Opportunity is the bird that never perches

My problem in life is that I want to have it all, it always has been and probably always will be. I want to be the best, I want to work the hardest, I want to get the best results. And the problem here? The reason that I’m writing this blog post? Well I’ve strived to be the best, I’ve worked really hard and I’ve gotten some pretty good results. I had a bit of a dilemma, where all my trying had paid off BUT… I was being offered everything that I wanted, all at once.

A big part of my course is our work placement, I’ll be doing a six month stint from January to June next year to get some hands on experience in the world of Journalism. A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany, the God’s had spoken and I’d decided what I wanted to with my life. I was adamant I’d pursue a career in broadcast journalism, be it television or even radio presenting. I contacted a local radio station and, shocker alert, they were happy to take me on for the full six months. So everything was going smoothly for me, and then there was a spanner thrown into the works…

Back in September I’d decided I wanted to try news writing. There’s just something appealing about being a news writer, you know? Those women on RTÉ really look like they have their shit together – smart, sensible, admirable. Believe it or not, I want to be sensible someday too. I talked to a newspaper back home who said they’d be happy to take me on, but as per usual I wanted that little bit more. I knew the Limerick Leader was a fantastic placement down here, it’s probably one of the best ones available. So I applied, thinking nothing of it really. I thought to myself, “Sure all I write about is boys that don’t like me, I can’t be good enough for news.”opportunity

I had that same thought the night before the interview, but a friend reassured me that if I wasn’t good enough for the job, I wouldn’t be getting interviewed in the first place. And for some reason, that really helped, because heading into that room I wasn’t one bit nervous. Yes me, the Queen of anxiety, not one bit nervous about my first ever job interview. I’m still a bit puzzled about that one. Anyways, I’m assuming my confidence that came from God-knows-where shone through, because I got offered the placement straight away. Shocked? Me too.

Then the doubt started to kick in. What if I’m not good enough for news? But SHIT I’ve already decided I want to do radio? What am I going to DO? So I stopped and thought about it. Fuck it, I’m going to do both.

opp2You have to seize all the opportunities that come your way, because some of them won’t come around twice. Yes, broadcast media is where I can see myself in the future, but why limit myself to entertainment? Why not get a good foundation in news writing, and give myself the option to work in radio news? The Limerick Leader is a placement that I just can’t pass up on, after hearing all the previous students who’ve worked there ranting and raving about it. But I’m not giving up on radio either. I’m hoping and praying that I can switch my placement to summer time (Yes, I want to give up even more of my time to work for free) so that I can leave college with the skills I need to get into broadcast journalism.

Of course I’m still worried about news writing, it’s me, and it’d be odd if I wasn’t worried. But it’s a challenge for me, and it’s something I’ve never really touched on bar a few assignments here and there. I’m excited to push myself, to write about new things and to learn the tricks of the trade. I know that I can be whoever I want to be, I can do whatever I want to with this career. I want to give myself the best opportunity to get a good job when I leave college, and I’m picking up as many skills as possible to ensure that happens.

My problem in life is that I want to have it all. But, why let that be a problem? Be the best, work the hardest, and get the best results. You can do it all if you really want to.

“Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.”     — Richie Norton

 

“I Wish I’d Been Told” – A Fresher’s Guide To College

So the CAO offers came out today, and I hope you’re all happy and not sobbing in a corner, hungover and tired from waiting up until 6am like I was. When I headed off to college, I’d just turned eighteen. I was the first in my family to go to college, and because I didn’t do transition year I had no older friends to advise me on the do’s and don’ts. So here’s a little guide for you fresher’s, on what I wish I’d been told when I was moving away to college.

I wish I’d been told to “Start as you mean to go on”. During fresher’s week I missed one sociology lecture, I’m not sure why, but after that it was a no go. If you miss lectures at the beginning, you’ll get into the habit of it and slowly but surely you’ll find yourself not going to college at all. And if you’re not really interested in your course, or you can’t motivate yourself to do the work at home, it can be really hard to catch up.

