How to Win at Pompeii

andy-holmes-732846-unsplash

📸 Andy Holmes via Unsplash

Even at 9am, the Mediterranean sun aggressively splits through the sky and I’ve long since whipped off the thin jumper I wore over my cotton playsuit as protection against the early morning and heavily air-conditioned flight from LGW.

Standing sticky from a full-body application of sun cream liberally applied in the loos of baggage reclaim, D and I wait as part of a crowd hanging by Napoli Airport bus stop to take us into the city centre.

As the anticipated bus pulls to a standstill, the impatient congregation swarm like bees around a honeypot. Slipping to the front of the hive, we buy our tickets and collect the obligatory expected sigh from the driver as he sorted out €16.48 in change from our fresh and flat tourist-twenty.

We plant ourselves midway down the body of the carriage, the suitcase we’re sharing rocks and bashes against our bare legs with every bumbling jolt of movement as the scruffy city of Naples races past the windows.

‘Piazza di’ Garibaldi’ a cool robotic voice comes through the speakers.

The doors retract open and passengers stream out as D and I haul our suitcase onto the blazing pavement. A pungent smelly mix of exhaust fumes and hot rubbish sliced through with urine causes a harmonised nose wrinkle from us both. We can see our next port of transport – Napoli Centrale train station – in the distance, down and across the road from where we disembarked.

The streets pulse with locals going about their regular Thursday morning. I march forward, weaving in and out the parade of people, D clasps the handle of the suitcase and rolls behind me.

Employing tag-team efforts we manoeuvre the case down escalators and steps, self-assured in following the light blue line, per Sorrento. Underground, the warm maze of strip-lights, linear colours, and discoloured tiles zap our confidence almost immediately. There were no further light blue lines to follow. Craning our necks, twisting on tip-toes and flitting around corners just to see if there ‘might be a sign over here’ D and I give up willing a marker for Pompeii or Sorrento to appear from nothing and gabble our trouble to a non-English speaking station official. He relays correct directions to where we needed to be in bellowing Italian and exaggerated hand gestures.

Copying back to ourselves the sequenced flicks of the wrist and pointing of fingers, our feet took directions to the automatic gates guarding the train platforms dressed in the per Sorrento baby-blue stripes putting us back on track.

Behind our triumph, another pocket of swarming travellers hum and buzz and shout in chaotic lines outside three ticket windows. A different station official guides D and I to the smallest of the queues. ‘Pompeii Scavi?’ I say slow and loud in uncertain ignorance attempting a native pronunciation. The bored man behind the glass says nothing but beckons for money to be pushed through the bowl at the base of the pane. I have no idea how much the tickets cost, nor did we have the time to sit and work it out. Bibbing ourselves through the gates and glancing down more stairs at the platform, D breathes out a low and drawn out ‘Oh shit’.

Below us is a sea of people. Crammed, sweaty, tinned sardines all expectantly waiting. Hoicking the suitcase down a flight of stairs in efficient synchronicity, we meet the fringes of our next battle. Again I lead, threading through the masses, stopping every third or fourth step to check on D and see if she wants to swap. She’s fine.

I secure us a spot on the platform with a little breathing room, eyeing the old display board hanging above us which displayed Sorrento ‘It’s the next one’ I say.

A tall girl steps through the mobs surrounding us. Wearing a white broderie anglaise midi-dress, she stood out as a gulp of sartorial oxygen amongst the denim shorts and rhinestone belly tops favoured by the gaggles of Italian teenagers that makes up large portions of the crowd. ‘Excuse me’ she says in a soft lilted accent of America’s deep south. ‘Does the next train from here go to Sorrento?’ D and I stare at her for a silent beat, momentarily transfixed by how strikingly beautiful she is amongst the drab dinge of the platform. I first notice her skin; Disney-princess pale and impossibly clear, save for a constellation of freckles scattered across her nose and cheeks. Her face is sweetly cherubic; the likes only usually seen perfectly preserved hanging in a museum bought to life by expert glowy brush strokes of Renaissance masters. Dark auburn-red hair tied into a long bouncy ponytail swishes behind her as she talks. ‘Yeah, we think so’ D smiles.

The Tall Girl smiles back and continues picking her way down the horde, pure white and red flash against the dull muted mass of other travellers. An approaching train whooshes more clammy sour air into the platform hall as I watch The Tall Girl disappear, thinking she looks too clean to be taking a grimy train from Naples on what appeared to be her own.

‘No Sorrento’ a woman calls above the rumble of the train as she shakes her head in conversation with another woman. My ears prick, breaking the spell gazing after The Tall Girl and turn my attention to the two ladies in front of me. ‘No Sorrento’, she shouts and shakes her head again.

Fuck. I panic we’ve just lead a woman travelling by herself to an impending doom of Taken-style proportions or worse. I consider battling through the crowds to get to her but they’re too dense to push through. An incoherent mumble comes from the platform speakers, barely audible above the noise from below. Maybe that was something about this train not being for Sorrento?

I really hope so, as I can’t see The Tall Girl in the now thinned out pack of people left over from the departing train.

Five minutes later, another vacuum of rotten wind charges into the platform hall. This is the train to Sorrento. The carriage is heavy with humidity and sweat and people. D and I cram ourselves and our case into a far corner, next to the doors on the opposite side from where we get on. We are both firmly stuck under separate pairs of damp male armpits.

To escape the unpleasant view at my eye level, I twist my head towards the back of the car. White and red immediately pulls my interest – there she is. The Tall Girl was safely on the right train and sat in a seat facing away from me. The back of her gleaming dress and shiny hair, a beacon once more in a sea of drab. ‘Oh thank God’. I nudge D and point her out in relief.

The journey rattles through 13 stations before Pompeii. The pressure of passengers taking up the car slowly drains away with each stop. The armpits are gone too and we can both breathe a little better.

‘Pompeii Scavi’ is melodically announced over the tannoy.

Back into the searing sun and cleaner air, a steady current of people file down to the platform exit of Pompeii Scavi towards shouting and the brightly coloured umbrellas of local tour guides.

‘The queue to get into Pompeii is at a two-hour wait, if you come with me you’ll go straight in’

‘English-speaking tour of Pompeii starting in 10 minutes’

‘ Unless you’re with my tour, you will be waiting nearly three hours to get into Pompeii’

Turning to each other, D and I figure the tour-touts at the station were exaggerating wait times to pressgang visitors into their groups. We want the freedom to roam the site without restrictions of having to traipse off after a group and we also weren’t overly keen shelling out a possible €15+ on top of the €15 admission fee – protecting the holiday’s prosecco budget where we could was naturally the main factor in this decision.

From researching the logistics of this excursion in the weeks leading up to the holiday, I home in on signs for the station’s luggage room to offload our suitcase. Paying €3 for the whole day, the case is safely stored and we sail by the still bellowing tour guides prowling the concourse.

The clamourous guides weren’t lying.

The what-seemed-like-miles of people forming a snaking line equated to definite two-hour wait. D and I join the end of the queue, clinging to slivers of hope and optimism that it looks worse than it actually is. That somehow, miraculously, the line would magically go down quickly and we wouldn’t fry from standing around nearly 35degree of direct sunlight.

Wilting in the heat in less than 10 minutes we reluctantly start googling ‘Pompeii fast track tickets’ and ‘Pompeii official tour guides’, conceding to let our precious booze budget take a hit. Scrolling through the mass of information D holds up her hand and says ‘ It says here that the best time to queue up for tickets is at 9am or 1pm. There’s another comment here on TripAdvisor from someone saying the exact thing too. ‘Wait until 1.30pm.’ What do you think?’

