Saturday, 29 July 2017

Graduate to Grown Up

They say your twenties is the most influential decade of your life. It might be when you graduate, and when you have your first proper job; when you move out of your parents’ house – and maybe when you buy your own first home; when you meet new friends, who might prove to be your lifelong mates; and it might be when you meet your partner, and when you get married, and maybe even when you start a family; and it might be when you decide on your chosen career, or industry – or experiment with a multitude of those things. Your twenties can be pretty pivotal, not only in shaping who you are now, and for the next few years, but who you will be, and what you will do, and how you will live for the rest of your life.

This time last year I spoke to 9 recent graduates about what they’d done, what they were doing, and what they were hoping to go on and do. They had degrees in everything from Music to PR, and whilst some had jumped straight into the world of work, others were continuing to study or taking some time out to travel. It showed that just because you did the same degree as someone else, or went to the same university as someone else, everyone’s path is different – and, as a graduate, it was one of the first times in your life that you were in control of the first steps on that path.

For many, graduate life might not be quite all it’s cracked up to be. Whether it’s never really knowing what you want to do, or wondering if you’ll ever be able to buy a house or just have to pay extortionate rent forever, we all face challenges on the way to…and through adulthood. We might realise that the job that once seemed so attainable is actually a millions miles away because we don’t have 10 years’ experience, and can’t live on £10,000 a year. Or maybe we’ll throw ourselves into something, to later realise that this isn’t where we wanted to be. We’ll meet the success stories and the grafters, and the drifters and the bored but stable. And somewhere down the line, we’ll find our path and be clear how we’re going to stay on it.

So this summer I want to speak to a different group of people: the once graduates, now grown-ups. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be talking to people whose university days seem a distant memory and who have been making their way in the real world. I’ll be learning about the expectation vs. the reality of graduate life, and the journeys they’ve been on to get where they are today. I want to know where they see themselves going, simultaneously inspired and disheartened, by the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and what else they’re hoping to learn along the way.  

Keep your eyes peeled.

And I’m always looking for contributions, so if you want to share your story, get in touch! 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Fresh Faced and Almost Fancy Free

Today is the first day I’ve ever gone to work totally bare faced. And I thought I was going to feel more liberated.

Here’s the story. I woke up tired, with a headache, the remnants of an ear infection. I didn’t feel awful, but I didn’t feel fantastic. I brushed my hair and I brushed my teeth, and I looked in the mirror and I just thought ‘not today’. And I watched the news for 15 minutes instead. I don’t wear very much make up on the best of days, and I don’t look hugely different without it; and I’m still wondering whether anyone noticed that I looked a bit paler, my eyes looked a bit smaller and the bags under my eyes were pretty obvious. At least no one said ‘are you ok? You look ill’, because that seems to be the go to when women who usually wear make-up have a free skin day.

So as I sat (stood, who am I kidding) on the train this morning, watching one lady try and do her liquid eyeliner, and another try and blend her foundation in the flattering light of the Victoria line tube, I felt pretty smug that I was fresh faced and feeling…fine. I won’t go as far as saying I felt liberated, because hell I was only going into work make-upless, and then I saw a man sexually assault a lady on the escalator, and that brought my feminist pride crashing right back down. But my face, my appearance, didn’t feel like a big deal.

And then I get to work. And for some reason, I keep poking a spot on my face, and rubbing my eyes, and Christ I feel tired. I feel like I want to crawl right back into some pyjama bottoms and hang out on the sofa. It took me until about 4pm to realise, but without my make-up, I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel concentrated, or ready to do work, but lazy and tired. And that annoyed me, until I realised that it wasn’t about the make-up but the routine. Every morning, before work, I get up and brush my teeth, and get dressed, and sit on the sofa for 10-15 minutes and do my make-up and watch tv. Until this morning, I’d never really thought about doing anything differently. It wasn’t about not having any mascara on, but that I hadn’t gone through that normal routine, that process which reminds me that I’m ready to go to work, rather than ready for a morning of Jeremy Kyle and Traffic Cops. 

In the last couple of months, I've seen a lot in the media about women's obligation (or non-obligation) to wear make-up to work. There are lots of contentious questions being thrown around about how it impacts your perspective of someone's professionalism; whether 'looking after' your appearance suggests that you're more of a go-getter; and whether there are certain jobs or industries where it is and isn't ok to show up to work fresh faced. And although I've always been of the opinion that a woman can do whatever she damn well wants with her face, work or no work, it made me want to think about the reasons I always wear make up to work. Today showed me that it's not because I do or don't care about my eyelashes, and not because I do or don't care about my work and how my colleagues react to my mid-week eye bags - it's because it makes me feel more awake, more alive, and less in the mood to spend my day curled up in a ball. It's also shown me that, if I did it more often, I'd probably be more functional without my concealer. 

Next time I oversleep, I'm sure as hell not going to be getting tube germs in my mascara. Or the next time I feel like my face needs a day of polluted London air getting up close and personal with it, I'll oblige it that privilege. Because, ladies, our success in the workplace is  not ruled by our BB creams, our almost matching, over-defined eyebrows or our third favourite lipsticks. 
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