I wish I’d been told that the fresher’s fifteen is not a myth. I know what you’re all thinking, “I’m going to lose SO much weight in college because I’ll eat healthily when I’m cooking for myself” or “I won’t be able to afford food when I’m going out all the time”.. Wrong, so wrong. It’s hard to eat healthily when your college timetable is full of splits and the easiest thing to make and eat in ten minutes is microwavable pasta. And you can afford to eat, you can afford the 20c noodles from Aldi and not the €3 punnet of strawberries. Take it from the girl who gained two stone in three months, I know what I’m talking about. Learn to cook some healthy meals, limit the amount of takeaways you eat, and don’t go to the chipper after a night out.

I wish I’d been told that living facilities for students aren’t the best. Especially in first year, when it’s everyone’s first time away from home without their mother to clean up after them. Even when you’re in top class student accommodation, your floor will be constantly sticky from vodka and there’ll probably be mould growing in at least three places. Hope for the best, expect the worst. Someone will probably pee in the sink at one point too.

I wish I’d listened to the people who told me “Don’t shit where you eat”. Don’t get with someone from your course, and don’t get with someone that you’re living with. The awkwardness if it ends on bad or awkward terms is real. It’s probably not advisable to get with anyone living in your best friend’s house either. Or living next to your best friend’s house. Or anyone. Just don’t get with anyone. Stay away from them all.

I wish I’d been told not to get sick in a taxi. Now this has never happened to me, but I felt it was worthy of a mention. Living in the back end of nowhere, if you get sick in the back of a van you usually just hear “Ah for God’s sake!” and it’s done. Do that in the city, and you’ll have to pay a hefty fine of around €140. Ridiculous I know, but yeah, don’t get sick in a taxi. Oh and if you refuse to pay, they’ll probably call the guards.

I wish I’d been told not to buy books straight away. When we were given the list of books we needed, I went out and bought them immediately. Do you know how many I actually ended up reading? Zero. Only buy the essentials, you can always borrow the rest from friends, split the price between ye or find them in the library.

I wish I’d been told how great the support for students with mental health problems is in college. I was so worried when I’d miss tutorials over panic attacks, or needed an extension after getting myself up in a heap. Lecturers (at UL anyways) are very understanding and sympathetic towards the fact that you have a mental illness, and do all that they can to help. Whether it’s giving you an alternative assignment, or helping you out when you’ve fallen behind, the system is a lot better than the one in place in secondary school.

And finally, I wish I’d been told to make the most of my first year of college. Like everything, college is 100% what you make of it and it’s not all about the books. Meet new friends, go out, join clubs and societies, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. I had a wonderful first semester studying in UL, and I’m sure there’ll be many more to come. Good luck to you guys on this new chapter of your life, and make sure you enjoy it!

Dear First Semester Mic..

Dear First Semester Mic,

What a year you’re in for. You don’t know it yet but you’re about to get onto a really bumpy, windy and crazy rollercoaster for the next few months. Some of it won’t be what you expected, and some of it will exceed your expectations, but it’s going to be a year that teaches you a hell of a lot about yourself, that’s for sure.

Moving into the big bad place known as “Stab City” three days after you turned 18 was always going to be fun. A disastrous move perhaps, but still really fun. You’re suddenly thrown the responsibility of becoming an adult all at once, and I have to say you handled it pretty well for the most part. I’m delighted to say that you were right in ignoring everyone who said “But English isn’t what you really want to do, is it?” and “Maybe repeating would be a better option?” Your faith in the quote “everything happens for a reason” shone through, and although New Media and English wasn’t your callin1354g, you made the right decision to stick it out and hope for better things to come.

On the very day that you move in, you’re going to meet somebody who’ll soon become one of your closest friends. You’re going to bond with her because while you’re crying over a boy that doesn’t like you, she’ll be pouring vodka down your throat, and this is like the day after you meet her. Immediately you’ll come to the conclusion: I like her, I think I’ll keep her. You’re going to meet so many new people in these first few weeks, but Emma will be one the one that stays with you through thick and thin. And you’ll reward her by coming to her house the morning after a night out, telling her all the gossip, and then falling asleep in her bed while she studies. On multiple occasions.