It’s just coming up to midday. My tummy speaks in response, signalling it was finished digesting the chocolate croissant from the 5am Pret stop this morning.

‘We could risk it? Go have lunch and wait to see if the line does go down.’ I jerk my head in the direction of a roadside restaurant sitting under an orange grove capitalising on the perpetual flow of sight-seers. The queue hadn’t as much as crept half a step forward since we become part of the tourism traffic.

D nods.

Moving from the line much to the loud delight of the people behind us who gain an advancement of less than a foot towards the far-far-away ticket office (just calm down Karen, you’ve still got a long way to go). We scuttle out of Pompeii’s gates to a welcome round of ‘Ciao Bellas’ and icy Aperol spritz’s at the restaurant opposite. Our table is outside under a shady canopy. Overly-ripe oranges and vines dangling above us scent and absorb the dry Italian heat; as we have a direct view of the queue it makes an absolute dream set-up to people-watch those milling around Pompeii’s entrance.

A basket of squidgy warm bread and a ceramic pot of olives is plonked down next to us after ordering mains. D and I ‘salute‘ our goblets of Aperol and finally catch up with each other’s life news and plans from the last two weeks in explicitly minute detail; occasionally breaking from the flow of chat to tear through chunks of focaccia drowned in vinegary oil.

Wheel-sized plates arrive sometime later, and as we tuck into griddle pan vegetables with strips of melting mozzarella, D glances up at the queue ‘Still looks busy’ she says slowly chewing on a mouthful. ‘We’ve still got 40 minutes until 1.30pm. If not, we’ll just join the line again and chalk this move up to a delicious mistake’ I shrug in reply.

Feeling incredibly full and lazy from the heat and spritzes, we draw out the last dregs of our drinks. Another pause in the conversation causes us both to check out the line. But there’s nothing to look at because all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people, have gone.

The entrance looks like a ghost town.

No shouty-guides, no screaming children, no impatient fellow tourists ready to elbow you out of the way and not one group leader waving a flag-topped stick up in the air within sight.

‘Ahh I love the internet’ D smiles with satisfaction ‘I guess we’ve just won Pompeii’ she says clinking her glass with mine.

ACTUAL USEFUL TIPS FOR POMPEII

1/ If you have bulky luggage with you, stick it in the luggage check at Pompeii Scavi train station. The lockers are guarded all day and cost €3. A small price to pay for an afternoon to be blissfully bag-free.

2/ Suncream, sunglasses, sunhats and natural fibre clothing (cotton = your best friend) are VITAL if you are visiting in the summer. Not only can Italy get hotter than Satan’s balls, there’s little to zero shade protection once through the ticketed gate.

3/ Take a water bottle with you. They have refilling stations (from taps that look like they’re well acquainted with a garden hose or two. But hey, beggars most certainly can’t be choosers) all over the site that are free to use.

4/ Go either at the crack of dawn (8.30am if you’re interested as to what I class as dawn) or wait until after 1.30pm to get your tickets. Any time between those two points will have you misspending precious hours standing in line having to listen to Cindy from Arizona complain about the lack of Starbucks on the Amalfi Coast (I mean come on Cindy get a bloody grip, you’re in coffee-mad Italy for fuck’s sake.)

5/ Pompeii is a city don’t forget, so it is bloody massive. You won’t be able to see everything even if you spent a full day there. Plan what you definitely want to visit (the replica Roman villas are cool, the museum is supposed to be fantastic, the brothel with Roman erotica painted on the walls is a highlight as was the amphitheatre) and hit those first. That leaves you time to potter through the streets and come across something unexpected as a bonus. Mary Beard is an authority on Pompeii and her ‘what to do’ article is invaluably helpful.

6/ Like I said, even though it’s a ruin, it’s still a city. Comfy flat shoes are not-negotiable. Those tottering around on the very old, very cobbled and very uneven streets in heels may have great insta-pics but are essentially morons. Don’t be that person.

7/ There is one restaurant within the actual city walls but it is dank, clammy and served sad looking food. Either eat before you go or have lunch in one of the restaurants that circle the site. Yes, they are a bit expensive but what tourist-traps aren’t. The one D and I went to gave us a lot for our money and it was nice being under the oranges as it made the air smell like Tropicana juice.

8/ Don’t go in with a tour guide if you like doing things at your own pace. The groups are large and people have said it was a waste of money because they couldn’t hear the guide unless they became their literal shadow.

9/ Do a little research on what actually went down at Pompeii before you go. Yes a volcano erupted, thousands died blah blah blah but the story of Pompeii itself; what it was like as a city, who it’s people were, what did life look like there, why did people ignore the rumbling Vesuvius to stay and what happened in the aftermath of it’s defining tragedy is so so so so fascinating if you’re into history and cultural anthropology. Mary Beard also has a book that covers all this and is an excellent resource to swot up with (the audio version of this book is wonderful if you’re not a big reader).

10/ If you don’t have a lot of time to wander, consider going to Herculaneum (accessible by train from Naples). It tends to be much much quieter, more compact, better preserved and you’ll still get your fix of horror struck skeletons realising they are about to perish in the volcanic pyroclastic flow… get your cameras ready!

How to Win at Pompeii

10-Minute Chat:​ Actor

’10-MINUTE CHAT’ IS A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS TALKING WITH EXTRAORDINARY ‘NORMAL’ PEOPLE NAVIGATING INTERESTING CAREERS, LIVING REMARKABLE LIVES AND FOLLOWING THEIR PASSIONS.

 

giphy1535998379

 

If you could go back and ‘do it all again’, what path would you take?

Would you be an artist? A teacher? A mechanic? Or pay more attention in science classes and go on to study medicine? Even as young adults in our mid-twenties (babies forchristsake) the feeling of ‘you’re now too old to start something new’ gets shoved down throats on a daily basis. That if you’re not on track to reach dizzying heights of career success before you’re 30, well then just quietly dismantle those ambitions now my dear. Articles profiling the latest wünderkid in fashion / politics / business / tech, roundup ‘ones to watch’ lists of bright P.Y.Ts and tidbits of information your mum casually passes on over a cuppa about ‘Jane’s son is deputy head of his department now. And he’s only 25’ feed this societal narrative that if you’re going to seriously pursue something, you should’ve started chasing it straight from the womb.

Sticking two fingers up at that boring rhetoric at the grand old age of 21, Daisy Marsh halted on the conventional school-uni-work-death road and shifted her life course towards fulfilling her dream in becoming a professional actor. She took a giant scary leap back into education three years ago to learn her craft and hasn’t stopped since.

‘ I’ve always known that I wanted to work in theatre, but I think I was slightly confused maybe as to what it was I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do backstage. I wrote letters to all the theatres in London – I had an Excel spreadsheet of everyone I’d applied to and all the contact I’ve had with them – asking to do some kind of work experience as a stage manager. I thought that seemed fun.

Interview with actress Daisy Marsh

Daisy got her break when a theatre gave her the chance to learn the ropes of stage managing a production. But the realisation she wanted to be working in the spotlight, rather than the wings, hit three shows in..

‘ The director (Carl Heap) in the rehearsal room got all the production team involved the warming up exercises. I just wanted to carry on doing that instead of actually going out and getting props. Sometimes I had to read in for people and I loved it so much. But I thought I was too old, I thought I was too late.

