HOW LUNCH DICTATED MY CAREER – A GUEST POST

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I don’t know about you, but Big Important Life Decisions completely paralyse my brain’s ability to function.

Offer me a double chocolate muffin or an apple and obviously, I’m not mad, I’ll opt for the muffin. I’ll probably take two, one for the road.

Ask me which I’d prefer to watch out of Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde and yes – I’m only human  – I might pause for a second. But then I’ll see sense and plump for the original. Way more bend and snap.

But ask me what I want to DO with my life and I’ll be pretty stumped. And that’s because the opportunities are endless…which is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Feeling me so far?

When you’re REALLY young the hardest decisions are the likes of:

“Do I eat my chips before my stupid peas or do I leave my chips ’til last and risk getting full?”

[to be fair that’s a question that’s still highly relevant well into my adult years]

Or even the delicate and highly political:

“Who’s going to be my best friend at school today? Sophie…so she’ll invite me to her bouncy castle birthday party? Or Olivia…because then she’ll let me plait her hair at break?”

Even as you grow up through your teens the options are laid out for you:

French or German.

History or Geography.

Backstreet Boys or Boyzone.

Gap year or straight to uni.

It’s not ’til uni is ending that you are suddenly hit with the enormity of your career choices. Yes, it’s slightly different if you studied medicine – your path is fairly set, Dr McSmug. But for many of us, leaving uni meant – for perhaps the first time – we didn’t have anyone offering us A or B on a little plate. It was A-Z and maybe some cheeky hieroglyphics thrown in too. Just to add to the chaos.

When I was a little nipper the only jobs I knew about were the ones I’d seen in picture books: nurse, train driver, teacher and farmer. I literally thought the world was operated by those four jobs alone.

Then dawns the realisation that not only are there countless more industries than you ever envisaged…but within those industries are a complicated hierarchy of positions.

I remember feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed – aged 21 – as my life lay before me and I found myself, much to my disappointment and surprise, not married to Prince William (plan A) or Prince Harry (plan B).

It seemed as though I was going to have to choose a career. I just didn’t have the foggiest clue what that career was going to be.

In the end, my first job out of uni was working in the advertising industry.

Want to know why? The truth?!

It’s because I made the mistake of going to a careers fair completely knackered and hungry.

And it was alphabetically laid out, clockwise. I only managed as far as ‘A’.

I’m happy that one of my KPIs isn’t chaperoning zoo animals. Although I did end up being an accidental sex pest at my advertising job.

*NOW A SLIGHT TANGENT*

On the subject of zoos…I’m not sure how long I would have lasted as a zookeeper. I’m on the crazy end of the squeamish scale. The first time I went to visit my sister in Zimbabwe we went to a crocodile park and I’m DEATHLY afraid of crocs.

I asked – nervously – how many of the beasts they had. The tour guide responded with gusto:

“There are thirty…

Cripes. But I think I can cope with 30. Just.

“-thousand crocodiles in this park.”

Kill me now.

His next line keeps me awake at night to this date, although I think it was intended to soothe us:

“Don’t worry, they rarely escape.”

RARELY ISN’T NEVER.

Cue me, bursting into tears.

*TANGENT OVER*

When it comes to those Big Important Life Decisions, it comforts me slightly that I have permission from the one-and-only Moulin Rouge creator himself, Baz Luhrmann, to not know what I want to do with my life. I mean the man has won 23 film awards (I counted on Wikipedia) so he must know a thing or two about ambition.

From Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)’:

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives

Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

I’m 31. I still have 9 years to meet Baz Luhrmann and still be considered ‘interestingly adrift’. I can live with that.

Written by the author of Disasters of A Thirty Something.

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A hilarious blogger (and now Agony Aunt to me) who documents all of the stories from her life that you or I would probably rather forget, all for our entertainment.

Visit her site or follow her on Twitter here.

FREEDOM – A GUEST POST

large (1)When I was young I was free.

Of course, we all were. We didn’t have jobs, rental agreements or hangovers, we were just existing in a wonderful state of sometimes-euphoric mostly-moody teen angst, where the only thing greater than our lack of responsibility was our cereal intake.