You know that boy I just mentioned that had already pissed you off the minute you stepped in the door? Yeah, please keep away from him. He’s… Not the nice guy you thought he was. Stop going back to him. You look like an idiot, actually scratch that, you are an idiot. Why you constantly attempt to impress somebody who makes you feel like dirt, I have no idea. On Monday you’re going to be saying “I really like him”, and by Wednesday you’ll hate him again, and it’s really not worth your time. It’s the end of semester two now, and it still pisses you off just looking at him. Oh, and this semester you’re going to vow to Emma that you won’t go back to “semester one boy”. Hate to break it to you, but you will. It’s all a part of being a teenage girl I’m afraid.

003You’re going to be sitting in the boring and tedious lecture that is Gothic Literature one morning and get a text from your Mum that’s about to make your day/week/life: “You went up to a B3 in English.” and then it’s hello Journalism! You’re going to love this course, and be so glad that you changed, even though all the messing around with transferring fees and timetables almost gave you heart failure. It will be obvious from the first tutorial you attend that this is the course for you, and that Journalism is your calling in life. You’re going to meet some amazing – and I mean truly amazing – people. Being in such a small course means that you’ll really get to know everyone, and as Holly described us in a recent blog post, “We’re like one big, strange, dysfunctional family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” You’re going to go through a lot together, but the hardest of times reveal the truest of friends and amongst the journalists you’re sure to find quite a few friends for life.

You’re going to spend a lot of the first semester worrying about whether or not you’re a good enough writer. Stop right now, because the amount of blogging and writing and over-all working your ass off that you’re about to do next semester is more than substantial. I wish you’d taken some time to sit back and say, “You know what, I’m proud of myself” because you should be. You tried your very best, and I guess that’s all that matters in the end.

An Alcohol-Free Student Life: The Update

A few weeks ago I made a post about an experiment that I’m doing, to see if cutting alcohol out of my life would improve my anxiety at all. A lot of you have been asking how it’s been going for me, so I said I’d update you but I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet.

To put it simply, I feel a lot better. Cutting alcohol out of my life has by far been one of the smartest decisions that I’ve ever made in regards to my health and wellbeing. Before, after a night out I’d wake up hungover and crippled with anxiety, unable to face even my closest friends for fear that I’d said or done something stupid the night before, and going to lectures would launch me into a panic attack almost immediately. I’d spend my day lying in the dark in my bed, with all these thoughts racing around my head about what an idiot I’d been the night before (and as I said, this happened even when I’d only had three drinks).

By not drinking, I’ve completely eliminated the prospect of that happening and have in turn made my life a lot easier. Going out and not drinking isn’t a problem for me, because my friends are the type that I can have just as much fun with when I’m sober. Although it can be hard going to house parties where there are people that I don’t know, it’s something that I’m sure I’ll get used to and all it will do is improve my communication skills.

A lot of people would ask me, “Why aren’t you drinking?” and although I’d explained it to my friends, others would be like “Go on, have one! Don’t be dry, just drink!” and to be honest this really annoyed me. It’s my choice not to drink, and feeling pressured to do it just pissed me off. I have to admit, it was really hard to ignore the peer pressure but the next morning I always felt better knowing that I was okay and my anxiety was on a low.

Of course, there was a time when I gave in. It was at a friend’s 18th and as soon as I got in the door there was a game of Kings being played, so I gave in and took a drink. But I made sure that I’d eaten plenty beforehand, and probably had a total of four drinks. When I started to feel that the alcohol was affecting me I stopped, and when people asked what I was drinking I’d say “Oh, vodka and coke, the usual,” when all that was in my cup was coke, but sure who was to know? For all we know, people could be going out acting as drunk as can be but in reality be completely sober.

To stop the “why aren’t you drinking?” questions and prompts and encouragement to drink, I start off my night with a drink in my hand. It’s only a WKD or a light beer, but it’s still a drink in my hand. That way nobody notices that I’m not drinking, even if I have that same bottle in my hand for two hours.

So that’s it I guess, although my anxiety isn’t completely cured, cutting out alcohol has helped it a lot. I’ve accepted it, and I know it’s something that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life, but I know that by challenging myself and taking on experiments like this, I can figure out what helps make me feel better. I’m probably going to stick with this for another few weeks because it’s working well for me. College is nearly over and Summer is fast approaching, so who knows, maybe I won’t drink again until September?