I started talking very tentatively to the actors and questioning them ‘how did you get into it?’ and ‘do you think it’s too late for me?’ because I was 21 (which of course now seems silly to think that’s too old). And they said no, absolutely not, it’s never too late to go for it and you should absolutely do it. I probably thought about it, solidified it and then built up the courage to tell people that I wanted to do that through the next two shows I did there.’

Set on course to approach acting seriously as a profession and with a big old pinch of ‘fuck it, why not’, Daisy packed in the stage manager’s job, moved to Battersea, started working in a London pub and applied for drama school.

She didn’t get in.

Undeterred, she continued the rest of the year auditioning and learning as much as she could about acting. That tenacity paid off as in 2013 the Oxford School of Drama accepted her onto their foundation course.

‘When I got in somewhere, that sealed it for me. I was doing lots of amateur stuff and writing a bit, but no one in the profession had ever said ‘Oh you could probably do that’. When the Oxford School of Drama said ‘ You can come on our foundation course we don’t think you’re completely shit, maybe you could be a bit better and we’ll teach you.’ It was cemented even further when I got there and I fucking loooooovvvveed it. I could not get enough information, even now I can’t learn enough.’

And it’s that thirst for learning, improving and mastering the delicate art of acting that’s driving her ambitions rather than the trappings of fame (although Daisy notes her initial thoughts on acting were ‘it would quite nice to be famous and not work in an office’ – um, hands up who’s had that fantasy?!).d quote 2

 

‘ I can see the places that I want to get to and I can see other actors doing it. There’s a great actor called Rory Kinnear, he has this certain style; very uncomplicated, direct, natural, simplistic style. I know that this is the style that I want to aspire to…I want to act in a similar way to Rory Kinnear but I can’t get there yet. I’m always asking what do I need to do to change it and I work really hard. It’s interesting to me that no matter how hard I work – that’s not it. I need to change my approach to everything. How people think, how people react to things and how when it works it can be so powerful. It can really affect people, I find that so fascinating. What makes someone watch someone else go through something and they, in turn, feel an emotion and find that entertaining. Some people go and see things twice or over and over again. What are you going back for? Because that film makes you feel an emotion, it’s an addictive thing where you want to feel that emotion over and over again. That concept is so so cool, getting people to come along with you in a situation – I want to be able to do that. ‘

One of her perceived biggest challenges is what those nearest and dearest to you will think once your secret dreams are brought to life by being spoken out loud.

‘ People were generally great. It’s so funny how you think people are going to react a certain way, I was so nervous about telling people – because in my head it was so ridiculous that I was going to go back to education but not only that, that I was going to go and do acting.’

Expecting to be talked down from the ledge, Daisy found her parent’s reaction even more surprising.  

d quote 3

‘ I had just gone through three years of university and I expected them to blow up, telling me not to be ridiculous, you’ve got this degree, you’ve got to use it. I was so worried about telling them, I felt it would be embarrassing saying it to them because it’s seen as ‘not a real career’ when everyone around you is getting real-life adult jobs… But mum was like, well you’ll have to look it up and research and get information about it. They were so supportive. They were almost a bit like ‘we always knew you would do this, it was just a matter of when’.

And like 99.9% of us who fling ourselves out there trying to follow our dreams, moving away to Oxford, resetting the clock and going back to school for Daisy was utterly terrifying. So scary in fact that nearly four years down the line still is prone to ‘what am I doing wobbles’, especially when friends are excelling with ‘normal’ jobs and money to buy cars and clothes.

And what about the acting industry itself? A year ago Daisy was terrified at taking a wallop at *the* hardest career to crack above all else, but close relationships with peers who are freshly graduated and trying to make it inspire her and kind of ease the worries. As well as the realistic professional development that the school drills into its pupils.

‘ Our school isn’t very big or well-known compared to RADA or LAMDA or anywhere, but the professional development that our school drills into us is ‘you’re not going to get overnight success’ the realistic possibility of that happening is so unbelievably small. And you’ve just got work really really hard and be as good as you can be. Obviously, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to come in waves all the time. Maybe you’ll get an audition, maybe you’ll get like 20 auditions and you get three call-back, and then you might get one job out of that which could last a day or it might last 18 months. I know loads of people who’ve had parts in plays at the National, one of the most prestigious you can get probably and they haven’t worked for a year after that and then have got something. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint. Something our school keeps telling us – in 5 years a quarter of the class won’t be working in the industry any more and then 10 years, ¾ quarters and then there will only be 5 of us doing any kind of acting work at all. And that’s going to be true of any drama school class that comes out. I know that I have to be honest with myself and even though I’ve made this commitment and I’m loving it, doesn’t mean that in 10 years I could really be sick of it and go be a fucking yoga instructor or something.’

I asked her to expand on what she thought her safety net career option would be if she fell out of love with acting.

d-quote-4.jpg

‘I think everyone should have ideas of other careers to try. I think it’s so silly to think that I’m going to do this one thing for the rest of my life and that’s all I’m going to do. That just shuts you down to so many things. I want to do loads of stuff. And doing this has made me remember that I really like psychology for instance. We have a teacher at school who takes a movement class called Feldenkrais and I’m finding that concept really interesting as it’s about how you move, your awareness of your body and how you present yourself to other people – I could talk about it for ages.’

We spoke at length on who she admires within her industry, who inspires her  

‘ I admire Rory Kinnear, and the people who’ve come out of my school who work very hard. There’s a woman called Faye Castelow who’s now in the RSC. There’s Simon McBurney who founded and runs a theatre company called ‘Complicite’ and it’s completely unlike anything else that anyone has ever done. Just everyday people who make their own way in it, who work really really hard and go for it.’

Her schedule at drama school varies day to day but starts the same with getting a bus up to the school on a little remote Oxfordshire farm. Her first class is always a warm-up which the students run through only working on themselves, doing yoga and warming up their voices for the day ahead.

Subjects range from practising resonance and sound connection in voice class, applied movement and project work – e.g. Shakespeare in Film and how you would adapt a play like Macbeth for film compared to a stage production. Daisy delves into the minutiae of explaining the release of emotion can be a little smaller and more subtle on film which is interesting when looking in to the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotting murder and that they’d be played totally differently on stage.

As well as growing as an actor, she’s surprised to have discovered more of a ‘fight’ than ‘flight’ instinct.

‘I thought I was much more of a flight person, but actually, I’m beginning to be more of a fighter. I think I’m believing more that I deserve to be here. In everyday circumstances, even now you’re asking me stuff and I’ve got a million different thoughts and I think ‘Does she really want to know that’

Me: Answer is yes, yes I want to know everything!

‘But that’s my own inhibition, not knowing if I’m mumbling on a bit, am I swearing? Am I not swearing enough? Do I seem quite cool if I swear? I don’t know! My brain’s going at a million miles a second and just now very recently being able to put that voice aside. That’s literally only happened in the last six months. Being able to be completely yourself unapologetically and not really worry about what’s going on in other people’s heads. Because as long as you’re nice to everyone I don’t see any problem with really being yourself.’

Me: Is it an age thing?

‘Oh yeah absolutely. Do you think you’ve noticed a difference?’

Me: As soon I hit mid-twenties I felt very unaccomplished. Like ‘I’m 25, Taylor Swift had a whole empire by the age of 19 and what the hell have I ever done? I’ve done nothing.’ It was one of the big pushes quitting my ‘safe’ job and moving abroad and now I’m back, focusing more on writing… I don’t care if anybody laughs at me for trying to do this because I feel like I would want to read this, so someone else will as well.

