Am I Grown Up Yet?

My name’s Darryl, I’m 22 years old, and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with my life.

I’m a graduate, a freelance writer and have around £14k of student debt lingering over my head. Yet I still don’t feel anymore like a ‘grown up’. I struggle to use a washing machine, left to my own devices I would live on a diet of Cuppa Soup and beans on toast and I recently somehow managed to get myself stuck to a door.

The question is, when am I supposed to know what I’m doing? Will I ever know what I’m supposed to be doing? Or does everyone else just act as though they know what they are doing?

In a few months time I will be 23, the same age my mum was when she gave birth to me. As a child, this is what I deemed to be the age of ‘adulthood’. The age I thought I’d be somewhat close to having my shit together. But alas a few months away from turning 23, my pride and joy is a set of limited edition Doctor Who stamps, I hate children and this morning my mother had to point out that I had been walking around with my cardigan on inside out.

As a child the age of 23 sounded like a ‘grown up’ age. I remember as a school child pretending to be an adult; I’d have a house, three children and a killer collection of pink, glittery heels. The reality is none of these things have happened, and I’m rather relieved they haven’t.

Perhaps one of the problems is I largely feel like a fish out of water. Leaving University and not spending my evenings crying over referencing assignments is something that’s worthy of the occasional fist pump to the sky. However having a degree doesn’t mean I’m ready to face a lifetime of ‘having a career’. If anything it’s made me less ready. Four years of sleeping in until midday and watching Jeremy Kyle repeats on ITV2 has essentially resulted in a chronic problem of ‘But I don’t want to go out’.

Yet here I am, still not quite in the ‘real world’ of baby sick and electric bills. But still plodding around, trying to look as though I know what I’m doing. However as stated in the first line of this blog, I actually don’t have a clue.

Do I need to find a girl (well, boy), settle down and get married? Alas I fall at the first hurdle and am suffering from a permanent state of singledom, despite advice off my mother who told me when I stop working Saturday nights, I can go out and find a fella. Because working Saturday nights was the issue, not insufferable awkwardness.

Social situations and ‘professionalism’ reduce me to a suffering state of awkwardness. I fill situations with intense stares, serious laughter through my teeth and resort to staring at my shoe laces, hoping the entire situation will have ended by the time I look up. Sometimes I hope for a Nuclear War, depending on the severity of the situation.

I refuse to believe that everyone else out there knows exactly what they’re doing. I’d rather people admitted they are essentially freestyling their way through life.

I’ll end this blog on a quote that was once said to me: “No one in life is ok, they’re just betters actors than you. So maybe become a better actress.”

Life After The NCTJ

My NCTJ experience is over.

After four years in University studying for my degree and journalism diploma. I am actually finally free. Some would argue that life outside of education and the world of debt, growing up and struggling to find a job is far worse than being in University. In my eyes, this is something I would much rather do than write another essay on the structure of local government.

So what have I learnt from my NCTJ experience? Well firstly, it’s unlikely me and shorthand will ever get on. I successfully, or unsuccessfully managed to complete a ten month course without a single qualification.

I sat two shorthand exams and in hindsight I wish I had forced myself to sit the exams sooner, rather than wait until the end of the semester when my interest started to severly waver. My first attempt at a 60wpm shorthand exam went something along the lines of this: “Hey I’m actually doing this. Oh shoot what did she just say? Bugger, I’ve failed the exam’. Sadly the subject of a woman having a burst pipe wasn’t enough to stop me from getting overly smug. The second time was a similar experience, only my brain would not engage in a story about chewing gum and as a result I missed several lines and drew something that looked slightly like a bucket. To this day I’m not entirely sure what word that was meant to symbolise.

Sadly, despite passing all my other exams, until I have those 100wpm, I’m not 100% qualified.

Media Law was an interesting experience, that, now working in the writing world has taught me not to write anything that could potentially land me in a pit of defamation and slander. Public Affairs was an experience that has benefited me now I work for a local news website. At the time of lectures however, I wanted to trap my face in my textbook.

Video journalism was ok. Despite producing what I felt was a good video I got a low mark; and despite sitting an exam that I thought was a disaster, I ended up getting my highest grade. Not too sure how that worked, but clearly I lack the creative flair when it comes to holding a video camera.

