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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Why it is okay to 'fail'.

I don’t know how much of a ‘right’ I have to write this. Partially because I am still figuring it out for myself, partially because I have had a number of hiccups along the way and partially because I haven’t exactly ‘made it’ and am in no way living proof that this is right. 

One thing I do know is that I have been a shit tonne happier since I started thinking this way.

As a social media obsessed generation, we are so fixated on promoting the perfect lifestyle and doing so at a young age. It is deemed the 'goal' to have a flashy car, insane house and millions in the bank by the time you're 23. There's nothing wrong with having aspirations whatsoever, and this isn't the point I'm trying to make - these people have done incredibly well for themselves and good for them. Also, good for you if they inspire you to do your best. But people are going to unbelievable extents to portray this 'idealistic' lifestyle that we seem to have forgotten that we are only seeing the good stuff - the highlights, so to speak.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my future and where I want to be in life. I have also been feeling extremely left behind, unsuccessful and lazy. On every social media platform, all I see are people around my age settling down, buying houses, starting careers and building a life for themselves. Pretty much all of my high school friends are either about to graduate or already have done and if they didn’t go to university then they have a career. I feel like at the moment I am spending my days fannying about in a foreign country where I have about 11 hours of university a week and no part time job.

In all honestly, I have felt like a failure. Like I have let myself and everyone else down; like I am not as good as others and never will be.

I realise how good I have got it. I honestly do. However, I don’t think it is abnormal for me to be feeling a bit like a slow developer because I am still in the midst of doing all the things people did two or three years ago. I already deferred for a year after completing my A Levels so am a year behind everyone in that sense, but then I decided to do a four year degree course so am essentially two years behind. I will be 23 when I graduate whilst all my other friends were 21 and 23 just seems so “grown up”.

The problem is, I have never actually known what it is I want to DO in life. I know this is the golden question, because in reality who actually does know? But I have considered so many different career paths that I don’t even feel like I have a particular direction to go in. 

I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a policewoman. I wanted to be a teacher and wanted to be a hairdresser. I wanted to be a journalist, an actress, an author, an illustrator, a translator, a midwife, a tattoo artist, an art historian, a fashion designer and a painter. I left school after completing my final GCSE exam and went straight to my apprenticeship in hairdressing, then left after 6 months to study English, History, French and Sociology at A Level. Then it came to UCAS applications and I was accepted to Lancaster, Liverpool and both Manchester universities to study Law. On results day, I was accepted to my first choice - University of Manchester - and retracted my offer in order to study the UAL Art Foundation Diploma for a year and now I study Art History and Italian. In the final semester of first year I very nearly changed my degree to English for Education, but was convinced not to.

For the best part of the last five years I have struggled between wanting to stay in the security blanket that is education for as long as possible and wanting to keep up with everyone else. I also faced a lot of difficult points in my life which made me really struggle to attain good grades. I had always been naturally clever and not had to work very hard to achieve a high mark (basically I could bullshit my way to an A) but once I hit A Level it became very apparent that this was not going to work for me. I put in a lot of work and got some very good grades. This continued onto my foundation diploma where I was told I had JUST missed a distinction and the truth is if I had told them that the hand in date was actually the anniversary of my dad’s death and the reason why my work had started to slack, I probably would’ve got it. But I was over the moon that I had got a high Merit thanks to my own hard work and as someone who hadn’t picked up a paintbrush for two years prior to it, I think I did pretty well. 

Then came university and everything went downhill. I think that if you go to university and don’t fully enjoy your course or even see the point in it, then you’re never going to do well. I spent the first two years resenting myself for putting up with something I a) didn’t enjoy and b) wasn’t any good at. I had chosen to study a language because I liked the thought of being able to say, yes I study Italian and yes I can speak it - ask me to say something, watch me show off. I thought that as was studying it from scratch and had always been able to pick things up very easily, I would pass with flying colours and by fourth year be sat chatting to my friends in a foreign language I hadn’t known anything about four years prior.

Oh how naive I was.

First year was an absolute shit show mainly because I was so unhappy. I hated my halls with a passion, I hated my modules because the majority of the teachers - particularly in the Art History department, not so much in Italian - were stuck up arseholes and I just couldn’t grasp Italian whilst everyone else seemed to be cruising along with ease. I was in an awful relationship and spent all of my time and energy on that rather than on my education and routinely missed classes because I just couldn’t face the embarrassment of not understanding anything. I had dreamed of going to Manchester University ever since telling my sixth form tutor that I wanted to go to Manchester Met and he told me about the former. I had dreamt of meeting my best friends in my halls of residence, going out all the time, getting firsts in all my subjects and basically living the dream in one of my favourite cities. I still love and miss Manchester but I felt resentful towards it because I associated it with me being so unhappy. 