And what about the future of theatre? Daisy makes it clear theatre is the medium she wants to end up in, but with platforms like Netflix and YouTube churning quality content for free the impact on the theatre-world could be significant.

More and more it’s changing with the times and making shows more accessible. The RSC has past productions available to watch online, The National Theatre and the Royal Opera run a lot of live screenings of their shows to be watched in the cinema or over the internet. However, she firmly believes that traditional theatre will always be relevant.

d-quote-5.jpg

‘There’s a thrill… and I don’t think you could ever deny that when you go into a theatre, whether it be musical or a serious play. The adrenaline that you get from just being present – you’re with them. You’re moving through it. You’re connected to them if they’re good. You feel things, and when the lights go down and there’s an atmosphere. You just can’t beat it. I think it’s really special.’

Daisy and I have been friends for roughly 16 years and always felt free to chat about anything under the sun together. A couple of times when we’ve been down the pub she’s mentioned the importance to stick to a certain weight, but has never (as far as I can tell) found it to be all-consuming like so many actors before her. I ask how she combats those pressures and has she honestly found herself succumbing to a less than ‘normal’  relationship with food and her body.

‘I have always been fine in that regard. It’s so easy to go down that dark path and I thank my lucky stars that I have dodged that bullet. Because ohmygod it must be horrendous to battle. I think connected to acting, it is really easy to think like that. I look a certain way, I know that when I walk into a room, it’s a hard business and people are going to be looking for someone to cast against a particular type or aesthetic. I’m a little bit older too, so I have to think about that. The only thing that I’ve changed is moisturising regularly now.’

Thankfully her school is hyper-aware, looking for any hint that a student could be slipping into unhealthy habits. Daisy goes on to describe how family-oriented and protective the school is, giving pupils 3 or 4 private meetings with senior staff members and the principal to check in with how they are feeling and getting on.

Daisy is keen to keep her repertoire versatile, she wants to do lots of things and embrace changing her mind. When she first started, she wanted to do period dramas ‘Like 1940s type dramas, middle-class people going through issues etc. And now I like completely off-the-wall movement stuff.’ she laughs.

‘ Acting is addictive. When you get it right, it’s fucking mental. There are times when I do things and then think ‘Fuck I really became a different person there’. I felt completely different, completely mentally and physically free – and, ohmygod, it’s like surfing. I don’t surf but I imagine it’s like surfing – you catch a wave and you’re riding this wave, you feel unstoppable and you’re in the moment completely. It’s incredible. And then when someone else recognises that in your performance and comes up to say ‘Shit man that was really cool.’ That feeling…There’s always so much more to learn. You’re trying to learn how to change yourself essentially. That’s so difficult to grab hold of, that it’s addictive to try and get hold of it. There’s always something to chase after. There will never be a day where I feel like I know everything about acting.’

It’s abundantly clear that following the love of the job for Daisy holds more value than chasing the cash. But she acknowledges how privileged she is with supportive parents and means to always have a roof over her head. And to be brutally honest, her personal circumstances are a factor in allowing Daisy the opportunity to follow what she wants to do in this rocky profession.

d-quote-6.jpg

Would she have done any of it differently though? ‘I don’t regret going to uni, or regret the path that I’ve been on. Uni was three of the best years ever of my life. I had so much fun. I did lots of naughty things that I shouldn’t have done and learned from. If I hadn’t of gone to uni, I wouldn’t be the person I am doing this and I wouldn’t of had all the life experiences I’ve had. Depends what kind of person you are. Some people want to do the school-uni-job-kids-then die. Some people don’t. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. I think people are different and are presented with different opportunities and everyone learns from whatever comes along in their life. Any time I doubt it, and feel bummed that everyone else has a ‘proper job’ I think ‘you could honestly die tomorrow’. If I died tonight (touch wood) at least I can look back and think ‘Fucking hell, at least I’ve made a really good fucking go of it.’ I’ve got great friends, career isn’t everything, I’ve got a wonderful family, I’ll fall in love one day and there’s so many special things in life that aren’t tied into a job. I know people who are chasing money but have sacrificed so much happiness. They are miserable, even though they have a lovely car, flat, money to spend but no friends because money is all they’ve chased – it’s hollow. At that stage it is a hollow existence. I’m really poor, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes I buy toothpaste and I think ‘I don’t know if I can afford toothpaste.’ Which sounds pathetic but at least I can call you and laugh about it, it’s funny.’

Our conversation is rounded off talking about advice to our younger selves, how would Daisy address herself at 18-years-old. ‘Don’t listen to any negativity, because it’s such a waste of time. Be honest with yourself and then fight for it. Say ‘I want to do this, I want this, I’m not happy with this’. No one else is going to get you out of the situation, you’re in control, be in control and everything is going to be ok. Everyone else can shut the fuck up and you’re going to be just fine…. And always be nice to people!’

Well, who the fuck wants to peak at 30?

Daisy is performing her graduate show, ‘Conditionally’ at the Soho Theatre this week. Buy tickets here.

 

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

10-Minute Chat:​ Actor

10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

’10-Minute Chat’ is a series of interviews talking with extraordinary ‘normal’ people navigating interesting careers, living remarkable lives and following their passions.

 

10 minute chat intelligence officer

📷 www.pixabay.com

M is a dazzling young woman working in intelligence. Her job is to scrutinise and assist in the operational apprehension of individual crooks as well as international crime gangs.

She cut her investigative teeth within the police force for 3 years and is the closest person to a real-life spy that I’ll ever know about.

We met for coffee a few months ago to chat about her career so far and what working in British intelligence is like. Obviously, her name has been changed and she could only be vague with details for security reasons (so cool).

Initially, M didn’t even think about breaking into the world of intelligence and like most people, found herself Googling ‘interesting jobs’ in a bid to find work after finishing up at uni (she studied history).

*There’s a pause while she swallows a mouthful of teacake*

‘  It was my mum who saw a job with the police, and I thought this sounds really cool. I went for an interview, got that, smashed that, and then spent a few years there. 

M went in as an Intelligence Researcher for the police. But the opportunity to develop her career within this role was limited.  The next rung on that ladder was Intelligence Analyst – a highly covetable and often rare role within her industry, as the skills that are taught are so valuable. She decided that the only way she was going to move forward in her career was switching organisations.

M starts from the beginning and goes through what type of person you need to be to work in intelligence.

‘ You’ll have to look at lots of information and be able to pick out really key points about someone to determine what kind of person they are and why they might commit the types of crimes they commit. You need understand trends in their behaviour or in the pieces of data in front of you…You have to keep looking at small details as though they are going to be a clue to something bigger and thinking about details in two ways. It’s quite a skill and it’s taken me a long while to learn.

When I first started, I’d do a task, hand the results in, do another task, hand the results in and then do another task. People would say ‘But what does that tell you? What does it show you? What recommendations can you make from that?’ And I’d be like ‘Oh. I don’t know.’ So you have to train yourself to think ‘Why is this, this? 

intelligence officer

‘So is it like profiling?’ I asked, picturing the dozens of American crime shows I’ve binged on over the years.

No. That kind of training is only specifically for profilers. In my role, you can’t say for definite, anything about anyone but you can give recommendations to give other officers a steer on where to go. As an intelligence officer, you can give them [Editor’s note: as in people on the frontline of fighting crime] an idea on who someone is and the best way to go about preventing them from committing a crime.’

