen year olds might even have kids or be married, or both, but in my experience for the most part, we’re still only practising.

Some people disagree. When I’ve voiced this opinion before, I’ve been told firmly that no, I am definitely an adult, there’s no getting away from it. Yes. Legally, I am definitely, absolutely, no question about it, an adult. But I don’t feel like one, and I don’t think I will for a long time yet. I’m still learning. I’m still figuring everything out. All of the things that people tell you your teenage years are for, I’m still working on now.

For example, I don’t know what I want to do in my future. I know that there are some things I want out of life, like a career that involves writing, and way, way in the future, I want to be a mum. But other than that, I don’t have a clue. I’m at university. I’m on a very industry-specific course. There are people who expect me to have chosen a path by now and be working on getting to my chosen destination, but I think I’d prefer to go on an adventure and explore all of the beautiful places I could go before I decide where to spend the rest of my life. There are so many options out there, and I change my mind all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of that. The only thing that’s been a constant love of mine forever is writing.

And I still don’t know who I am yet, but I don’t think anyone does, really. I know some things about myself but they are prone to change every now and then, and the person I thought I was yesterday might be a completely different person to who I feel like today. We might broadcast one or two versions of ourselves to the world, but we’re not that person all the time. We act different ways with different people. If you could see yourself with your friends, your family, and when you’re on your own, how do you know which version of you is the real you? They all are. We’re not just one person; we’re many. We’re all growing as people with every passing day, and we learn more and more about ourselves as the days go on.

As well as that, while all of the high-flying drama that seems to thrive in the air around teenagers might be over, my life is still riddled with worries and conflicts and problems, just like everyone’s. I’ve had my fair share of teenage drama in the past. My story is really not that different to everyone else’s, except that I went to a peculiar little school in the countryside where we had to do compulsory Eurythmy every week and participated in Michaelmas festivals where we dressed up as a dragon and pretend to be slain. But even then, I know at least nine other people who have those same tales to tell. (By the way, if you don’t know what Eurythmy is, it involves robes, cloth shoes, and gracefully waving your arms in the air as you float around the room. No, seriously.) I’m more than relieved that that period of my life, when every little thing was huge crisis and I was shrouded in a dangerous lack of self-confidence, is over. But even so, there have still been dramas in my life recently that make all of that angst look like nothing.

My point here is that while I might be leaving my teens behind at the end of this year, that doesn’t automatically make me an adult. I won’t suddenly start reading the newspaper every morning, fretting about bills, and tutting at childish things like believing in magic. The truth is, the news scares me and so does money, and I would happily believe in magic for the rest of my life if I could.

I think that we carry our teenage years with us through our entire lives. We might get to ninety and look at ourselves, and still find that struggling, confidence-lacking, angst-ridden version of ourselves shining through in some way. That’s not a bad thing. It just means that, even when we’re old and have seen everything there is to see, we’ll still be learning and growing every day.

I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t have a clue where all of those winding paths up ahead will lead me. And that’s great. I don’t want to.

Let’s just not grow up. Of course, let’s keep aging and experiencing and learning, but let’s just stay the same as we are right now – expectant and excited for things to come. Let’s remain wide-eyed and hopeful like children on Christmas Eve. Let’s keep having fun and finding sparkles in shadows, and never knowing what’s around the corner. Let’s live for now, like we did yesterday.

 

Below are some carefully selected images of me throughout my teen years, from the age of 14.

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My University Story So Far

I haven’t written anything for weeks. Literally, nothing. Not a single short story. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I am currently writing this sat at a new desk surrounded by pretty new fairy lights and lots of random paperwork I haven’t read yet. My new desk, fairy lights and paperwork are 105 miles from home, but I love it here.

My bedroom shelf at uni.

My bedroom shelf at uni.

Two months ago, I did not want to go to university. The thought of travelling so far away and being thrust into the world of adulthood without anyone to look out for me (not to mention more education!), was terrifying. But that was the only thing holding me back: fear. It was getting towards the end of summer and I had been out of college since the beginning of June. My days were blurring together, there was no sign of a job on the horizon, and I was sick of the sight of myself. I didn’t know what to do with my life.

Then, a week before A-Level results day, my mum casually mentioned ‘clearing’ at the dinner table. For those of you who don’t know, clearing is a system that universities use typically if a potential student doesn’t get the grades they need to get into their first choice uni. As I wasn’t going to uni, the thought hadn’t occurred to me, but all I had to do was get released from the course I’d previously applied for and no longer wanted to do (Creative Writing), and then I was eligible for it. This brought round a whole new world of potential. There are so many courses out there for everything, and I needed that week to whittle down all of my options to find the right one for me.

Having completed the BFI Film Academy course earlier in the year, I knew that I wanted a job in the media industry, and once I’d decided that, I looked for any and all courses that held the Creative Skillset tick. The Creative Skillset tick signifies that the course is very practical with excellent industry contacts, which was just what I wanted. Upon finding the Television Production course, I immediately fell in love with it and knew that was the course I needed to get on.

Clearing was both terrifying and surprisingly easy. Bright and early on the morning of results day, I stumbled downstairs and opened the email attachment containing my results. BBC! (That’s got to be a sign, right?) But there was no time to celebrate. After a quick glass of orange juice so that I didn’t sound like I just woke up (which I had), I rang the university and had a quick interview with the head of the media school, who then told me that I had a place. I had never been so happy! And once my accommodation was sorted out – which was super stressful but totally worth it – all I had left to do was go shopping.

Moving day came around quicker than any of us could prepare for. I was a complete bundle of nerves and excitement, although saying goodbye to my dog sobered me up nicely. The journey took about two hours with a heavy printer on my lap, and the four of us were all squished because I had decided to bring along half my bedroom. By the way, if you’re planning for university next year, don’t take along half your bedroom.

