21 things I have learnt in 21 years

Today marks my 21st birthday and in the space of a year a lot has happened. I’ve written a dissertation, graduated, said goodbye to Newcastle, lived through a national lockdown and secured a place on an MA. I’ve learnt so much being a twenty-year-old woman and I hope that by talking openly about some of my experiences that it may help someone in a similar position. 

  1. What is meant for you won’t pass you by 

This is a piece of advice that my Gran has always recited to me since I was young. It’s useful to remember this advice in the moments when you don’t get what you want. Over the past few years I’ve gone for interviews, written essays and taken tests that have not turned out the way I wanted them to. Not getting the mark you wanted or job opportunity you wanted can feel awful, but over time you realise in hindsight that if it was meant to be it would happen. When you’re adulting in your twenties there are so many moments when you have to experience rejection. However, I think that it’s important to not always get what you want as it makes you a stronger and kinder person as you understand what it feels like to struggle.

2. Work experience is a game changer

The work experience I’ve had over the past few years has completely changed my job prospects. For example, at the last minute in my final semester of my BA I found out that there was an opportunity to do work experience at a local media production company as one of my final modules. I jumped at the chance and ran to the English office and changed onto the Cultural Industries Placement module and it opened so many doors for me. I hope to one day work in the screen industry, so to have an opportunity to work alongside a BAFTA nominated screenwriter and develop a funding application had a huge impact on me as a student. I truly believe that it is down to this work experience that I managed to secure a place on my Screenwriting MA.

3. How to make a documentary 

In the first semester of my final year I was able to plan and film my own four-minute documentary about an aspect of my life. I chose to make a film about my relationship with Catholicism having attended Catholic schools for the majority of my childhood. After contacting numerous churches across Newcastle, I finally found one church that would allow me to film inside. I filmed the entire documentary myself and edited it on Adobe Premiere Pro. To date it is one my proudest achievements and it was by far the best module I took during my BA. 

4. Take pictures of your rental property when you move in 

Renting privately for the last two years has taught me how important it is to take photographic evidence of damage in your property when you move in. I’ve heard so many horror stories from other students dealing with difficult landlords and letting agencies so having photographic evidence of any damage is always handy. For my final year I made sure to do this as when I first moved in, I found a pile of broken furniture and someone else’s food and clothes. It prevents any blame being pushed onto you at the end of a tenancy or any deductions being taken from your deposit. 

5. Selling second-hand clothes is an easy way of making quick money 

Since coming back home to Leicester I have been selling tonnes of old clothes on Vinted and Depop. Personally, I have had more success on Vinted, and I much prefer that they add 10% on for a buyer to pay for an item as opposed to taking a 10% cut from the money the seller earns (which is what Depop do). I was surprised that women were willing to buy second-hand Primark dresses and jumpsuits as I was convinced that only big brands would sell second-hand. So, if you’re strapped for cash and need some extra money, I would really recommend selling some of your old clothes. 

6. Customer service jobs are a good way of improving your confidence

One of the best decisions I ever made was becoming a waitress in my early teens as it not only allowed me to make my own money, but it also gave me the opportunity to gain real confidence. When you’re in a customer service job you have to talk to strangers constantly, so you become desensitised to talking to people that you don’t know. It helped me a lot when I came to uni as I had already been in situations where I was in a room full of strangers, so I felt better prepared. 

7. Newcastle is one of the best places to live in the UK

Having spent three years living in Newcastle I can honestly say it is an amazing place to live. It is true that the Geordies are incredibly friendly. I always felt safe in Newcastle too even when I was a fresher. I’m really glad that I went up North for uni rather than staying close to home. Newcastle was the first place that I found my independence and because of that it will always mean a lot to me. 

8. Polaroid cameras are expensive, but they are worth the money 

I bought a Polaroid camera just before Christmas and I can honestly say it is the best thing I’ve bought in the last year. It is the polaroid film that makes it so expensive as it is around £35 for 50 polaroids. I bought my camera in the Urban Outfitters sale and I honestly love it so much. I’ve been able to capture the majority of my third year on film and I love to sit and flick through my polaroid albums if I need a pick-me-up. 

9. Your marks/grades are not the be-all and end-all

I learnt this after my A-levels. In the last few months of college I worked ten to the dozen over my A-levels. I would wake up and just sit at a table and work until I went to bed. I managed to get 2 A*s and an A by the end of it, however I realised that I wished that I had enjoyed the time more. In hindsight I recognised that I did not need to worry so much as I got above what I needed to get into my first choice uni. When I came to Newcastle, I promised myself that I would have a balance and really prioritise trying different societies as well as working hard academically. I finished my degree with a mark I’m really proud of and I managed to also get a first in my screenplay dissertation which meant the world to me. 

10. Being kind to yourself is so important 

If you’re anything like me, you are often your own harshest critic. I’ve realised as I’ve got older how important it is to be kinder to yourself. You deserve to feel good in yourself. You are winning when you feel positive. That is success. Young women especially experience so much pressure from a young age about the way that they look when it should be about how they feel. Knowing your own self-worth is vital because if you don’t know your worth before you leave your house in the morning you will accept things that you don’t deserve. 