Second year began with all the intentions of making up for my previous year. It went worse, if possible. My horrid relationship ended around 3 months into it and I had already done pretty badly in one unit in particular but was getting firsts and 2:1’s in everything else. Then came semester 2 when my grandma passed away. I had planned to make up for my previous educational mishaps by working my arse off in semester 2 but as it happened I was working too much at my part time job, missing too many lessons and dealing with a lot of grief associated with my grandma but also my dad. I had gotten into a new relationship with someone who lived at home and spent the majority of my free time back there. I passed with a 2:2 and felt like I had completely let myself down.

I’m not trying to use this as an excuse to justify me not living up to my academic abilities, by the way. I am fully aware of the fact that if I had turned up more, studied more, not left my essays to the last minute and tried a bit harder, I could’ve easily gotten a 2:1 and maybe even a first last year. My point is that sometimes shit happens which knocks your confidence and motivation so much that you begin not to care anymore. Or, you care too much, but it scares you to think about it so you push it to the back of your mind and refuse to deal with it. Maybe it’s because you don’t see the point in it because you don’t know what you want to do in life - that was certainly one of my reasons for doing so badly. 

If coming to Italy has done one thing for me it is allowing me to have a break from the stress that is university in England in order to return with a clear head ready to face final year. I have actually enjoyed going to my classes this year and although the Italian grading system isn’t the same as ours, when converted into English grading the lowest I have got so far is 76%. It is as though I have found my old motivation to succeed and also sort of worked out the career I want to form afterwards. I have found a masters course I am really interested in doing and now need to buckle down and get a 2:1 at least in my degree in order to be able to do it.

The point of all of this is to basically say that it is okay to not know where you are going with life, but it is also okay to feel a bit shit that you haven’t got it sussed out. We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with pictures and updates of people who seem to be doing so well in life and are living it to the fullest, but the truth is we are just seeing the good parts. I can use myself as the perfect example of this - if you look through my instagram, I have loads of pictures of nights out, time with friends, things I have bought, places I have visited… not a single one shows me led in bed for the third day running, binge watching Netflix because I couldn’t bring myself to go to uni. They don’t show me arguing with my ex boyfriend for the billionth time and crying to my friends at uni because I didn’t know what to do. They don’t show me ringing up Barclays for the fiftieth time to ask them to extend my overdraft and have them laugh in my face. 

I honestly don’t think I will ever truly know what I want to do. I know what my dream career would be, but I don’t know if I will get there. That is okay too, so long as I don’t spend my entire life resenting myself for not doing it. Whenever I start to get jealous that another one of my friends has bought a house or someone I know is doing amazingly well at work, I remember something my boyfriend told me a couple of months ago.

‘You will spend my entire life going to work and paying for a mortgage. There is no point worrying that everyone else has done it before you’.

I will get there and in the mean time I will enjoy being in my twenties, healthy, without any responsibilities and living in a beautiful country with the ability to travel whenever I want.

It took me moving abroad to actually start enjoying education again and want to do well in it. For the past two years I had felt as if the world owed me a favour - if one thing started to go well, something shit would happen and then I would be back to square one. I was unbelievably bitter and unhappy that my university experience had gone so badly that I just didn’t see the point in it any more. I never thought I would get to the stage in my life where I looked forward to going to class and didn’t sit in bed contemplating whether it was okay to miss yet another lecture. The teachers here know me by name and ask my opinion on things, not because I have done badly but because I have such an interest in doing well. I envied people who had that in Manchester and now feel as though I might actually graduate with a grade which reflects my abilities. 

I have also learnt to give myself a break. Not in the same way I used to, where I would ‘allow’ myself to miss a class because I had attended a different one that day and that in itself was an achievement. I have learnt that I don’t need to give myself a hard time for my grades if I have actually done the work to get them. There is also no point in worrying about the grades I got in the past two years because they happened and shit had happened and I can improve upon them in my final year. I know what I need to achieve a 2:1 and what I need to get a first. I am going to be living with my best friends in final year who are all way, way better at Italian than me and who I know will help me when or if I start slipping back into my old attitude. I’ll probably turn into a fat alcoholic but I don’t see why I won’t graduate with a decent enough grade.

This is starting to get a little rambly now - why is it so easy for me to write a 2000 word blog post yet a 2000 word essay takes me about 10 years and fifty breaks? - but the point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need to worry if you don’t know where you’re at just yet. You will get a job, you will get a house and you will do well in life. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were you, these things just take time. 

The important thing is to ‘enjoy the journey’. There is no point wishing your life away, expectant for the day you have 'made it'. Fully aware that right now I sound like I should be sat in a tent, burning some incense and wearing Birkenstocks, but the journey is way more important than the end result because it shapes you and makes you realise where you actually want to be. I had to try a couple of different things before starting to realise what it is I wanted to do and could do well in, and even now I sometimes doubt that it will all come together. But this time I have a new approach and am willing to treat my failures as lessons and learn from them in the future. 
Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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