I now notice that this was not very short at all (apologies) but for anybody who is suffering from anxiety, I’d definitely recommend cutting out alcohol. It can be difficult in a college environment and like me, there may be times where you give in but the important thing is not to give up. All you can do is try your best, and I promise you it’s so worth it.

Choosing a College Course: What You Need To Know

Choosing a college course was easy for me, or so I thought. I was adamant that I knew what I wanted to study, and where I wanted to study it. But looking back, I’ve learned that I really wasn’t that well informed. Of course our career guidance teacher tried to help us out, but with one class a week and over 90 students it wasn’t exactly possible to give undivided attention to everyone individually. So here are a few of the things that I wish I’d known/did/didn’t do when I filled out that scary little CAO form.

  1. Don’t choose a course for the money

I can’t even recall how many times I was told “Just be a teacher, sure the money’s great and you get loads of holidays!” and at one point I actually considered it. But when I got to college I was seriously glad that I didn’t go down that route; the amount of people that I’ve met who hate their course and only chose it because of the money you’ll get in the job after is crazy. Seeing future engineers struggling with their 500 hours of college a week and mountain of work that they’re not even interested in frankly pains me a little. If you choose a course that you’re not going to be interested in, all you’re doing is making life more difficult for yourself. If you don’t like it, you won’t attend lectures or study, and where will that lead to? Dropping out and changing course. Save yourself the hassle and pick a course that you like the idea of, will be interested in and think you’ll be good at.

  1. Do your research

I can’t shout this out to you leaving certs enough, research, research and research some more! I thought I had everything possible looked at when it came to the course that I wanted, which was Midwifery. Basically, all I did was look up all the colleges that did the course and fired them onto my CAO form. I can now see that if I’d gotten Midwifery, I more than likely would have ended up either overloaded with stress and anxiety or dropping out altogether. My advice for looking at courses would be first of all, to research all the colleges that do the course, taking into account the points difference. The best college won’t necessarily have the highest points. I know on the UL site, there’s contact numbers and email addresses for course directors. Don’t be afraid to contact them and ask questions about the course, that’s what they’re there for. Even have them get you into contact with somebody who’s currently doing the course, to get their opinions of it. You can never have enough information! Finally, and most importantly, check what modules you’ll be doing. This is something that I should have done but didn’t, and it catches a lot of people out, especially with Maths. There’s a lot of courses that include maths that you wouldn’t really think would. Make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for!

  1. Don’t listen to “You won’t get a job out of that course.”

This was something that I listened to, and could have very ended up regretting. I always loved writing and had a passion for English, but was told to keep away from Journalism because there were “no jobs in it” and it was a “dying career”. Subsequently, I put Journalism and New Media in UL down as 7th on my CAO form and after missing my first choice by a mere 5 points, ended up getting it. Fate? I think so! Let me tell you a little about the six months of experience that I’ve had with this “dying career”. Two weeks after I started, I had an interview published in The Irish Sun. I’ve had an article published with TheJournal.ie (and *spoiler* another one coming up). I run a blog that’s had many successful posts and have racked up almost 20,000 views. Because of this blog, I had a piece published in a book on mental health where all proceeds went to Pieta House. I contribute articles to different websites such as SpunOut.ie and Campus.ie, and I’m about to start a weekly mental health column for an up and coming online magazine. I’m part of the team of social media coordinators on Instagram for Darkness Into Light (follow us, we follow back: www.instagram.com/darknessintolight.ie) and I’m also the Public Relations Manager for a new Netflix documentary in production, which I’ll be getting paid for. Sure, I’m not getting paid for 90% of that stuff but you know what? I enjoy it. It’s going to look great on my CV and we all have to start at the bottom, even nurses do unpaid placement nowadays. So back to the point: I’m only in first year and I’ve already done lots with this career. The more you try, the more you succeed my friends.

I hope you all learned a little from this!

Parenting as a Full-Time Student: The Reality

Being a young parent is often something that is looked down on or frowned upon, and from the minute we hear of another young girl that’s pregnant or a young boy who’s about to become a father we can hear the complaints from a mile away, usually something along the lines of “They’ve ruined their lives!” But this isn’t always the case, in fact it rarely every is. Having a child at a young age is not the end of the world, and doesn’t mean that life has to come to an abrupt halt. I’ve always admired the young people who have children but do everything in their power to be as successful as anyone else, and here we see a few of their stories.

