Wednesday, 29 August 2012


One of the main problems of being a graduate type is that when you graduate and don't fall into your dream job (or indeed any job at all), it leads to a strangely existential crisis. You see, for years and years you were just 'a student'. Okay, not just a student, but the studying was essential to your understanding on yourself. Student discount, student politics, student feminism, student geek, student historian. They come with their own assumptions and values, which can often be negative but have positive connotations for the student themselves. My sister thinks students are lazy scum, but I rather like students.

So the crisis when you leave university and lose the label is something of a traumatic thing. Having been defined for so long by your full-time life, it's horrible having to be 'Second Accounts Assistant' or 'Retail Assistant' because quite simply it's not as snappy a title. Even those in their dream jobs are generally struggling a little, as many titles don't trip off the tongue. And 'job seeker' just doesn't sound good, even if it's not a negative thing in itself.

Tackling it is difficult. I take the self-deprecation route, myself, and go for 'Office Monkey' or 'Admin Bitch' depending on my mood. Or I lie at parties, which is morally wrong but I like to see what I can get away with. It was a moment of some distress when I got married and filled in a census in a twelve-month period and realised that I would, historically speaking, forever be tarred as 'Administration Clerk' for the rest of my life. Hell, I put down 'clerk' instead of 'assistant' just to sound a bit more historical. I wanted to put astronaut, but the council office were pretty insistent that was illegal. I wonder if on <i>Who Do You Think You Are 2150</i> some descendent will look at me and just think I was boring based on the records. I hope not.

My trick, these days, is to look at the other things in my life, and create a series of labels that aren't based around my job. Yes, I'm an office monkey, and that is a big part of my life. I'm also a writer. I'm a feminist. I'm a geek. I'm lots of things that are separate to me as a worker, and it's with that I keep my happiness and my sanity.

- -

Another label I can take on for the next fortnight is 'traveller'. Having managed to get my laptop back, I'm on the road as of Friday, finally getting to go on honeymoon. As I only have a year left to be classed as a 'young person' (another label!) according to Interrail standards, I'm off around Europe for two weeks with Mr DG and probably too much beer. As such, this is another hiatus announcement, but things should settle down when I'm back. Probably.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Computer issues

My beloved laptop has developed a perplexing issue of not charging and as such it's soon to be taken to be repaired for hopefully a very small amount of money. My computer time is therefore limited to whenever Mr DG isn't using his, which isn't very often and also he has a Mac which I hate using.

In short, this is a minor hiatus but I will be back shortly. Honest! (And then going away for two weeks in September, but that's by the by.)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A-Level results day

Good grief, it's A-Level results day tomorrow. How the time flies. It's been EIGHT YEARS since I did that. Best of luck with that to anyone reading to whom the luck still applies.

To all graduates currently feeling very, very old - man, I feel your pain.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Quarter life crisis

I turn 25 in two days. I am trying very hard not to have a quarter life crisis about this. It feels like a tremendously big number, and my brain has spent the last few weeks punishing me for this. I've been finding myself ominously going through all the stuff I haven't done with my life; I haven't got that high-flying job, I haven't yet blossomed into a sinewy twenty-something with perfect skin and hair, I haven't got a cat, I've barely travelled in any meaningful sense, I haven't written a novel. Well, actually, I have done the last one, technically speaking, but I don't think that Lord of Rings fanfiction when your 15 counts. Also, I'll be spending my birthday at my parents so I can use their garden. The last birthday event at my parents? I was SEVENTEEN.

I've read a lot recently about turning 25 – what can I say, my generation really enjoys a bit of naval-gazing – and mostly it makes me feel wretched.

SO. Instead, I've been trying to make a list of all my achievements thus far that the seventeen year old me would have been proud of. Apparently this is the best way to think of it.

1. Passed my driving test and NOT KILLED ANYONE.

Now, there are people out there who wouldn't be impressed by this. These people did not see my driving lessons. Not only have I been driving for eight years, I have gone to and from Scotland more times than you can shake a stick at BYMYSELF. Once I drove a car from St Andrews to Cardiff. It wasn't my car. It was a borrowed car, and the seat didn't move far enough forward for me to touch the pedals the whole way down. And I still failed to kill anyone. SUCCESS.