News Reporting was my personal highlight. I joined the elite group of people who have passed that exam first time. That’s all I need to say on that.

Out of my two placements within the course, I learnt some valuable lessons. I’m not cut out for a structured newspaper environment, if sat by a window I will lose focus and finally, and perhaps more seriously is local news journalism is far more than sitting at a desk, phoning the police and rewriting press releases. I ended up at a relatively new hyper local news website and gained far more necessary experience than I had during my time at a newspaper.

However the main lesson I learnt was that local news reporting isn’t as actually as dull as I had initially thought. Saying that, seeing the gradual shift to online news and decline in paper sales (and occasionally seeing duplicate content in some publications!) has taught me that journalism is all about moving with the times. There’s no point sitting around waiting for something to happen or producing work that no one will read.

The skills I learnt during my time during the NCTJ course have formed the basis of my still limited news reporting knowledge. However my writing experiences outside of the course have taught me there’s only so far traditional forms of news reporting will get you in a world where the rules of journalism are quickly moving forward.

I Told You I Was Ill…

My name is Darryl Robertson and I am a hypochondriac. How do I know?

Google told me.

In fact, Google has told me I’m far more than a hypochondriac. According to the reliable search engine I am a medical marvel.  It’s a miracle I’ve survived the Black Death, Swine Flu and occasional bout of Rickets that have come my way. I laugh and cower in the face of mystery and rare illnesses.

Well, laugh and accept the fact that my life is in the hands of Webmd.com and Yahoo Answers. My hypochondria tells me I’m addicted to Googling potential symptoms of illnesses that are impossible for me to contract. There isn’t an ache, pain or one-off eye twitch that won’t result in me scrolling through pages and pages of search engine results that tell me I have somehow managed to get Whooping Cough and Leprosy. What starts as a mild head ache ends with me writing my will, and planning what I will say to Holly and Phil when I make my This Morning debut to talk about the fact that I’ve contracted a tropical illness; despite never actually going abroad.

Self diagnosing is somewhat of an addiction. Type ‘self diagnosis’ into a search engine and you are greeted with pages upon pages of people will no medical background telling you that you are living on borrowed time. That they’ve had the same experiences, and that by the sounds of it our symptoms are too advanced to see a doctor. This inevitably leads to you spending time looking for someone to prove you wrong, to tell you that you’re not dying.

Google refuses to be met halfway. According to ‘doctors’ on Yahoo Answers, you’re never far from death. Every head ache you have or small rash on your arm is never what it claims to be.

Without Googling it, I can say I am addicted to checking my ‘life threatening’ symptoms; and I’m confident when I say I’m not the only person to do this. I know people who have convinced themselves they have Cataracts, Norovirus and Arthritis. And that’s just listing the ones that haven’t resulted in anyone convinced they are the 1 in 10000000 to contract a life threatening and rare illness. Type stomach into Google, and before you’ve even finished you’re greeted with the following worst case scenarios:

  • Stomach ulcer
  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach cancer
  • Stomach

In the last few months I have convinced myself I have Arthritis, fluid on my knee, a missing rib; and most impressively I have managed to conceive exactly 6 children in the space of 7 months. Not only does Google think I’m a 21 year old with brittle and missing bones, but I’m also a bit easy and capable of conceiving and giving birth faster than a Sim. Yet I can’t bring myself to stop. I find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time putting my life in the hands of virtual, non medical idiots who only have my vague information to go on.

Google is the Aladdin’s Cave of mystery and life threatening illnesses. Before you know it you’re writing your memoirs and preparing yourself for a stint on Embarrassing Bodies. I wish I could end this knowing I will stop self diagnosing. But right now, I have a sore back that requires some inexperienced medical attention.

My Teeline Shorthand Relationship

I’m a journalism student.

In fact, I’m not just any journalism student, I am an NCTJ journalism student. This apparently gives me the ‘Edge’ and makes me more unhappy than normal journalism students.

One factor of the course which provides this hardcore, employable edge is also the main contributor of my ever grumbling, NCTJ unhappiness.

I hate shorthand.

Hate is of a course a strong word, and it sadly isn’t strong enough to cover my feelings for shorthand. For those who aren’t aware of what shorthand is, it’s essentially some form of wingding witchcraft that is meant to make the life of a reporter or secretary easier. Which is fair enough, if you can do it.