Surprisingly, M paints a picture of how heavily female-dominated the intelligence industry is. She gesticulates wildly, reckoning it’s because women are naturally inquisitive and have the inclination to want to find out everything about someone, like insta-stalking an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend for example. [Editors note: 100% both sexes do this- maybe girls are more honest about it?]

‘ If you’re a snooper (like me) you’ll be absorbed looking in and at other people’s lives… I love looking into people’s lives. Being given one little bit of detail and then at the end of a day or two I’ve built up a whole picture of someone’s life. That’s really interesting.

In my old job in our office, it was probably 85% women. In my job now, it’s a much smaller office, there’s two men there and six or seven women. The same kind of percentage. ‘

On the reverse, the operational side of crime-fighting is predominantly male she said. I go for a well-trodden question, ‘What about sexism? Have you experienced it within this world?’

I haven’t come across any. Anyone who comes into my office doesn’t automatically go to the men to ask a question. They might do a bit more at the moment as the men that are there have been there longer and know more.

But I don’t think it’s a question of I’m not being asked because I’m a woman. If you’re used to working in a more female environment that intelligence kind of has, you wouldn’t think twice about going to a woman to ask a question. The issue is more your capability in helping the investigation or not. I’m sure there’s been some but I haven’t come across any. ‘

M quote 2

And as for role models in her industry M looks up to the head of her organisation.

‘ I’ve not met her personally but I’ve seen her talk. She’s really good at commanding a room and seeming like she really cares about what she’s doing. She’s passionate and she’s driven to implement the changes she’s put forward.

She’s a good talker. She comes across as confident. But not like a woman trying too hard to be taken seriously, she’s taken seriously because you respect her. She’s friendly and is approachable. That’s the kind of person I’d want to be if I was in a position of responsibility. ‘

M lights up talking me through her day to day tasks and that the changing nature of her work is always interesting. Her hands are animated again explaining that one minute she could be working on a sexual assault, the next it could be a burglary or drugs; she claims she rarely has a dull day with not much to do.

I work a standard 8-4, but due to the dynamic nature of the work, I am expected to be flexible.

I might go in at 8am and expect to be leaving at 4pm but then they need me and I’ll be staying until 2am the following morning.

You do get paid overtime for it which helps, as it can be pretty tiring at the end of the day, concentrating for long periods of time.

Your well being is monitored though so you don’t end up overdoing it. If you’re struggling they’ll tell you to stop or ask if are you ok to do an overnight and it’s fine if you’re not, you don’t have to. ‘

I enquire what a ‘good day’ and a ‘bad day’ looks like for her. She replies that they are actually one of the same – the worst days are the most exciting and leave her feeling fulfilled having helped defuse a potentially dangerous situation.  

It can get really hectic. You could have a firearms incident for example. It gets very high pressure. Potentially, you’re helping to save someone’s life which is going to have bad consequences if it goes wrong. Those kinds of days (which doesn’t happen very often) get intense and even though it’s not solely down to you, your effort does make a huge difference. That’s quite a full on day. ‘

‘And what about mistakes, have you made any?’ I pry, realising as soon as I’ve asked, that even if she had ballsed-up she wouldn’t tell me anyway. M is completely honest though.

M quote 3

Not any like big mistakes. I don’t really make that many mistakes! Haha. I obviously get little things wrong occasionally but I can’t think of anything I’ve done where I’ve thought oh my god, you shouldn’t have done that, that’s caused a problem.

The pressure and consequences of making a mistake are huge compared to your ‘normal office job’. You’re dealing with safety and people’s lives, you don’t want to have a big slip up because of the big consequences, it can be a little bit stressful.

Good to know the nation’s security is in safe hands.

And what if M wasn’t doing what she was doing. What if she could swap jobs with anyone in the world.

In the world?

In the world

I’d be a professional tennis player. I’d be Serena Williams. I’ve always really enjoyed tennis and I’d love to up my game and have the confidence that they have to do what they do. I don’t feel like I’d ever had that enough confidence to push myself to do something like that. ‘

I push for her to expand on what she means by not having enough confidence. As battling baddies, every day takes having a lot of confidence in your abilities from where I’m sitting.

Because if you’re going to be on the world stage you have to develop a really thick skin and ignore everyone making their comments and opinions about you all the time and I’d read all those awful comments that people say ‘Oh she’s not doing very well at the moment’ ‘Oh she’s looking a bit fat’ I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning reading those. ‘

Shaking my fist here at you Daily Mail comments section.

From what she’s told me so far, it appears the love of her job is a massive motivator. This kind of priority shift is something that is more likely to be found within the millennial generation. I put this thought to her and she comes back with a conflicted answer that she wouldn’t completely sacrifice happiness for a job. However, she explains that if it came down to it between a job that she loved but didn’t pay very much and a job that was OK but paid more, she would pick the latter to feel more financially secure.

If I had a partner and wasn’t on my own, then maybe I would think differently as they would be there with a level of support. As a single woman living in Surrey, I feel like you have to make concessions. But perhaps for a lot of people, it’s not as important. ‘

My fascination with her job leads me to ask what the impact of doing what she does has her on her mental health. From my narrow perspective, being a civilian who is living in almost blissful ignorance is being exposed to the darker side of humanity a hard place to come back from every day for the people in M’s position.

‘ When I first started I was a little paranoid as you are exposed to a new world of crime – especially things like burglaries that are quite prevalent. But after a while, you become more realistic about it and it just kind of just went away. I think if you worked on something like child exploitation the chances of mental taxation would be far greater but you just have to make sure you look after your health.  

…You don’t really see anything too horrific too often. It definitely makes me feel more aware but in a way, it also makes me feel better.

M quote 4

Looking back at her younger self M talks about her first job at a local sports shop where crippling shyness almost got her fired. She’s regularly made comments in this interview about her lack of confidence but realises how far she’s actually come.  

I just couldn’t speak to any of the customers. I felt so out of my comfort zone. I had never been trained to speak to people on a professional level.

I wasn’t a blagger. Management then got me on the phone for a spell talking to customers and that helped massively. I suppose it’s kind of the same from when I started my police job. I’ve improved since then and I’ll go on to improve at this job. ‘

‘And if you could give your 18 year-old-self career advice now, what would you say to her?’ I ask.

Be more confident in interviews. In the police when interviewing people for jobs, I was amazed at how many people undersell themselves. So I would say be more ballsy to achieve what you want. I think being more assertive and confident is not a bad thing. If you think there’s a better way to do something then say it.  One of my problems is I’m too scared of confrontation to make myself noticed.  

I know myself quite well and I’m never going to be a top, top, top achiever. I just have too much anxiety think about things too much and worry about things too much that I could never lead something or get to the high positions of the women I’ve admired.’

But M says her confidence and anxiety is something she’s constantly working on. Her tips include giving herself regular pep talks, reminding herself that she is smart, capable and successful at a lot of things.

‘ … Plus my lavender oil helps a lot!  ’

You go girl.

 

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

PART II

freelance vs full time part two

📷 www.pixabay.com

Here’s part II of freelance vs. full-time. Emma R from 25before25 writes her thoughts on my working week of juggling full-time employment and writing on the side. 

(If you haven’t already, start with part I 😄)


Emma Taylor and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a full-time content writer in the travel industry (Emma T) and myself (Emma R), the blogger behind 25before25 and a freelance writer. The fact we have the same first name is super confusing, we admit.

