The Precipice


"At the edge..." / xMEGALOPOLISx / deviantart

“At the edge…” / xMEGALOPOLISx / deviantart

Well, I failed. My 30-day blogging challenge that started off with a shot of adrenaline managed a pitiful 8 posts in 9 days before the stress of exams finally caused me to put it on hold. I am quite disappointed in myself, but then again, choosing to write 500 words a day for 30 days in the midst of cramming thousands of words in revision was probably not a good shout. However, the one thing that was encouraging was the amount of people that engaged with them, at a time when they were definitely too busy or stressed out. So, rather than killing myself putting these thoughts down with a 24-hour time bomb waiting to drop, I thought this one would just allow me to de-stress before tomorrow.

I read an article yesterday, yes it was the Tab, sharing techniques on how to de-stress when you feel like the sky might be falling. One of those was blogging, and I have written about it before, so I am not going to repeat myself, nor paraphrase the words of thousands of people on this. Yet I can stand testament to the fact that doing something different and allowing yourself to be expressive in the face of public ridicule prepares you for something that examination questions just can’t tackle.

But I still have to do exams which count. And this is the penultimate year of my education. I am feeling fairly okay about it for the first time ever!

It feels strange, that after all of this time, you would think that I would have learnt how to prepare better by now. For those of you reading this in the library, you will probably let out a small grin, knowing that everyone puts themselves in the same boat. They leave it to the last possible minute and then a rush of energy hits you (hopefully) which pushes you over the line. It is like standing on the precipice of a cliff, looking at the fall you need to take, and feeling the tips of your fingers tremble as the nervous energy starts to set in, before your feet throw you over the edge.

The reason I am feeling fairly relaxed is that I know that I don’t measure my worth or success by exam results anymore. I don’t tell myself how good I am based on the hour that it took me to cram in as much information as possible so I could to secure the grade I needed. This time, I actually enjoyed learning it – I felt like I got some of the value back from my investment. I finally felt less out of place in this environment, and I tried to put the work in. Obviously if this doesn’t translate into decent results, then I will have to reflect on it – but it is more about technique, than actual skill. Play the game. Please the examiners for the 45 minutes that they need you to and then go home and find pleasure in something else.

All I wanted to do was to wish you the best of luck with the upcoming exams, but I know most of you will do well. As much as anyone tries to convince you, you can’t blag a university exam – trust me, I have tried (and failed). You don’t need to – it is there within you – because you are already successful in most of the things that you do, as well as being healthy, loved and supported by the people around you. Numbers and statistics will try to define you, as much as people will look at what you are wearing and make their impression, but it is those that see behind that who will last.

The sceptical, stressed-out version of you will think this is flowery bullshit. And that this isn’t what you need right now. You need a 2.1. And don’t get me wrong, you do, but you also need to be a human being too, not a drone. If you don’t believe me, read this. Now jump.

Opt In


Credit: European Parliament / Flickr

Credit: European Parliament / Flickr

It was a bit of anti-climax. It isn’t the same putting your vote in the post, amongst those who are making their way to the polling stations now, huddled into those familiar wooden booths. It is a technological vaccuum where even the advances in everything electronic won’t stop you from taking a black pen and putting a black ‘x’ in the designated box. And it is totally yours to choose.

The beauty of voting in a General Election for the very first time is that it is like crossing the threshold. A threshold that has very rarely changed in the last few hundred years, that has built the nation and brought it to its knees. And it all invariably starts with you walking into that familiar wooden booth, and marking your choice. It was a very exciting moment for me personally, having been heavily interested in politics since I can remember.

However, I can’t help feeling like the tokenism behind voting should have more value than it does. Amongst many of us, it is as much about telling people that you are going to vote, as well as actually doing it. An exercise in democratic responsibility, as well as a vanity project. It is a curious juxtaposition between generations that have kept their political views to themselves, and many of us who are bold enough to post our explicit political views all over our social media profiles. It is a positive notion, I must admit, that so many people want to be more involved, but I am worried that we sometimes don’t see how important this actually is.

I know there is no need to point fingers at the engaged, when there are many others that have no interest or time for the way in which this race pans out. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Also, there is no right or wrong reason to vote – it is a very personal dimension and there are a plethora of reasons why an individual might choose one box over another. Yet, do we take the time to understand who and what we are voting for? Can we ever consider the implications of such a decision on one ballot paper on one day?

It sometimes makes me feel like it is an ‘opt in’. You tick a box (or rather cross) and suddenly you align with a certain viewpoint, a major issue or a charismatic leader. You endorse the way that they work, who they believe in and you give them the right to decide a part of your future for five years. It is the terms and conditions at the bottom that we miss – the small print that surfaces months after the wooden booths are taken down, and the pollsters go home – the devil, as someone said to me today, is in the details.

So cross that box. Smile at the fact that you made a little piece of history. But realise that this is just the beginning, and that it is time to start holding those to account after the banners have been taken down. It will be a very exhausting night. And for a few groups of people, it will be a celebration amongst all the chaos…but the real winner should be you.

