Always take the scenic route…

‘Always take the scenic route’ has unintentionally become a bit of a life motto for me. Following a leave of absence earlier this year –  in Week 9 of Semester 2 of a 1 year course – a move that perhaps shocked me as much as it did my lecturers and course director at the time – I am absolutely buzzing to be back studying at UUJ for what could well be – finally – the last time! Although…. Never say never, right?! My PhD may be calling…

Last year, I promised myself that I would start blogging, but I just didn’t get round to it. I suppose I did sometimes make excuses, like not having enough time or not wanting to come across as narcissistic, but it all boiled down to my own lack of self-confidence in my ability to take the plunge and just do it.

Well, here I am. Blogging. It might be rubbish, but so what? It’s my first time!

I’m writing this to simply offer some encouragement to my fellow students, at whatever point of your student life you happen to be reading it. I want to reassure you that it’s OK to give things a go, and it’s also OK if things don’t quite work out how you had thought they would. I think it’s really important to adopt this attitude as early as possible in the academic year, because you never know what curveballs life is going to throw at you! It doesn’t matter how many fail safe measures you attempt to put in place, or how confident you are in your own ability. Life may, and often does, get in the way.

For me, it’s been a mixture of health related issues and other personal or professional commitments which have made what ‘should have’ been four years study stretch out to what has now been my eighth September at a university. Some people think I’m crazy for sticking it out this long. Some people might even jump to their own conclusions and think that I’m not cut out for it, that I’m lazy or that I am non-committal.

I am none of these things.

Only I truly know all of the circumstances behind taking the scenic route to get to this point, and frankly, it is my business and nobody else’s. Sure, I might be asked to explain the dates of study at an interview, but it hasn’t happened yet, and as I have always held at least one part time job alongside my studies, I don’t need to fill in that uncomfortably prying question to ‘explain any gaps in your employment history’ when I apply for jobs.

What’s ultimately important, and again, I really hope this encourages some of you out there – I have always done what is right for me, and right by me. Yes, there’s been the odd leap of faith, or ‘positive risk taking’. I haven’t always made decisions with full knowledge of the repercussions of them (do any of us, all of the time?), but I can’t say that I regret any of the decisions I have made which have subsequently led me to where I am today. Not in relation to university, anyway!

I’m certainly not suggesting I am a role model, or that I would recommend my choices to others. We are all unique, as are our circumstances. This should be common knowledge, but there’s also such pressure in today’s society to conform and live your life in a certain way, and it can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters in such a commercial environment. A lot of this stuff you will learn in your Communication/PR degree, so I shan’t bore you with the details! I’m writing this to offer hope to those who might ponder on the ‘what ifs’ of the future, or otherwise panic if they realise their chosen course is not right for them, or not right for them right now.

For me, the best thing about taking a bit longer to ‘get there’ has been the opportunity to get to know and understand myself a lot more. My values, my dreams, my career aspirations… some have changed during the 10 years since leaving school, while others have become more concrete in my mind and in turn, life. What I’ve learnt that really helps along the way, is having people you can relate to, bounce off, and who will support you in your studies and decision making. For many of you this will be family and friends, whether on your course or not, but please do not underestimate the importance of a good working relationship with your course director, lecturers, studies advisers and the wider university and students union team.

Find out what works for you, find out who you can trust, and always go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But try not to see the world in black and white – it’s so much more wonderful in full colour and shades! You may well have slip ups, but they will not be the end of the world. A self-coaching technique I learnt a long time ago now that has served me well is really easy for anyone to use: when things aren’t going your way, you’re confused, or feeling overwhelmed, simply ask yourself; what is the worst thing that could happen? It almost definitely will not be life or death (except in some circumstances, almost all linked to physical or mental health – and remember, your health is your wealth!).

Take the risks, even if you are not following the crowd. Sometimes, especially if you are not following the crowd.

Do yourself proud. What you think will make your loved ones or educators proud may not actually be an accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings, and quite possibly may not make you happy or successful in the long run.