I’ve been at uni for a week and a half now and, although it’s hard at times, I can safely say that it’s the best decision I’ve made. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s what would be best for you as everyone’s different with different goals, but for me in particular, I’m so glad I decided to come here. Once all of our parents had left, a group of us in our flat walked into town. We’ve quickly become like a little family and I love everyone I’m living with even though we were strangers a week and a half ago.

If you’re reading this worried about who you’re going to be moving in with when you start university, please stop worrying. You’ll find that if you put yourself out there and really try to be friendly to everyone, you’ll make friends a lot quicker. Everyone’s in the same boat, and they’re more likely to make friends with the person who smiles at them than the person who hides from them.

I borrowed a picture of some of my flatmates - hope you don't mind! XD

I borrowed a picture of some of my flatmates – hope you don’t mind! XD

I know it’s difficult. I’m definitely not a very independent person and going so far from home was miles out of my comfort zone. I’m also pretty quiet and find it hard to be myself around people I don’t know, but whenever I’ve tried hard to talk to people, even if it’s a little awkward at first, everything has worked out well. Homesickness has also been a slight problem for me as I’m very close to my family, but a phone call always makes things better, and I have friends here who I know care for me and look out for me, which I am so grateful for. Having anxiety, this was bound to be a difficult experience at times, but despite that, I am loving every minute of it.

I’m sure the uni life will lead to some crazy adventures, and awesome friends are already being made. I’m excited to see what exciting thing happens next.

Two Days at the Derby Book Festival

This week was the grand opening of Derby’s debut Book Festival. This was the first year that the city has put on the festival and they definitely pulled out all the stops. The week was packed full of exciting events, from writing workshops to performance poetry. Special guests included Rufus Hound and Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse.

I attended two of these events. The first one was ‘A Conversation With David Nicholls’. David Nicholls is the author of the bestselling novel, ‘One Day’, and also the screenwriter of many Hollywood films including ‘Great Expectations’ and the recent ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’. David Nicholls is a very funny, down-to-earth man. He told us all about how he came up with Douglas, the main character of his new novel, Us, and how one particular incident in the book was inspired by a real life event involving an angry biker gang in Amsterdam.

The other event was on publishing – both the life of a publisher and how to get published. As someone who one day dreams of being published, the information I learned from this event was invaluable. The speakers – Julia Murday, a publicist at Penguin; Karen Ball, a publisher of children’s books; and Diane Banks, a literary agent – were fantastic. They explained what they look for in an author, and also gave advice on how to self-market your books. For example, we were told that as long as you’re careful with what you put out there, being active on social media is a huge help to your career, as it enables you to prove that your have contacts and potential book-buyers. They also stated that it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the ever-moving trends, so if the time for bestselling sci-fi novels has passed, hold onto that manuscript and wait for the trend to come back round. Publishers are much more likely to choose your book if it fits in with the bestsellers at the time.

I highly recommend visiting a book fair to those of you who enjoy writing and reading. There are so many opportunities out there to meet and network with other people who one day might just be the contact you need to take a leap into your career, as well as all of the events that are held to teach you everything you need to know about the industry. There are over 350 book festivals in the UK, and the number keeps growing as they become increasingly popular. This was my first time attending one, but I know it will not be my last. I can’t wait for next year’s!derby book festival1

You Are Extraordinary

Today, I am going to write to you all about something that I am only just learning myself. I know that at the moment I have a mixed bunch of readers, but I believe that this is a subject that will mean something to everyone.

A few weeks ago, I had something of an ‘existential crisis’ in the words of the wonderful Dan Howell (YouTube and BBC Radio 1’s danisnotonfire). It may have been partly due to stress of my exams, but that didn’t make it any less awful. I got it into my head that I wasn’t enjoying any of my college courses, and because of that, I started to lose hope in everything else that I enjoyed. I’m a writer but I couldn’t write anything. I love acting but I couldn’t find any energy to act. Singing is my favourite hobby but it just seemed so exhausting. I didn’t know what on earth I wanted to do with the rest of my life because nothing seemed to be working out at that moment.

The problem, I realise now, is that I was so consumed in the stresses of that one moment that I couldn’t see past it. I didn’t need to decide who I was going to be right then, and I still don’t. Neither do you.

The future is a wide expanse of exciting opportunities, and it is all yours. As cheesy as that sounds, it is completely true. You can be whoever you want to be and you can change who you want to be whenever you want. It doesn’t matter what age you are – if you’re not happy with the way something is going in your life, then change it. You’re never too old or too young to be yourself.

If you are in the middle of a job but you want to try something new or have a go at that dream that you’ve dreamt of achieving since you were eight, then go for it. If you are just starting at college or picking out your GCSE options, and you don’t have a clue what you want to do when you’re older, that’s fine. Just pick the things that you enjoy doing, even if they end up being a crazy eclectic mix that doesn’t make any sense. You still have your whole life ahead of you; don’t get hung up on this one part of it. There is always the option to change.

It seems like in modern society, people are scared to change who they are, or who they think other people think they are. I think this is due to the huge amount of judgement that is pressed upon us on a daily basis. But I promise you that it is perfectly fine to change things if it will make you happier. No one should judge you for that and if they do then they are not worth knowing. But that’s a story for a different blog post.

The point that I am trying to make here is that you shouldn’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do in life. You are an extraordinary person and this is no one’s life but your own. You have people who love you and in the end, as long as you are happy, nothing else matters.

Which of these names do you like most?

I’m planning a story, and I need your help.