Because this should never just be an ‘opt in’ – this is a statement of intent. This generation will not be deceived again, not this time.

 

Undergraduate of the Year


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Some of the goodies provided by Mars

 

The last few days have pushed me back on the 30 day challenge, which is a bit disappointing, but I’d rather take the time to do it properly than rush it through. The title of this post is not some thinly veiled attempt at self-indulgence (I mean, that is what this blog is for) but actually a real thing. I was nominated this year for the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year awards. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are.

The whole process was gruelling. Having to go through various assessments and questions, identifying this competency or that one, but this time it wasn’t just to be satisfy a graduate recruiter. I could actually talk about what I love doing: innovating. I love the process of creation. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite film as a boy, and Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka still makes me stare at the screen like a schoolkid. The sense of imagination and excitement from completely impossible things made me realise then that just because something doesn’t look normal, does not mean that it isn’t brilliant.

Although as you get older, fear creeps in. The drop to failure gets higher and higher, as does the height of responsibility. You start to overthink things. And I guess this last week has made me realise how much of my own stress is self-made. However, yesterday it was nice to put on a new suit and talk to people about the things I was interested in, the companies I have founded and what my ideas are for the future.

I wasn’t grovelling to employees at a firm I wanted to work for, but I was being asked about my thoughts on things – and this time it wasn’t being marked out of 10 on a clip board. There was a mutual respect. And the calibre of talent was staggering. One guy who won one of the awards was so good that he got invited to Obama’s second inauguration ceremony…I mean, my jaw literally hit the floor.

And no, I didn’t win. I was nominated for Future Business Leader by Mars Global and the girl next to me won. Initially I was disappointed, but when I looked at the sheer delight on her face, I was happy to see it go to someone who wanted it so much. For me, just being nominated was a token of how far I had come. After seeing things go my way (and not on some occasions) it felt calming to be given recognition for just being me.

I am forever grateful and humbled by the opportunities and achievements that have already come in abundance in my life so far. It is a culmination of my parent’s backbreaking efforts, my long suffering friends, colleagues that I have learnt so much from and strangers that challenge me every day. I never forget how lucky I am, and you can’t always win them all.

Although I did win, in my own little way

So a Monkey walks into a Train Station…


photo

I am going to carry on from where we left off yesterday. It is easy to ignore the great things that people are doing for others, purely because we are bombarded with so much of it that we start to become used to it. Oh, another person on my news feed is doing a trek or running a marathon, and they are asking for money. Scroll. Nevertheless, I want to share with you the story of how hard it is to raise money. The fundraiser’s story.

For the past two years, I have raised over £3,000 with a variety of things, from bake sales to sweepstakes to runs, and am on my way to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer. It has all been for Meningitis Research Foundation and the last thing we did was bucketing on the streets of London this Easter. As much fun as it looks, bucketing has got to be one of the most horrendously difficult things I have ever done in my life.

The day starts at 5AM. You collect a permit, put on a costume (in this case a monkey) and you try to beat the morning rush hour. Yes, that’s right. You get there earlier than the earliest commuters, set up a spot and stand in that position for around 4 hours without a break. For the most part, you exhaust your vocal cords telling people about how important the cause is, how many people are struggling and how any spare change can help, over and over again. People don’t care. They avoid eye contact with you, as you smile through the pain of losing the blood in your hands, as the bucket starts to weigh down on your forearm. Your legs ache and toes blister. The bucket keeps getting heavier. With over 12 hours to last, the thought of sitting down makes you want to weep.

Out of every 100 people, about 5 people will donate. 1 will talk to you. But that is the difference. Every time I felt like I was going to lose hope, a stranger on their way to work saw me, slowed down, smiled, and reached for their purse or wallet. And then I started to hear the stories. “My daughter died from Meningitis….I lost my wife a few years ago…I had it as a kid, but they caught it early” – it felt strange saying it, but the only thing I could muster replying was, “I’m glad you’re still here.”

On the second day at 7AM, a man walked up to me having lost his partner from Meningitis 14 years prior. Initially walking past, he stopped and turned back to face me, his eyes wet with tears. After telling me the story, I put the bucket down and gave him a hug. He started to sob. There were barely 15 people on the streets near Bank Station, yet there we stood, both feeling completely helpless and distraught. He emptied a few coins into the bucket as he went on his way, but he had given me a lot more than his spare change.

Suddenly the pain subsided. The aches and tiredness started to disappear. My voice got louder. The smile was back, but this time more determined.

I can say hand on heart, that I absolutely hate bucketing. It makes me feel small and basically invisible. However, the right people see me. The ones that have been though the hardship appreciate the effort and that is what makes it count. Luckily, I have no experience or history of Meningitis, but the reason I am so passionate about the cause is because when you meet these people you realise how horrible it is to really suffer. To understand what suffering looks and feels like. Remember that being grateful is about giving back in whichever way you can. Even if you look and feel like a complete fool for 48 hours.

To see more about the journey up until this point, click here. And if you are feeling generous, although there is absolutely no obligation to (I can’t stress this enough!) you can donate here.

P.S. I raised over £300 in London, so not a bad couple of days work…

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