2. I have a degree!

The title of the blog is a hint on that one, but it's easy to forget that having a degree is a really big achievement. To be honest, the seventeen year old me was just hoping she'd pass the AS-Levels.

3. I have managed to acquire a husband.

This is not an achievement, per se, mostly because in this one I've just been lucky and I don't think that 'being settled' is a universal achievement. Still, managing to organise a wedding is an achievement in itself.

4. I get to write sometimes.

Not that often. But I do get paid to write, both in my day to day job and outside of it. I manage to produce something for here on a semi-regular basis. I feel myself moving very, very slowly, to doing this professionally.

5. I have my own place.

Do I own it yet? No, of course not. But I've boomeranged and I've got out today. In today's world for people of my age, that's definitely an achievement.

6. I've managed to become a reasonably rounded human beings.

A true story, and one shared by many graduates: I was picked on at school. Horrendously. And once, Dad took me to one side, and he said: “Look. One day, you'll be driving past that lot in a car that you own, on the way to your nice job, and you'll see that lot queuing for a bus with hordes of kids, and they will look old. You'll have made something of yourself. You'll have won.”

He's not quite right yet. The nice job has yet to materialise. But occasionally I hear of the people who made my life hell, and, well, I seem to have improved since I was in high school. They haven't.

So fingers crossed, I will spend my birthday eating barbecue food, drinking copious amounts of red wine and feeling good about myself. Until the hangover, which is a totally different issue.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Long distance friendship

Long distance friendship starts being a problem in university, for most people. Even if you don't move too far away from home, chances are that some friends will do so, and visits may take place across the country, dossing on floors and seeing what other student unions look like. There's the beginning of a sense that your friendship network spreads across the country, sometimes even the world.

(And here's a fun story for you, young 'uns – we didn't have Facebook when we started university! It used to just be for students, and only permitted universities got to have it – St Andrews was possibly the first in the UK to be accredited, in my first year in 2005. I have no idea how we all kept up with each other beforehand.)

Most UK universities are hubs. You're more likely to meet someone from a different town than from the town you're actually studying in, excluding possibly the London universities. With an increasingly cosmopolitan outlook in most universities, you're also more likely to make international friends. Forced together into new circumstances, and possibly also a result of your age, you make firm friends. Then you all graduate, and chances are you all go to different parts of the country.

How do you maintain these friendships? Even worse, if you move home, and all of your friends have moved away, how do you keep a circle of friends at all?

I'm lucky in that I have a strong friend network from 'home', from 'university', and from that weird subsection of people who started as friends of friends and then became my own friends. That said, I have this topic of long distance friendship on the brain, firstly because Mr DG has a university friend staying this weekend who's travelled from Down South, and because it's my birthday next week. Parents have very kindly allowed me use of their garden and barbeque, and said I should invite friends if I want. (God, it's like being seventeen again.) So, I asked 'local' friends in an effort to overwhelm a house that I no longer live in and realised that there's about three people.

That was a shock.

The point is that I still have many friends, and I don't feel lonely. In fact, my social calender is currently fairly stuffed in terms of seeing various friends! It's just the nature of the friendship that changes. It's more difficult to 'just nip out for a drink', being that it involves hopping towns and checking diaries. However, it leads to more big social activities and more long weekends, chilling out and chatting.

It takes more effort, and I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible friend in terms of travelling to people – I need the odd weekend off, which explains why I am sat at home watching the trampolining at the Olympics and blogging rather than socialising with my husband and his friend, although we'll be eating together this evening.

The point is that the friendship stays strong. It's a pleasure to see people again, and I hope they're glad to see me! I'm lucky in that at least most people seem to be roughly between the lowlands of Scotland and the Watford gap, so not too big a distance considering, despite the issues with the rail network. It takes work, but then, that's true of most things worth doing. It's just a change, that's all – but then, it seems to be a change that most graduates are sharing these days.

(Long distance romantic relationships are a whole different kettle of fish. There just isn't enough blog space in the world to tackle that one, or at least not today!)