Darryl Reilly is a Business graduate from the west of Mayo, and has a five-year-old daughter named Skye. Growing up as a “slightly off the rails” teenager, he never imagined that parenthood would be a part of his life so early on. When he’d just turned 18, he had a teary-eyed bombshell laid upon him when his girlfriend told him that she was pregnant. But Darryl had a positive and optimistic approach to the situation, “You always assume that if you ever hear them scary words that your life is about to spiral out of control, when in fact it galvanizes you as a person. It makes you grow up on the spot, you have just confronted what would be a major issue in any young person’s life. Did it make me sick? No. Did I die? No. Did it make me grow up instantaneously? Yes.”

In the beginning of August in 2009, just a mere few weeks after he graduated, Darryl’s daughter was born, and his life changed immediately. He gave up on the idea of going away to college, eager to be there for his little girl in her first few months of life, not wanting to miss out on any of the important milestones. Instead he enrolled in a Business PLC course, and completed it receiving six distinctions and two merits.

But when Skye started preschool, Darryl knew he had to make a change, “I decided that staying in Belmullet with a minor qualification was never going to give me the job status and financial status that I yearned for, for me and Skye to both have the best of everything in life.” He went on to study Business in GMIT Castlebar, and recently completed his Business diploma in Galway Business School.

Looking back at being young and becoming a Dad, Darryl recognises that it sometimes it was very tough, “. I won’t say it was always easy. There were sticky patches and bad days at the office, but you get through them purely by the love in your heart.” He has learned a lot from his journey as a parent, but knows that there’s so much more to come, “I’m only 5 and a half years into the never ending journey of being a parent. But when I got on that train at the first stop, I was merely a boy still lost in adolescence, now still so early into the journey it has made me a man.”

Aishling King is an 18-year-old leaving cert student, and mother to a three-year-old little girl called Aimee-Faith. Becoming a parent at fifteen was extremely difficult, as Aishling had to take four months off school after she had her baby in the March before her Junior Cert. Now studying for her exams, she finds it tough splitting her time between school and motherhood, “It’s so difficult, because you feel guilty when you’re not with them and feel like you’re prioritising books over them.”

Although she is eager to go to college and become a teacher, Aishling admits that being a single mother has impacted on where she’ll be studying. For the first year or two, she will be leaving her daughter at home in order to give herself a proper chance at succeeding in college, but still wants to be as close to her as possible, “I wouldn’t be able to take to Dublin or Limerick as it’s too far away, in case something goes wrong at home.”

Aishling admits that being a young mother puts a lot of extra weight on her shoulders, “It’s a lot of pressure on you as you’re not doing things just for yourself anymore, it’s also for your child.” She also recognises that people sometimes look down on her, but tries to focus on what’s most important to her, “I try and be the best mom that I can be. I wouldn’t change having her for the world, and I’d be empty inside without her. She’s everything to me.”

She recognises that without the help of her friends and family, and even through the support of her teachers at school, she wouldn’t be where she is today and is extremely grateful for their help.

Caitlin Fisher is twenty years old and currently repeating her leaving cert, but is also the mother to a three-year-old named Kade. Caitlin’s son was born when she was in Transition Year, and she admits that the hardest thing for her was going back to education. It was through her teachers that she realised how important getting a proper education was, and that it was no longer just a chore, “Although they helped me they also gave me lots of advice and made me realise that I needed to seriously get my life in order.”

Her friends and family made it their goal to help Caitlin succeed, and she says that her mother is her biggest support, “She will always help me out by taking Kade for a few hours so I can study, and looks after him while I’m at school.” All of this help is proving extremely beneficial to Caitlin, who wants to go to university and study what she’s passionate about, to set a good example for Kade, “I’m determined not to become a typical teen mum stereotype.”

What’s most important to Caitlin is being able to give Kade everything that he wants and more, something that all parents want. Since having him, her life has changed completely, and she now admits “All my dreams and goals revolve around him, he gave me reason and helped me get control of my life.”

The next time you hear of a teenager who’s about to become a parent, try not to look at them so negatively. Think about the young parents in this article, and how determined they are to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Having a baby doesn’t mean that everything is over, it just means you have another person to bring on your rollercoaster of a journey through life.