11. I can survive a national lockdown 

2020 has been eventful and we are only about halfway through it. I never would have thought a year ago that I would have graduated at home in Leicester after sitting in lockdown for months in Newcastle. I think being in lockdown has taught us all about appreciating the little things. Lockdown was tough but we made the most of it. 

12. Tik Tok is addictive 

I downloaded Tik Tok as a joke and now I’m addicted to watching videos of people setting up their own businesses. Throughout lockdown I have spent hours on Tik Tok as it has been a good way of making the time pass quicker. I recently found two young girls on Tik Tok who have set up businesses designing bags. I recently got an embroidered Kanken and a personalised tote (both of which I love). So, I’ll link their handles here as they are both amazing small businesses worth supporting. 

13. Don’t use cheap products on your skin 

This is coming from someone who has dealt with breakouts since I was in year 7. Don’t buy cheap skincare products because you will regret it. Drinking two full bottles of water daily vastly improved my acne in my teens. If you’re conscious about your skin speak to your GP as certain medication or products can vastly improve your skin. Don’t buy make-up wipes as they just drag your make up around your face and this was a major mistake of mine when I was in my early teens.

14. How to apply for a Masters 

Applying for a Masters was incredibly difficult during the Coronavirus lockdown as I couldn’t go into uni and speak to my careers advisor in person or get the advice of my lecturers. Doing everything online was stressful, however now that it is done, I’m incredibly relieved and I can now enjoy my summer. My advice to anyone considering applying for a masters would be to research the course early and make sure you are aware of the application deadline. I applied for four different MA’s in total to give me an array of different options. I was overjoyed with the response that I got from the different uni’s and taking part in multiple interviews helped boost my confidence. Now I can’t wait to start my MA in Screenwriting in a few months. 

15. The 1 second a day app is worth getting 

I discovered the 1 second a day app from someone who filmed a second everyday of their third year. I started using it at the beginning of lockdown and I’ve kept it up every day since. It’s so wholesome to watch snippets of each day. I can now look back at the highlights of lockdown and the rest of my third year. 

16. Learning to be grateful for the bad moments 

This idea originates from Ferne Cotton’s book Happy (which I cannot recommend enough). Ferne talks about acceptance and gratitude and learning to be grateful for the shit moments as well as the good moments. It’s easier to be grateful for the moments when you succeed. It’s much harder to look back on the worst moments and find some good in them. This idea really resonated with me and it taught me about looking back on the ‘bad’ moments and finding a lesson in them. For example, in first semester of second year I worked so hard on an essay and did not get a mark I was happy with and I was completely gutted. Now I can look back and realise that it was because of that bad mark that I learnt the importance of reading the recommended reading rather than just independently finding books I believed were relevant. 

17. Don’t take medical advice from random people on online forums 

This is something a nurse told me years ago. Do not look to people who are not qualified to give you medical advice. It can be hard to not search your symptoms, but it will make you feel so much worse. Contact your GP online, use the NHS 111 service or book an appointment with a nurse/doctor. Do not read the experiences of other people as it will convince you that you are on the brink of death. 

18. Living in Jesmond is not worth the hype 

Anyone who has been to university in Newcastle will understand the hype surrounding living in Jesmond. Having lived both in and out of Jesmond during my BA I can honestly say I don’t think it is worth the money. I’m sure many people would disagree with me, but it is so overpriced to live in a student property in the heart of Jesmond. The noise from your neighbours is awful. I was woken up on a weekly basis from house parties. I think my opinion might have been tainted from living beside houses of 7+ people who would party nearly every day of the week. Visiting the local businesses and bars in Jesmond is so much fun, but I think if I were staying in Newcastle for another year I would be going back to live in Sandyford. 

19. Hamilton is worth the hype 

I have always loved musicals since I was young as my Mum always used to take me to see shows for special events, although I did not think prior to watching Hamilton that I would enjoy it. I was unsure about the songs being rap, but I can say now after listening to the soundtrack religiously for the past two weeks, that it is worth watching. I’m planning on re-watching the show on Disney + and the moment that the theatres begin to reopen I will be buying a ticket to see the show live.

20. How to write a screenplay dissertation

The concept of a dissertation stressed me out long before I ever got close to starting one. I remember hearing my friends in the year above panicking about their dissertations, so I was relieved that mine did not have to be 10,000 words +. I wrote a 5,000-word short film script, a 1000-word synopsis and a 1500-word self-reflective essay. This was by far the best thing I have ever written during my entire degree. My advice to anyone producing a creative writing diss would be to pick a topic you love because you’ll be writing about it for a long time, to start writing it early because you will be editing it a lot and finally to be prepared to change huge chunks of your writing if your diss tutor wants you to. 

21. How to graduate with a 2:1 (Hons) in English Lit & Creative Writing 

Recently I received my online degree certificate and I’m so happy with the marks I have attained in my third year. Whilst I may not be getting a graduation this year, I cannot wait to have my arches photo in the future. 

One thought on “21 things I have learnt in 21 years

  1. I also graduated in this pandemic!! I really struggled with my mental health and anxiety having had to do exams in this state, somehow I got a first class in the end. I like these tips though, especially the one about being kind on yourself. I wish you all the best for life in the working world!!

    Liked by 1 person

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