Then, one day, something happened, and our longing to be adults who were taken seriously smashed us in the face harder than the floor did that time we tried skateboarding in the Tesco car park, and we realised that all along we’d been tricked into following a false dream.

We were rewarded with responsibility when we worked hard and proved we were deserving; finally being left alone in the house when our mum went to play squash of an evening at age 13 (and inviting our much older and frankly creepy boyfriend over to watch South Park and make out), being given complete control of our own computer priviliges at 14 (and looking at weird sex forums on the AOL chatroom), even being gifted the holy grail of deciding our own bedtime at 15 (and wrecking our sleeping pattern by forcing ourselves to stay up until 1am just so we could say we did).

At the time, we were oblivious to the fact that we were being slowly integrated into the adult community. We were under the illusion that these fun perks were the main components of adulthood, that choosing our own dinners (spaghetti with hot dogs cut up in it) and having free reign of the TV on weeknights (Hollyoaks > The Simpsons > Dream Team > Bad Girls) were the biggest decisions we were ever going to have to make.

Inevitably the fun slows down as we realise that when they start to give us actual cold hard cash in college our mum will tell us we have to use it to pay for our own clothes and junk food, rather than Colin Farrell wall calendars and hair extensions like we were planning to. They’ll start trusting us with being able to get ourselves to class on time but won’t tell us that we’ll actually feel obliged to be there, and that bunking off in the park in the sunshine will make us feel anxious and sweaty, not warm and relaxed.

When you escape to university you start to think that maybe you were right all along – adulthood is brilliant! You can pass your semesters without going to a single lecture thanks to the miracle that is the Internet, you get money for nothing – literally nothing – and can spend it on whatever you want, and people practically force you to spend your time having fun rather than focusing on your responsibilities.

Eventually, though, your university years pass you by and the fun suddenly stops. Everybody tells you that your “real life” is about to start but in reality it feels like everything is coming to a grinding halt.

We resign ourselves to getting a job and go through emotional turmoil from our very first day of the nine-to-five existence, wondering how we’re ever going to survive fifty years of getting up every day and going to work without being discovered and becoming a worldwide star or bagging ourselves a billionaire husband before the age of 22.

We flirt with the idea of becoming exotic travellers like the girls we see on Instagram who spend their time modelling bikinis and getting high, but very quickly realise that we are neither cute enough nor rich enough to kick start that venture. Bizarre job choices become more romanticised than ever and one day you’ll find yourself thinking “I probably could be a professional wrestler” in a bid to settle yourself in any profession that doesn’t involve ever stepping foot in an office and spending the third day in a row helping Neil fix the printer.

We wonder if freedom will ever come again, if we’ll ever be blessed with the familiar but distant feeling that anything is possible, and then one morning we find ourselves curled up in bed at 5am after a really shitty 24 hours, so we call our best friend from the comfort of our flat that we decorated all by ourselves and are actually pretty proud of, and we venture into the city to climb a skyscraper in our pyjamas, buy a hot chocolate with money that we earned through our own hard work, and watch the sunrise over the tops of the sparkly buildings that once inspired us to think we could rule the world.

It’s on those mornings, above the clouds, whilst the city sleeps and you and your best friend eat croissants and slag off boys for a full fifty minutes, that you realise that this freedom is a better freedom than any you ever could have imagined when your mind was frantic and your thoughts were wild.

This freedom is real.

Written by Emmy Christmas.

A girl who wrote something perfect for this moment in my life, without even realising it. An angel.

Follow her on Twitter here, she’s hilarious. 

CRACK ROCK, CRACK ROCK – A GUEST POST

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If you or I didn’t like using drugs, and those in power didn’t fear the effects of them, then there wouldn’t be a drug problem. I’ll admit – we’ve always had an issue with drugs. But humans have always wanted a drug. We’ve always sought out those foods, drinks and substances that have a stimulating or euphoriant effect. But we also love drugs because we fear them. They offer risk, excitement and novelty.