At one point I was told that I would start dreaming in shorthand, which instantly made me reluctant. Trading in my dreams about making the X Factor final for a bunch of meaningless squiggles didn’t really fill me with joy.

I on the other hand, can’t do it. Despite being reliably informed by lecturers, co workers and every professional I’ve encountered that it will get easier. It hasn’t. 

The fact I’ve invested in a Dictaphone and have every intention of going back to normal longhand as soon as the course is over, further clarifies that this is a relationship that has run its course and needs to end. Fast.

The honeymoon period was short lived. I got my place on the NCTJ course almost a year ago now, and started practicing the alphabet in the summer of last year. At first it was exciting and I very nearly enjoyed it. Now however it is a divorce waiting to happen. The inevitable break up between two people who can’t even look each other in the eye.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. There have been council meetings that I’ve dabbled with the squiggles in; only to get back later on unable to translate anything I’ve written. I’ve invested in the equivalent of a shorthand dictionary, only to spend my time looking at rude words and complaining about how hard it is. There is only a certain number of times where you can listen to voice recordings of your lecturer reading, before you want to pound your face against a desk.

And I somehow have to reach 100wpm to receive the full NCTJ accreditation. At a push I can do 40wpm, providing I know exactly what the passage is going to be. If someone wants to be transcribe something new I’m thrown into a state of flux and end up staring into space.

We were told to ‘drill’ the words or letters that we hesitate over until we understand them. This brings to mind the opening of The Simpsons, were Bart is constantly writing something over and over again on the blackboard. He’s been trying to have a message hammered home to him for years, and that’s exactly what learning shorthand feels like for me. That the rest of my life is going to be spent writing something that I don’t really care about or want to learnt over and over again on a blackboard.

Somewhere along the lines I missed the memo that told me how to do shorthand. How to keep my patience and want to practice this irritating form of writing. The sad fact is, I’m just not interested. My longhand notes have never failed me and are far easier to read back. I have no intention of pursuing a career in local print journalism, so taking notes at a court case will never need to be done.

Part of me however wants to be able to do it, for my own narcissistic thrill. Maybe in 10 years when I’ve miraculously acquired my 60wpm I might look back and say that I’m a shorthand convert. I may even start dreaming in shorthand squiggles and look forward to going to work for a local newspaper.

In the mean time I’m more than ready to sign the shorthand divorce papers. In longhand of course, just to piss the bastard right off.

Message To My Six Year Old Self

Tomorrow I turn 22.

It isn’t exactly a landmark age, and after the fun and presents of my last birthday, it isn’t going to live up to the hype of my 21st. Especially since I’ve already been told I’m getting far less presents and effort from my family this year. More salt is added to the wound because it also appears I’m too old for Easter Eggs.

This sounds very selfish, and that isn’t the intention at all. In fact, this year I’ve resorted to telling my parents where they can get the things I want at a reasonable price. I accept the fact that I’m now past the age where it’s ok to glue some pound coins in a card, and I’d rather use the fact I’m not getting these pound coins in a blog post; rather than spend them on something that I don’t really want to spend money on. Like bus fair… or NCTJ course fees.

To me 22 has always sounded an adult age. The fact I’m lacking the shiny pound coins in  my birthday cards this year means that my relatives also expected me to be an adult.

However the closer I’ve gotten to the age, the more I realise how wrong I was. A factor that has been further emphasised by Taylor Swift’s recent single, in which she says 22-year-old dress up as hipsters, make fun of their ex’s and also eat breakfast at midnight. This essentially tells me my life will continue on in a spiteful hipster way, while having poor eating habits.

When I was 6 years old I thought by the time I was 22 I would look and feel like a ‘proper grown up’. While I was strutting along the playground pretending to be in the Spice Girls, I thought 22 would be the year I would be married. Not only would I be married to someone who resembled Ritchie from Five, I would have children, a high paying job, my own house and a pair of expensive pink high heels.

Minus the fact I’m still not a millionaire and don’t own my own house, this thankfully isn’t the case. I can’t walk in high heels and can’t stand the colour pink. Right now I can’t think of anything worse than pledging my life to some guy, in a ridiculously expensive wedding that is broadcast over Facebook. Then I think of having children, and that is my something worse. The thought of looking after a screaming child is enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand.