Do what is right for you, and by you. Be true to yourself, and you will ultimately succeed.

It might not look quite like what you thought it would – but most things never turn out exactly how you thought they would… do you ever try and recreate Pinterest or Instagram posts – how did that work out for you?!

This has definitely been a longer first post than I intended, but I do hope that it won’t be my last. I’ve deliberately been vague in my own experiences so I can expand upon these in the future – but I hope that despite this, the message is not too philosophical or cliché-heavy for your liking! I have included the clichés because they ring true, and can help illustrate a point without too much self-disclosure required, and because I want you as an individual to be able to relate and take away some comfort.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post; I really appreciate it. I wish you every success, and remember, you do you!

BElieve in YOUrself

Rosalie Edge is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Healthcare student at Ulster University. You can find her on Twitter @rosalieedge and LinkedIn Rosalie Edge

My personal guide to living (your best life)

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a quote from Roald Dahl, concerning the importance of being an enthusiast in life, and chasing your interests at full speed. He advised to embrace your interests with both arms, hug them, love them and above all become passionate about them.

Try something every week that scares you, whether it be a new flavour of Nespresso pod (typical me) or wearing a piece of clothing somewhat outside of your comfort zone. I try to surround myself with the dreamers, the believers, the inspirers, and most importantly, my home team; the people who see the best in me when at times I may not be able to see it myself.

My life is in no way perfect (nobody’s is, not even Beyoncé’s…) but I like to think of myself as someone who will always try to see the good in a situation, and aspire to find a solution to every problem (unless it concerns the printer in work, we just don’t get along).

 

Buy the over-priced coffee

Yes, many will say £2.60 is a lot for a single cup of coffee, but if spending that on the way to work every morning allows you to kick start your day with a happy attitude then you do you. It’s your money, and you have every right to spend it in however way you feel fit. You could even go for a short walk while drinking your coffee, ticking two things off the self-care checklist.

I seem to have established a reputation in my workplace for ‘refusing to use the kettle’ as they put it; I don’t believe anything can beat a good Soy Latte (yes I’m one of those people) from Caffe Nero. However, there’s worse things in the world that I could be spending my money on, and I genuinely feel my work day goes a lot better post-Nero. This could well have reached the placebo effect stage, but I’m quite content with my routine and don’t plan on rebranding my coffee-addict-self anytime soon.

NB15

 

Choose your company wisely

Whether you have kids yourself, you’re an auntie/uncle, or a close friend is a parent, fit in time for children when at all possible (unless you’re one of those people who simply cannot figure out how to get along with small children, that’s ok, you can be excused from this step). I cannot emphasise enough just how helpful a couple of hours with a child can be when you’re feeling down or stressed.

I have two little cousins, four and five years old, who I absolutely adore and would go as far as branding my favourite people in the world. There is no doubt that even 10 minutes with them will completely brighten my day. The happiness and innocence expressed by children is absolutely incredible, and will be sure to add a little sparkle to your outlook. Children remind me of little rays of light, brightening the world around them one laugh at a time (when they’re not crying over the shape of their toast of course). View the world through the eyes of a toddler sometime, it’s pretty amazing.

 

Quit Competing

Not meant in the literal sense of course – if you are a devoted member of a competitive sports team or dance school, give it your all and take home the gold. (This type of competition is great – I was a competitive dancer for the majority of my childhood and I can honestly say these were the best days of my life and the experiences, friendships and achievements have shaped me as a person set to tackle adulthood.)

In a workplace, educational, or social context, remember that your only competition should be the person you were yesterday. Why compete with those around you when you can simply be the best version of yourself; originality is key, and in itself is an advantage. If striving for a promotion, for example, put full focus into a clear demonstration of why you are fit for the role, rather than worrying about a fellow candidate’s attempt to succeed.