But what is a drug? Presumably, it’s just a changing definition, a changing perception? Alcohol was once an illegal drug (well, in the US at least – the UK tried to prohibit gin – started a riot!). In 2004 Cannabis was downgraded from Class B to Class C – what happens if it goes further and falls out of the classification system altogether? M-CAT, or Meow Meow, used to be completely legal, only for it to be declared a Class B drug in 2010. (People then decided that if they were now going to be breaking the law to get drugs – perhaps cocaine or ecstasy would be better than plant fertiliser…?)

Drugs, though, tend to be psychoactive substances that are illegal – you know, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol cocaine, heroin and MDMA. Psychoactive substances affect mood, thought processes and perception. Governments decide what a drug is – but we don’t really know how. Take coca and tobacco: both are stimulants, both are addictive and both can have adverse effects on your body. However, their different legal status’ means that tobacco is a highly taxed legal product that contributes a significant amount of revenue to HM Treasury, whereas cocaine users and suppliers get the cuffs. We started this international prohibition – along with the Yanks and the French – and we did what we did best: “It’s our way or the highway.” Substances where we had an economic interest (think alcohol and tobacco), sure, they can stay, but ‘foreign’ drugs (your opiates, coca, and hashish) – outlawed! Imagine if China and India were as powerful then as they are today – our drugs ‘menu’ may have looked very different…

My mum hates talking to me about why drugs are illegal. I think it reminds her of when she used to talk to me about Christianity once I had gotten to that age where I had read enough books and established my own thoughts that I was able to deconstruct it as fiction (don’t get me wrong – I’d love to believe in a God). The same thing happens with drugs. My mum’s general view is “drugs are bad…because they’re illegal…because the government says so.” It only takes a couple of back and forths for her to be a bit stumped. But, to be fair, my Mum isn’t alone. Lots of people take this view – and the view becomes further engrained as a result of right wing media. Drugs are married up with the image of the addict living in impoverished conditions, a burden on the welfare state. Only recently has the media picked up on quite how recreational – and downright normal – drug use is. I went to the Prince of Wales in Brixton last weekend and it seemed the whole of Notts Uni 3rd year turned up on the terrace. You looked around thinking, “You’re a lawyer… you’re an investment banker… you’re working at a top ad agency” – all absolutely on it. It was so pervasive that when one of my friends joined later he high-fived me on learning that, like him, I wasn’t on anything.

So we should all do copious amounts of drugs, right? They’re fantastic. Let’s live life like it’s fucking 1963 – wearing our tie-dye t-shirts whilst strolling through Haight-Ashbury. Well, no – there are downsides (obviously). Addiction. It’s not a myth, it is very real. It’s that invisible line that divides the recreational user down at Bussey Building on a Friday night, from the compulsive user, sat in their sleeping bag on the pavement by the entrance looking at you for 60p to deposit into their empty McDonald’s cup (you’re not sure if he’s looking at you or your mate as he’s taken so much crack he’s cross-eyed). The addict no longer controls his drug use – he is controlled by his drug. Tolerance builds up and larger and larger doses are required for the same effect, with the ultimate effect on the body spiralling out of control. For the staunchest prohibitionists – addiction is where all users will end up. This belief of the destructive effect of drugs on the body gives rise to cries for “something to be done!”. If individuals cannot control their drug use, authorities must step in to do so. This way of thinking is what informs drug policy in this country.

But I believe that the majority of drug problems arise from their prohibition, rather than the drugs themselves. Prohibition provides incentives for complex, organised crime networks, which in turn launder money and use violence – all those things we associate with the criminal underworld. Prohibition leads to corrupt government and law enforcement officials. It leads to the displacement of people and environmental damage to the land where they used to dwell. It leads to health problems within users due to unexpected strength, uncertain quality and unsanitary user equipment.

Yes, I’m for the legalisation of drugs (so’s my Dad – just don’t tell my Mum), but I’m not telling you to go out and use them. Matter of fact, if you wanted to use drugs, you probably already have. Their legalisation won’t change that.

Alcohol is a drug, Ecstacy is a drug. Take both in excess and you’ll be that guy that people look at and think: “he can’t handle his [x]”.

Written by Ell Leppard – very tall, great lid.

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