There is nothing wrong with marriage and children at the age of 22. Nor is there anything wrong with pink high heels. For me, I physically struggle to get out of bed and look after myself, let alone look after a smaller, dribbling version of myself.

This isn’t me being nostalgic, nor does getting older concern me. As long as my face continues on in its Dorian Gray way and people in the Odeon continue to ask whether or not I’m an adult I’m happy.

I’m slowly picking up the ‘skills’ needed to be an adult. The main example of this will be spoken further about in my next blog post. I’ve helped my mum join Facebook, and I didn’t lose my temper once when she asked me a series of obvious questions.

The skills I have just aren’t the child-bearing, happy wife skills that my six-year-old self envisioned. I think my six-year-old self gave 22-year-old me too much credit, and would probably be disappointed by the way I’ve turned out. I’m childless, husbandless, pink shoeless and having 50th Anniversary collectible Doctor Who stamps for my birthday. Six year old me would be throwing a tantrum while biting my arm if she saw what I’ve actually done to her dreams and naive ambitions.

I’m not sorry six year old me; you would have made me miserable as sin.

Immune to Fear

When I finished my degree last year, I experienced what is commonly known as ‘The Fear’.

I went through phases of binge eating to not eating; to staying up all night writing about Postmodern theories on 4 hours sleep. I was riding a combination of The Fear and not actually caring about anything other than getting my life back. This fear dwindled down pretty soon after I handed my dissertation in; suddenly I didn’t care about anything and the fear went on a brief holiday.

For some reason I experienced a brief moment of fear shortly after completing my degree. The ever combination of uncertainties about my career and inevitable hours spent watching  Jeremy Kyle in clothes covered in food, meant that I somehow found myself enrolled on an NCTJ course in Print Journalism. There’s no need to comment on my feelings and irritating regret about being on this course, however I was hoping that at some point in the year I would find the motivation or feel the fear enough to actually do some work.

The Fear however seems to have slumped off into a corner to wallow in self pity. Deadlines are fast approaching and suddenly I’m in a far worse position than proof reading my dissertation at 3am the day it was due. Mountains of untouched work have been carefully planned and jotted down on numerous to do lists; but alas no action has been taken to actually make sure that they eventually get crossed off this list. Instead I’ve started adding meaningless things that I’ve already done to said list, and crossing them off to make it look like I’ve actually done something.

Instead I feel no fear. My brain has adjusted to a mental state that can’t happen for a few more months; in my brain I’m already sat eating crisps and preparing myself to sign on while ignoring the mountain of student debt.

In the weeks leading up to a string of quite important deadlines I have yet to make a dent in any of the work. I have no desire to even look at the work. The sad reality is that I will be sat typing up some total bollocks at 3am the day the work is due, while trying frantically to film some bizarre Modernist video while trying to pass it off as an ‘actual news feature’.

This is part one of a two part blog post. Next week I turn 22, and will embark on a year that Taylor Swift has made sound fun and exciting in her new song, 22. My 22nd year will be spent dressing up as hipsters and dancing like I’m 22; while also looking to feel the fear before I waste away into nothingness.

Next weeks blog post will be about what I hoped I would achieve before 22 and the contrast of what I have actually achieved.

Happy Valentine’s Day… Unless you’re sickeningly in love.

February the 14th. Valentine’s Day, Singles Day, Hey I’m free and loving life totes #YOLO day. Call it what you will, I’m here to throw bitterness and misery all over the day. Not necessarily because I’m full of jealousy over the happy couples, they annoy me all year round. Instead it’s the flaunting of the different and ‘hilarious’ emotions and comments thrown around by online smart arses that really make the day irritating.

Valentine’s Day causes a divide between those who love a soppy poem and those who have yet another reminder they are unlovable (you’re single all year anyway, deal with it) or those who hate the fact that people buy into the earlier mentioned slushy love poem.

Regardless of what category you fall into, it provides the perfect chance for people to hashtag jokes, upload pictures of roses to Facebook, spend time with their right hand or use it as an excuse to update their blog. Or publicly wallow in self-pity posting the occasional Adele lyric onto Facebook or Twitter. If this is you, then you have pretty much established why you are alone. Forever.