We published an account of my week in part I along with Emma T’s commentary.

For this post, Emma T has given her diary, and it’s something which is all too familiar. I can really relate to her experience of not getting quite enough sleep, the stress of commuting and not being overly enamoured with a job, coupled with the knowledge the next week will be the same as last week.

However – Emma has a regular and reliable annual income that working freelance will not guarantee. I’m trading financial stability for the freedom of being my own boss. Along with that is the fact that not many of us want to be at home on our own all day, as nice as the idea sounds right now when Dave is loudly telling Gill about his nephew’s birthday party over your head in your open plan office. By working as a freelancer, I have had to make a conscious effort to interact with others, and the potential for isolation will not suit everyone. Also self-employment is a minefield of tax rules which is something I hadn’t really bargained for. I am lucky that I have two accountants for parents, otherwise I’m not entirely sure how I’d manage on that one!

If you enjoy your job then, all of a sudden, getting up to an alarm that is thirty minutes too early to be comfortable, commuting and the ins and outs of your daily working life aren’t such a chore. They can be a pleasure. Finding that thing that motivates and inspires you is the reason for 25before25 – to show you what a diverse array of jobs are out there and to provide role models who have already successfully made that journey of self-discovery.

I have a huge amount of admiration for Emma, who is finding her way to a balance between full-time and freelance, and think this is an entirely sensible (albeit pretty tiring!) approach that shows the reality of starting out.

Emma T’s full-time working week –

 

/ Monday

I leave home just after 7am and get to my office in Surbiton around 8.20am. I have breakfast and an extra strong cup of tea whilst reading the internet. The actual working day is average officey-type work, answering emails, organising project stuff and eating French chocolate treats that have been bought in from someone’s latest holiday.

I’m currently on a temporary assistant content editor contract back in the UK, bought in specifically to help duplicate one lot of information over to another area within a CMS system that feeds the company’s pretty customer facing website. I work to briefs which breaks the whole thing up into steps. For example, this week I’m copying across information about airports – checking facts and editing tone of voice – to another area of the online platform.

I arrive home at 6.45pm and then take to my room half an hour later to tinker with a couple of articles I have an imminent deadline for.

I work solidly until 10.30pm-ish, choosing to skip dinner as I’m too tired and hot to knock anything together. My evening ends with me scrolling through Twitter, trying to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about from the #loveisland tweets cascading through my feed before crashing out asleep.

 

/ Tuesday

There’s a knock at my bedroom door as it opens ‘Emma, it’s 7am. Is everything OK love?’ says my mum.

Sh*t.

I turned my alarm off in my sleep an hour ago. Hopping round my room I’m out the door twenty minutes later. Traffic on my commute is unpredictable so I like to leave early.

I get to the office at 8.40am and eat my breakfast. I’m still painfully tired from a series of late nights and early mornings over the past week / weekend. My working day is essentially a repeat of the day before with the odd email thrown in whereby the wrong content is displaying on an excursion blurb of the company’s website. Some customers have written in to complain and I engage in a lot of back and forth with the overseas team in Italy.

When I leave it’s raining and I’m wearing sandals. My feet are soaked and covered in pavement grit by the time I eventually reach my car, 10 minutes walk away from work..

Once home, I pull out my suitcase and start putting bits into piles – to take, the maybes, stuff that needs washing – ready for my holiday on Saturday. I faff like this for another 45 minutes, trying on summer-scented clothes from last year, seeing if they still fit.

After dinner, I treat myself to a couple of episodes of the Good Wife while writing.

 

/ Wednesday

I leave on time and with no alarm drama. My head and eyes twinge sharply from exhaustion though, as the wind and rain kept waking me throughout the night.

As usual, I get to work early and have breakfast. Plus chain-drink a couple of cups tea in the morning in a desperate attempt to perk myself up.

I coast through the day. Tweaking words, cutting and pasting information from one CMS segment to another and a tiny bit of research into Slovenia makes up my writing tasks. I listen to a handful of my favourite podcasts to stop me from getting too bored and unfocused.

 podcasts

 

By 5.30pm I’m out the door and walking to the car. I’ve got a nail appointment this evening which I’ve been looking forward to for ages, as it’s a luxury I don’t have done very often.I come away with glittery pink toes and semi-sparkly turquoise fingers. A package is waiting for me on the stairs up to my room – a couple of dresses from Topshop. Both dresses are a little big so will need to be sent back, I’m slightly relieved as I can’t really afford them and then the guilt sets in for shopping in the first place.

It’s about 9.15pm at this point and I debate between tackling amends on a couple of articles or more holiday packing. The thought of putting my face directly in front of a screen for another few hours today makes the decision for me. I stick on the Good Wife again and pack / organise until bedtime at 10.30pm.

 

/ Thursday

I’m up at 6.15am and feel more tired than awake. Sleep is eluding me at the moment.

I wash my hair and plug myself into Spotify, blasting the medley of ‘Karaoke Classics’ on this week’s #ThrowbackThursday playlist.

I’m having breakfast at my desk by 8.35am and chugging tea like it’s the elixir of life. The day drags a little as I try to draw out the scant pickings of jobs to do. I’ve completed the brief that I had to work through for this phase of the project  and I’m twiddling my thumbs a lot of the time, pouncing on any email that pings into our shared department inbox. The position that I’m in doesn’t really allow for me to do much more than the project or BAU (business as usual) emails which is frustrating. The workers outweigh the level of work at the moment.

Traffic was awful coming home and I end up going a long way round so walked through the door at just after 7pm. A grumpy layer bubbles up and settles on my permanent state of tiredness.

I go straight to my room, set myself up against a stack of cushions on my bed and crack on with the article amends I put off last night. 10 minutes in and my sister joins me, lounging at the foot of the mattress. I put on some Billie Holiday (because I’m secretly 104 years old and jazz helps me think) and she swipes through Facebook while I work.

I send edits off, close down just after 10pm and get ready to sleep. My pure intentions for an early night  get led astray by falling down an Instagram hole and a gripping narrative in the book I’ve just started.

 

/ Friday

I’ve woken up cross with myself for not trying to sleep at a decent time last night. The barbed twinges of tiredness prod my head and puffy eyes once more while I move at snail’s pace to get dressed.

A relatively traffic-free journey into Surbiton has me at work by 8.20am. I go through my morning ritual and catch up on reading a couple of blogs. The day was slow as there wasn’t many emails coming to the inbox and I’m still waiting on the next brief so I can move onto the upcoming part of the project. We’re told that in the following few weeks we’ll be able to start drafting some relevant travel blogs. That’s much more my bag and I’m looking forward to having something to do. I haven’t felt like I’ve been much use to the company this week.

That evening I race home to my room and continue with some of my own writing bits, plus final packing for tomorrow. I’m finally starting to feel the stirrings of relaxation and excited anticipation for the week ahead. My mum comes up to chat about her day with me around 8pm and suggests we order a Domino’s…

Oh hi holiday-feeling, haven’t seen you in a while!

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

Part I

freelance vs full time📷 www.pixabay.com

I’ve teamed up with Emma from 25before25 again.

This time Emma and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a freelance blogger / travel writer (Emma R), and myself (Emma T), a full-time content writer in the travel industry and doing my own thing with words on the side.