An Alcohol-Free Student Life: The Beginning of an Experiment

This is going to seem like a really strange post for an 18-year-old college student to be writing, especially because right now I should be in bed nursing a hangover, not writing a blog post with a clear head. But the title is pretty straight forward: I’m going to stop drinking alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a big drinker to start with. Being in college I drink once a week, maybe twice at the maximum, and when I’m at home I don’t drink at all. It’s pretty much average and normal for somebody in their first year of college in my opinion. But what’s not normal and average for me is my reaction to alcohol, and quite frankly I got sick of it.

Drinking has never really been something that I “enjoyed” doing, which made me feel a little odd because I should probably enjoy going out and getting drunk like most other people my age. But I don’t, it just doesn’t agree with me and I don’t like the effect that it has on me. After a night of drinking I’m always tired, feel sick and just want to lounge around and eat junk food. Pretty normal, right? It is, but when you mix it with anxiety it’s just an even more lousy experience.

The morning after a night out I usually wake up in a panic. Whether I’ve had one drink the night before or 21 (okay that never ever happens, but you get my drift), I’m always in a state from the moment I wake up and the first thing I do is frantically search my bag. I have to make sure that I have my purse, my phone, my keys. And of course I always do, but God forbid if I ever lost any of my things I’d probably have a panic attack for a day straight. Once that’s over and done with, I start to retrace my steps from the night before and over-analyse them. This is where the real frustration begins.

I’m always convinced that I’ve made an idiot out of myself, or that I’ve done something stupid. I start to think, “Oh God, what’s everyone going to think of me?” and sometimes this is so bad that I avoid everyone I went out with for a few days until I’m sure they’ll have forgotten about these embarrassing things that I’ve done. Keep it in mind that these embarrassing things are probably as simple as me tripping over in my six inch heels, something that happens to everyone. But for me it feels like the end of the world, and I completely blow it out of proportion.

Even if nothing that’s potentially reputation crushing has happened on the night, I’ll convince myself that it has and I’ve just forgotten about it. Sometimes I think this is even worse, because it then becomes a struggle to walk downstairs to the shop or go to a lecture for fear of seeing somebody who seen me the night before. What’s even worse is when this happens after a Tuesday night, because I then have to spend the rest of the week in this state.

blue3So I decided to make a change. Yes I enjoy my nights out with the girls, but the amount of anxiety that it brings the day after just isn’t worth it. This week I decided that the alcohol needed to go, my happiness and well-being on a daily basis is much more important to me than having fun for a night. I don’t know why I didn’t decide to do this sooner, because I’m perfectly capable of having fun without alcohol. I’ve just finally accepted that this is making my anxiety worse, and I want to stop it.

So this week, I started my drink-free college life, and guess what? I loved it. Usually by Friday I’m dying to go home and feel exhausted and crappy from the night before, but this morning I feel happy and refreshed. I went to all my lectures with a clear head, and even that improved my anxiety by showing myself that I was learning new things and actually taking them in. I spent my money for going out on an appointment with a psychic medium, and the amount of positivity and happiness that I got out of it was worth every penny.

But just because I wasn’t drinking doesn’t mean that I couldn’t go out and have fun. On Thursday I went to a house party with one of the girls, and left before they headed off to the nightclub because I had an early start the next day and was wrecked. I had a good time, and I didn’t need alcohol to do that. By not wasting my money on alcohol, I was a happier person this week. I may be a little quieter and maybe a little more boring without alcohol in my system, but who cares? I feel one hundred times better, and that’s all that matters.Learn-To-Surf-Quote

Some people are probably wondering, why the hell is she blogging about this? Well, because I think it’s a positive move. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of anxiety sufferers hate dealing with, and I want to show them that it’s a much better scenario when you keep away from alcohol. I want to show people that you can enjoy college life without drinking, and that it’s not a necessity. And I think posting this online and keeping it updated will motivate me to keep doing the student life alcohol-free.

It’s kind of more of a social experiment if anything, I want to see how much my anxiety improves without alcohol interfering. Even after just a week, I feel a lot better. And it’s made me want to keep going and see how much of alcohol really does contribute to my anxiety.