However, if you are single and loving it on Valentine’s Day, then it’s the perfect chance to quote Lord Jason of Derulo and have a YOLO “I’m Ridin’ Solo” moment.

For those who read my not so regular posts on a regular basis, you’ll know that my mother and her words of wisdom are mentioned on a regular basis. As she thinks I’m destined for a lifetime on dating sites, it would be rather silly of me to write a blog about the day of romance without mentioning a snippet of our pre Valentine’s chat (condensed down from the “You’re just too damn fussy” and less interesting conversation).

As the only one in the family not receiving any sort of card or heart-shaped chocolate (Yolo, I’m ridin’ solo) my mother has yet to arrange a Mark Darcy style character to sweep me off my feet, choosing instead to play what I’m calling ‘Friends to Lovers Roulette’. I’m christening it this because the conversation went along the lines of my mother deciding that I was more likely to end up with someone I know, than actually managing to pull a Mark Darcy. If she had the chance she would have gone through my albeit rather small phone book, picked someone at random and demanded that I sext them. Which would have been disappointing, as my idea of a sext involves making innuendo out of the word Tardis.

So alas, today will come and go, and once more my mother will be more disappointed by my lack of anything than I am. Whatever you’re doing today, enjoy it. Just hold back on the annoying hashtag/irritating photos of a breakfast you’re getting in bed/how you’re loving life on your own. #yolo

New Year… Same me?

The New Year is a time for change, reflection and irritating Facebook and Twitter comments. There’s a nice combination of words that get thrown around in the short space between Christmas and New Years. The people who say the new year is going to have competition from their ‘totes awesome!’ year, despite the fact they’ve spent the vast majority of the time complaining via indirect Facebook statuses. This is of course followed by the over enthusiastic ‘New year new me people’, who try their best to keep to resolutions, but realistically break them within the first week.

I’m not a fan of New Years, nor am I fan of resolutions. I don’t see it as a chance to start afresh, to me it’s nothing more than remembering to write down 2013 at the end of the date in work or university.

I tend to stay away from resolutions, largely because I’m incapable of sticking to anything that I say I’m going to do throughout the year anyway. Nearly 2 weeks into the new year and I can confirm that not a lot has changed. I still have poor time keeping, I still haven’t tidied up the pile of magazines and discarded university work off the floor and I’m still non the wiser with regards to what I want to do with my life.

Of course most New Year resolutions revolve around the same things; finding love, losing weight and more than likely the want to find a new job that pays thousands and thousands of pounds a year. While I’m happy to just go with the flow, and happily take any of the above if they happen to float my way, however until then I’m happy to go with the flow. This isn’t the case for everyone though.

2013 is the year my mother will inevitably sign me up for Take Me Out, or some other form of Saturday night dating show. There’s a joke in the house that my mother still thinks life is like a Jane Austen novel, and as I turn 22 this year, I’m quickly approaching the age where I should probably have been married and settled down with a posh gentleman who wears a top hat. Not being almost 22 years old and sat at home scrolling through countless Tumblr pages while watching Sherlock and Doctor Who all the time; a life which is clearly more rock and roll that Pride and Prejudice, just without Colin Firth wearing a wet white shirt.

Maybe I should enforce some form of resolution in a Bridget Jones style manner and use it as my quirky opening when I introduce myself in an annoying way on Take Me Out. Will find nice sensible boyfriend stop forming romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, sexaholics, commitment-phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, or perverts.

Until that happens, I’m quite happy to sit and twiddle my thumbs until series 3 of Sherlock begins. Well, start the year as you intend to go on and all that jazz. This year I intend not to make any resolutions and take things as they come.

Well, I’ve broken part of that already.

Christmas Work

For students the Christmas period is full of the brief enjoyment of a life away from the monotony of Microsoft Word. The blatant attempt at repressing the enormous pile of work stashed in my untouched university bag is making the festive enjoyment slightly harder. Having recently graduated from university, this was a situation that I didn’t think I’d ever be in again. Well, at least not for a few years. Yet here I am, on an NCTJ course and trying to work out how to balance all this work, while not actually doing any work.

For those of you who don’t know, an NCTJ qualification is one that is built to prepare and train you for life in journalism. This involves copious amounts of Media Law, Public Affairs and everyone’s favourite, Teeline shorthand.