First off, anyone who has free reign over their work schedule and eschewed being stuffed into a traditional 9-5 hole of rigid ‘productivity’, I’m insanely jealous of and fascinated by how they divvy up their day. I often slip into a ‘grass-is-greener’ fantasy of being a freelancer. The flexibility and limitless scope of work is a tempting fruit to want to taste if you’re unfulfilled within a typical office set up.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted though, in that the steady security and comforting protection which comes from being a company employee is no longer there to fall back on. You often end up labouring for longer hours and down-time tends to blur with work-time as you’re always switched on at some level.

Plus figuring out the minefield of self-employment tax is utterly terrifying.

However the flip side is, if you’re feeding that passion-fire in your belly by wholeheartedly loving what you do and chasing your ambitions, then the slog and sacrifice won’t be felt as hard in the end.

I think.

Here’s Emma R’s freelance working week –

 

/ Monday

freelance writing Wimbledon tennis

📷 www.pixabay.com

Today I was lucky enough to have bagged a Centre Court ticket at Wimbledon – it was a strawberries-and-cream day rather than work. I’ve never been to Wimbledon before and certainly never thought I’d get the chance to sit in Centre Court during the second week, so this was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. This did mean I had about 50 emails in my inbox to deal with when I got home at about 10 pm, but it was totally worth it to watch both Murray and Federer play!

 

/ Tuesday

I spent the day working with landscape gardener, Anthea Harrison, up in Stansted as part of career number 16 for the 25before25 project. I had no idea Stansted was anything other than an airport, but it turns out it’s a beautifully quaint village on the Hertfordshire-Essex border, where you can hear zero aeroplanes.

The morning was spent at Anthea’s client’s house, a large project that included construction work as the garden was being totally re-designed. It was very close to completion when I joined so I just helped out with some of the planting, training some of the clematis’ and titivating (brilliant word I’d never heard before!) some of the bushier plants.

before 

compare freelance writer with full time

duringwriting on the side vs. freelance

after

freelance writing

                 📷 25before25

As it started to rain, we headed back to Anthea’s office and she talked me through the design process, from initial consultation with a client, through to finished award-winning garden, explaining the computer programmes she uses.

I absolutely loved my day with Anthea and think I’d really enjoy being a landscape gardener, though perhaps not for my 20s. It is a job which combines both the left and right sides of your brain; it is creative as well as technical.

By the end of the day, I’m ready to drop and fall asleep pretty early.

 

/ Wednesday

This is one of the rare days I have to work at home and get on top of the backlog of career write-ups that I have. I’ve published up to career number 16 and am seven articles behind (still a couple more jobs to work in though). However, it’s not until about 1pm that I actually start writing, as I spent the morning going through emails that I’ve missed over the past couple of days – mostly organising jobs for the next few weeks and interviews with authors, explorers and politicians. Experiencing 25 careers is a feat in organisation that I hadn’t quite realised when I decided to take on the project!

I also work as an editor of the careers section of a new national student magazine, so I spend some time editing some of the articles which writers have sent in for the first issue and tweaking my own. The deadline is Friday, but I spent most of Sunday working on them so the articles are nearly there.

This evening I head out to meet a friend for dinner in North London. We have a tastecard so that helps keep costs down, which I’m certainly grateful for!

 

/ Thursday

Another day working from home writing up articles and catching up with emails.

I gave an interview with GradTouch – a graduate recruitment company – about my project, and am looking forward to reading the write up.

 

/ Friday

 

Today I spent the day with the Marine counter-terrorism unit with the Met Police, which was rather exciting.

Based in Wapping, I navigated the London Overground network to get to a non-descript Victorian building. It took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to get in, I must have either looked very suspicious or incredibly naive, entering my first police station.

The team warmly welcomed me and I felt like I had jumped straight into a police drama TV series – there was an awful lot of team banter, plans for operations covered the walls, and about six separate offers for a cup of tea. A constable showed me around the station, taking me down to the docks to see the numerous different high-speed boats and reeling off marine policing trivia – England’s first recognised preventive police unit, don’t you know.

I then hopped in the back of a police van (I won’t pretend that I didn’t find it incredibly exciting) and headed up with two constables to a larger central command centre to sit in on their briefing to the unit which would be joining the marine team for the day.

The operation was partly to engage with the public on counter-terror issues, to reassure them, as well as to deter any individuals looking to cause harm, by placing a police presence in and around the Thames. I was with the half of the unit based on the boat for the afternoon, so spent most of my day on a high-speed cruise down the river, chatting to the officers about their careers.

The positive experience has made me seriously consider the police as a career option, so I’m looking forward to my two other police-based placements next week!

 


 

Thoughts from the Full-Timer (me)

I know that this is actually only 80% of Emma R’s working week. She’s mentioned in conversation that she pretty much does 7 days majority of the time. So in comparison, I’m lucky being in full-time employment that I can take a bit of a break at weekends and my livelihood won’t suffer for it if I’m lazing in bed just eating croissants for a few hours. Whereas the responsibility to make a self-carved career work and move forward is lays entirely at Emma’s feet.

The money side of things weighs more in full-time employment favour as well. Although I’m always worrying about cash, it’s probably on a much, much, much smaller scale compared to Emma. Every 30 odd days the exact same number will reliably appear in my bank account, taking the edge off when I do occasionally splurge on unnecessary stuff. Whereas freelancing can be notorious for ups and downs of how much and when the dolla rolls in. The girl’s got nerves of steel!

I’m drawn in by the variety of Emma’s freelance working week. The mission that she’s on has given her a chocolate-box selection of jobs to savour over the past year. And it’s exciting to read how on one day she’s helping ‘titivate’ bushes (😉) to racing down the Thames with the Marine counter-terrorism unit the next. I get that week in, week out Emma won’t always be jumping from one extreme situation to another, but the personal freedom and example of ‘no day is the same’ of her freelance lifestyle is immensely appealing.

Make no mistake, I’m outrageously privileged to even have a stable position and completely appreciative of all the opportunities that I’ve been afforded from the company I’m with…you can just feel the ‘but’ coming… But I know that at some point in the future I will make the leap to try working for myself. If anything, looking at Emma’s week and reading her wonderful blog has fanned the freelancing flames in my tum even more.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – My full-time working week juggling writing on the side, along with Emma R’s accompanying thoughts 👍

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

A guest post on : 25before25

 

This month I’m a guest poster on the blog 25before25, an innovative project launched by Londoner Emma Rosen. 

Emma’s aim is to sample a whopping 25 careers before turning 25 through work experience, shadowing and just giving things a go. She explores work / life fulfilment and advocates for a more diverse career education.

5 reasons why you should work abroad 25 by 25

 

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.

from egg poaching to bills, bills, bills

 

26th birthday things ive learned

It was my birthday this week, and with any marked milestone on mortality, I got a bit reflective on life and about what I have and haven’t figured out yet. Predictably the latter of the two was a list 50 miles long, but I realised I had picked up a decent amount of lessons (or advice? tips??? I don’t know, life stuff, we’ll go with that) during the 26 years I’ve been rocking around on this earth.

 

1 / That quarter life crisis you get warned about when turning 25….. yeah that definitely happens. But once you’ve waded through hours of self-torture, bought a snazzy car, quit two jobs and stopped anxiously comparing your life accomplishment yard-stick to other 25 year-olds or younger, something shifts. You start caring less about how far everyone else has got (higher paying jobs, not living with parents, having a pet / garden / baby / something to love etc.) and crack on to where YOU want to be.

2 / Making your bed gives the impression that your messy room is actually tidier than it is.