The popular saying ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ is quite important for a multitude of reasons. Work on building your friends and colleagues up, don’t waste your own valuable time trying to plan the approach to an aimless goal of making yourself better than those around you. Life requires a bit of (healthy) competition, but knowing where to draw the line is the vital piece in the puzzle. Supporting others’ successes won’t ever dampen your own.

NB22

 

“No” is a recognised word in the English language

…and it’s totally OK to use it. Nothing in life is more important than your mental health, happiness and overall well-being. If you don’t want to do something for whatever reason (honestly believe me, a 2-hour social event doesn’t warrant an excuse complete with references and bibliography), never feel guilty about politely declining.

A true friend or family member will never take it personally (unless you’ve committed to being someone’s bridesmaid, you might have to follow that one through). You don’t need to lie, make up silly excuses, or over-explain yourself; honesty is the best policy. Spend less time worrying about what others think, the best day of your life will be the one on which you decide that your life is your own.

 

Go to Disneyland

I’m serious, I went to Disneyland Paris last September with my bestfriend, and it was the best 5 days EVER. We went on all the rides, ate Mickey Mouse shaped macaroons costing €5 each (totally justifiable because they were Mickey Mouse shaped) and relived our entire childhood. Ok so, realistically you can go anywhere in the world, it doesn’t have to be Disneyland (although I would highly recommend). Travel outside of your home country, see what the world has to offer, sample new food and enjoy new experiences. Take in unfamiliar cultures and enjoy warmer climates. Travel is education for living.

Take photos! Anyone who knows me at all will be aware of my profound love for capturing life through my camera lens; I am in no way a professional by any means, I use my iPhone, and the same 3 filters that I have grown to love will re-appear with every picture I post. I have always loved the idea of capturing memories. My Dad was a keen videographer, confirmed by the endless clips of trips to the park and lengthy insights into 2-year-old Nora’s early music career. He knew he was making memories, but not that those memories would be so invaluable to his family in just a matter of months’ time. My Dad passed away suddenly in June 2000, two days before a family holiday and just two months before I started Nursery School. These videos are all I will ever need, and have inspired me to continue documenting the moments in life that are worth reliving.

NB16

Eat the chocolate

Personally, I am an avid gym-goer and have been for a couple of years now. I work-out a couple of times a week, eat healthily and take care of my body (apart from consistently continuing to consume dairy when I am, in fact, intolerant).

An unhealthy relationship with food and body-image is where it goes wrong. Love your body for what it is, and if it tells you it would like a treat on a Friday night, then allow it exactly that. After all, your body has sat through your 9-5 week, it has attended your lectures, carried the weekly shop home from Sainsburys, and called into Starbucks for the office coffee run; give it a little weekend pick me up, it’s what it deserves. Eating a bar of chocolate will not ruin your fitness regime, a glass of wine won’t lead to a disappearing act from your calf-muscle, and the dress you have planned to wear out next weekend will still fit. My mum once told me to enjoy ‘everything in moderation’ and I pretty much live by that. If you don’t enjoy the finer things in life, nobody else is going to do it for you. I guarantee Simone Biles has a share bar of Dairy Milk in her kitchen cupboard.

 

Finally, just be nice to people

Inner battles are not always publicised through Facebook status’, sometimes it can be the people who seem the happiest who are struggling the most behind the scenes. Be a positive presence, a friendly smile, a listening ear. Just knowing that someone is in your corner can have a massive influence on the mind. Try not to take everything in life so personally (I am soooo guilty of this), and do not listen to that little voice in your head who drops by from time to time to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

In whatever way you choose to spend your days, take time to ensure you are living for YOU. Stop dreaming about success and go out and build it. The secret to having it all is believing that you already do, what comes next is simply dependent on your choice to ‘just do you’. The world will continue to spin, and Mondays are (unfortunately) here to stay. Trust your instinct, remember who you are, and the game will change.  You don’t need to wait until ‘next week’ to start living your best life.

P.S. Buy the £2.60 coffee.

Nora xx

 

Nora Brennan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – @noraellenb / Twitter – @noraellenb / LinkedIn- Nora Ellen Brennan.