I’m four months in my course, and I honestly don’t feel anymore prepared for the final exams than I did when I started. One word of advice to give anyone contemplating doing an NCTJ course, plan your time well. Which for someone who miraculously managed to run late for her own graduation ceremony, is quite an ordeal. For those who have done a degree, the most drastic change is how little free time you have. I was used to 8 hours of lectures a week, ridiculously long lie ins, and lectures that meant I was home in time to catch the repeat of Jeremy Kyle on ITV2. Not only that, it turns out I actually have to know what I’m talking about. The days of throwing in a Freudian theory that vaguely links to something some author said are over. My dear feminist friends Laura Mulvey, Gilbert and Gubar aren’t getting me through assignments on the local council. But, don’t think I haven’t tried; and actually almost succeeded.

Free time is no more. For a course that was advertised as part time, I can honestly say I’ve never had such little free time in my life. Hence why I’m writing this blog before I go to work during the Christmas holidays.

Possibly the hardest part of the course for me is shorthand. I believe in honest writing, and so I will start as I mean to go on; I hate shorthand. In fact, hate is probably being a tad generous. I would gladly carry a Dictaphone and spend hours listening to recordings for the ‘perfect quote’ if it meant I could bin shorthand off right now. I’m told it’s a case of it not clicking yet. However, having started practicing over the summer, I have been approximately been doing shorthand for about 6 months, and it’s still no closer to clicking. Every time I complete an exercise in the workbook, I forget whatever outline it was that I learnt in the previous exercise.

Despite loathing it, I haven’t quit. Due to the fact I want to get my to my 100wpm as soon as possible, so I can ditch the damn thing and only use it when totally necessary   I’m hanging in there, but it is through gritted teeth. So if anyone has any advice on how to struggle through shorthand practice, then I would greatly appreciate it.

I have a Media Law test coming up in a few weeks, and have yet to pick up my text book. Perhaps it’s the Christmas blues, or because it’s the fact I know how my revision methods work; and starting right now will mean I forget everything by the exam comes around. So I plan to start on the 2nd of January. I have my highlighters and note book at the ready for some learning!

My LoveFilm Revenge

I’m a walking target for strangers. Whenever there’s a charity worker trying to sign me up for a lifetime of donations to pets with no collars, I’m the one they stop. Even if I walk past pretending I’m fascinated by a bird in the sky, I get stopped. And because I’m incapable of dealing with anything, I usually end up donating something, signing up to something or leaving with a discount card, that is forever doomed to sit in my purse.

This week I was strolling through town minding my own business, when I got targeted by some LoveFilm man, who decided to try and charm me back to his little glass box. And I went with him. Now I don’t have a LoveFilm account, and my past experiences with LoveFilm have been enough to make me want to stay away from the internet again.

Two years ago I thought it might be a good idea to get an account because I thought it would come in handy when I couldn’t be bothered buying any of the films I needed for an assignment. This grand idea lasted for half an assignment. One of my films never turned up and as my deadline grew closer I started to clutch at straws. I probably even changed my assignment. So I decided to cancel my account, which was easier said than done.

Not only do I end up donating money to people in the streets, I have a habit of caving in under pressure and agreeing to things when all I’m trying to do is cancel something else. I’ve had bank interviews I don’t want (and never turn up to) because I somehow got talked into getting a new card, when all I wanted to do was take some money out.

Cancelling my LoveFilm account resulted in me yelling my postcode down the phone to someone in an Indian call centre, who did not understand a word I was saying. In the end he hung up on me and I had to get my mum to yell the postcode down the phone in a phonetic way. Not only did they not send my damn dvd, they hung up on me,

So, when a chap who was targeting any female under the age of 22 came over to me and asked me to join LoveFilm, I said yes. I listened to him explain the entire history of LoveFilm, put an old email address into his laptop; and as soon as he mentioned signing up, I said no and left.

Childish? Yes. Made me feel like I had one up on LoveFilm? Yes.

All in all I felt good about a very childish and insignificant revenge. Well, aside from the fact that I forgot there was a glass window and nearly went barging through that thinking it was the door. But still, my childish relationship with LoveFilm is over.

Until I sign up and yell my postcode down the phone again.