3 / You don’t have to wait for someone else to buy you expensive jewellery. You love it, you buy it. 26 life lessons for 26 year olds

 

4 / How to poach an egg with zero fuss – a) Boil kettle. b) Pour the boiled water into a shallow frying pan c) turn heat up on the hob. d) When pan is simmering, slowly and gently crack your egg into the water. Use a large spoon to softly guide back any floaty-away bits. e) Six or seven minutes later (when you think it looks done enough) scoop your egg out and plop onto a hot buttered crumpet. f) Do the knife thing with the yolk. g) Have your ‘ahhh’ moment.

5 / Saying ‘no’ holds a lot of power. As a natural people pleaser, I’m probably only on a mediocre to poor level getting to grips with saying no more often. No I can’t take on more work this week, no I don’t want to go out, no you’re wrong and here’s why.. It kind of goes without saying that you shouldn’t be a dick when saying ‘no’ to people but you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. People do you look at you with respect when you tactfully hold your ground with grace.

6 / Hendricks Gin can only be served with thin slices of cucumber and ice. (*waves the flag for middle-classians everywhere*)

7 / Introducing yourself to people is such a minor interaction but creates a huge impact on your wider reputation. Of course it’s daunting going up to someone and say ‘Hi I’m             ’ but it puts you in such a good light in social set ups, to a new work colleague and random girls crying in nightclub loos. Tip: After you’ve done your opening bit, have something else to say. Otherwise you’ll panic and frantically blabber something stupid in an attempt to diffuse the silent awkward atmosphere…..‘So, um.. I secretly borrow my neighbour’s cat when she’s at out..’

Life lessons at 26 years old

 

8 / Packed lunches for work are the best, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Who doesn’t like saving money every day for sparkly shoes and a steady flow of Domino’s pizza? Crazy people, that’s who.

9 / Don’t settle in life. It’s the cop out option and the killer of youth (I don’t actually know about the youth part. Just made it up, but it sounds like it could be right). It’s so easy to coast and ignore scratching thoughts of ‘I want more than this’. That if you feel like you’re in an OK paying job, with an OK boyfriend, living an OK life that is actually slowly suffocating you, then you need to do something about it. OK?

10 / He’s just not that into you, so stop making excuses for flaky behaviour and put that boy in the bin.

26 lessons at 26

 

11 / With the world balancing uncertainly on a knife edge right now, there’s no such thing as preparing too early enough when it comes to looking after your 90-something self. Lets face it, our generation will be working for much longer than our parents, get less of a pension payout from the state and most likely be paying for a private health service. Now’s the time to be building a safety net, whether a work place pension, a tiny personal investment or a pretty piggy-bank. Even if it’s a pittance, treat future you as a bill to pay every month.

12 / In a pinch, lipstick works as a cream-type blusher and eye shadow. Mascara can be used as eye liner too if you have a light touch and surgeon-steady hands.

13 / Liking ‘boring’ things such as going to bed early, staying in on a Saturday night, discussing the merits of wood vs carpet flooring and listening to Desert Island Discs is not shameful. – These are mine but this point is applicable to your own glorious old lady habits

14 / Along the same vein as the lesson above, it’s also perfectly acceptable to mix your ‘boring grown up’ likes with guilty pleasures. Trashy TV, Buzzfeed quizzes, cat videos, chick-lit books and the Eurovision song contest.

15 / The art of utilising your time wisely,which is kind of a no brainer as even iddy-biddy kids are aware if you don’t do anything you won’t accomplish anything. But its something that I am consistently working on. Little things that help me utilise time is making catch up phone calls when I’m driving in the car (via hands-free, obvs) , replying to messages while waiting for my slow and antiquated laptop to start up or scanning Twitter in the for the day’s news stories as the kettle is boiling for my early morning cuppa.

16 / Keeping a calendar on your phone for all your glamorous engagements relieves a little bit of the stressy pressure from all the stuff you need to remember on a day-to-day basis.

17 / Always have a holiday and / or a block of time out planned to look forward too. Take a break once in a while because you work hard. Plus being a martyr to life gets you nowhere and drains your productively juice…. And gives you wrinkles. Maybe.

18 / Pretending in your head that you’re starring in your own music video when certain songs come on is something EVERYBODY does.

26 life lessons for turning 26

 

19 / Being single doesn’t mean you have to be on the hunt for your next victim boyfriend. If being on your own is thrilling and fulfilling then crack on. But be prepared for sympathy sighs from well-meaning friends and family who are ‘sure a pretty girl like you will find someone soon.’

20 / In your early twenties you start to notice that you can’t keep up the pace of shovelling in the volume crappy food as you once did when you were a teenager (KitKat sandwiches and McDonald’s erryday anyone?!) and still fit into your skinnies. Well, welcome to your mid twenties where the slowing of your metabolism steps down a notch again! Brilliant.

21 / There are very few things in life that can’t be fixed. This is my mum’s motto, a woman who keeps picking herself back up time after time life throws a punch her way or if a seemingly impossible challenge presents itself. There’s always a work around stuff, another option to consider or a different route to take. Put on your big girl pants when you’re feeling defeated and repeat to yourself, it’s not over until it’s over.

22 / ‘Ohh, are you shyyy?’ If there ever was a sentence to make quiet people everywhere flare up on the inside it’s that. Despite the impression that the not-so-loud give off, shy we are not. The last year and a bit I realised the difference between shy and quiet as the opening question was flung my way more times than I can possibly count, particularly around new acquaintances. I’m more than comfortable to talk about any topic under the sun, but only when I feel I have something of value to say. I started to question this default conclusion of quiet people. If you’re not rushing over everyone else to speak does that make someone shy? Umm, nope. We observe, we think and then we open our mouths.

23 / I’m massively inspired by a bunch of crazily creative, intelligent and articulate women (Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes, Laura Bates, Emma Gannon and Dallas Shaw, off the top of my head). A common theme each of these women (can I call them badass babes or is that one fangirling step too far???) talk about when discussing work and their passions is that very rarely in life you are handed your dream opportunity to shine. Shit like that needs to be created by you through exploring ideas, hard work and sheer bloody mindedness. Put simply, you will only achieve by doing. You want to act? Go act. You want to travel? Go travel. You want to write? Go write. And if everything doesn’t fall into place after busting your butt for years, then at least you can be satisfied that you gave it a fucking good try. Which is always better than not trying at all. Credit / complain to them for my forcing this sometimes updated blog onto you.

I really recommend listening to Dolly and Pandora’s weekly podcast though, highlight of my commute!

 

24 / Jeans, heels and a nice top is the best outfit formula that can be transferable for any occasion. I.E. A date with the rugby laaad you met on Bumble, drinks in a sticky-floored pub with your mates, dinner at an Italian chain restaurant with your mum or for a casual Sunday stroll around Tesco’s if you’re feeling fancy.

25 / Accept help, advice, clothes, money and support from those around you if it’s offered during low periods in your life. They love you and are there to be leaned on when things get tough. Don’t ever think that you’re problems would be too much of a burden to share with someone who cares. After all, nobody is an island 😎🏝️

26 / Carry a notebook at all times. Something that I’ve learned over writing this post actually. I had 3457 million more of these life blurbs, 98% of them were probably better than what’s listed but because I didn’t write them down my brain has permanently cleared out my thought cache. Scribble down your idea-diarrhoea… even if it is shit.

 

I welcome any other valuable pearls of wisdom or suggestions on how best to change a car tyre without getting muck on your jumper in the comments section below.

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.