life after a masters; what’s next?

2020, career, student

Hello!

Just short of a year ago I started my masters in digital media production at Oxford Brookes University and in normal circumstances I’d be days away from handing in my dissertation, but with the pandemic my deadline has been pushed back by six weeks so I now have until the end of October to finish my dissertation and find a job.

And it’s mildly terrifying.

Last time I finished a degree I spent a year being rejected from probably over a hundred jobs and that had a massive impact on my already low self esteem, so subconsciously I think I’m really nervous about that. But I can’t just not think about what happens after my masters because I have lots of work left to do (like a lot of work left to do…) – although it doesn’t feel like it now, life will go on after October 29th and if I don’t think about it till then, it’s just going to make things more difficult.

What I need to happen is to jump straight into a full time job – although many of my peers from my undergraduate degree found companies they loved and still work with straight away, I’m not expecting that. I just need to get my foot on the lowest rung of the ladder and start climbing, however many steps it takes to get there (wherever ‘there’ is).

But with being so unsuccessful two years ago, I just don’t know how I’m going to get a job when I don’t feel like I’m good enough. After so much rejection, I feel like I just don’t know how to get a job, even though I’ve actually worked two retail jobs since then so I’m not totally unemployable.

It all feels so far away but too close simultaneously – I see so many people I know whether they be media graduates I studied with, people I went to school with or random people I follow online working their asses off to get what they want to achieve and I feel like I have the drive and the motivation but I don’t feel like I’m skilled enough. Every job spec I look at feels so overwhelming and unachievable and I’m not good enough at it.

But actually? I’ve done my fair share of working my ass off. I’ve got a Post-Graduate Certificate and I’m so close to finishing my masters at the most unorganised, least supportive uni I’ve ever heard of,  I live in a house with the love of my life, we’re saving for a wedding and a house deposit, I’ve got the best support network of friends I could ever dream of having and I have a whole future ahead of me.

Do I know where I want it to go? Absolutely not – there are lots of areas that interest me and I think I’d be happy in any of them. Is there a whole multitude of jobs and industries that I still don’t know about to explore? Absolutely – having grown up at an incredibly academic middle class grammar school, there wasn’t much outside of doctor, teacher, engineer, lawyer – very obvious jobs that you can find in a kids book. Multimedia journalist was beyond their repertoire. TV camera operator? Nope, they’d probably class it as ‘low skill’. Even photography was wiped from the A Level options when I was in sixth form because it wasn’t academic enough.

I am creative – I love words and telling stories. I love data – comparing analytics, noticing trends, making spreadsheets, graphs and lists. I love coloured pens and post it notes! I love answering emails and organising calendars. I love working with creative people that can bounce ideas around and come up with something incredible as a team. I love the idea of sitting in an open, comfy, modern office space and taking myself off occasionally, finding a Spotify playlist and listening to piano instrumentals while my fingers type faster than I can think.

I have good, employable skills. I just need to get out the mindset that someone needs to ‘give me a chance’, because there is something out there for me and I will earn it; I am not a risk.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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September Goals

2020, goals

Hello!

September feels like such a fresh start – a new school year, new season and a birthday for me! Though my goals this month are more building on goals I’ve set into motion in other months, I’m starting the month with a mix of a strange bout of anxiety that I’ve never felt before and a new found focus for finishing my dissertation (and kind of enjoying reading academically? Though I’m not very good at it!).

I’ve noticed a pattern in my 5 goals that they usually fall into three or four categories – uni, fitness, craft, writing (if it’s one of my writing challenge months) and then a spare! I often refer to my yearly goals if nothing immediately comes to mind for my monthly goals but I’m actually fairly on track with corona allowances, so looking forward to reviewing them all at the end of the year.


  • finish first draft of my dissertation essay

With two calendar months left to finish my dissertation it’s all beginning to feel very real. Granted I’ve had about five months with nothing else to work on but there’s a pandemic and there was so much pressure. But with my boyfriend going back to work and actually having some peace in the house, I’ve got myself a good little set up where I’m getting much better of actually working with more focus than I think I ever have before!

It’s a 5000 word essay so by the end of September I should be able to do that, considering my last goal of the month particularly! I’m going to make a plan with all the sections I have to include, how many words I expect to write in each section and what I want to achieve by what date at the weekend because having focused goals works really well for me! Any dissertation writing tips are more than welcome – I’ve never done this before!

  • get to week 3 of couch to 5k

I feel like I’ve not stopped banging on about Couch to 5k, but I picked it up again in July after trying it last summer and bar the last week or so, I’ve been running three times a week for the last 10 weeks or so? The C25K program is 9 weeks but I wanted to take it more slowly and at my pace.

But I’ve been doing week 2 for about 7 weeks now and I need to step it up a gear. This week I’ve reset my C25K app so I’m going to do week 1 again to ease back into it, maybe a couple of weeks of week 2 and then I want to get to week 3! If I spent two months repeating week 3 that’s fine – I don’t care how long it takes, if I’m still going running three times a week the consistency is more important to me than the progress!

Though I’ve hit lots of new personal records in Strava recently and it’s very motivating! I might do another post about running in a week or two so if you have any questions let me know!

  • visit new places around High Wycombe

We’ve been in talks with our landlord and we’ve officially renewed our contract for 6 months, which means we’ll be moving in April. We’re looking to move out of the town we live in – still close, as it’s where my boyfriend works, but hopefully I’ll be working in that time (I bloody better be!) so where we go depends on that. But I also want to explore where we live more! I miss small town life of where I grew up so somewhere more rural (but still really close to Hobbycraft Wycombe centre).

Currently I’m looking within about 10 miles of Wycombe but if I end up getting a job in London or Reading or Milton Keynes or somewhere we’ll look more towards one of those areas – it’s exciting to be moving and know that we can actually afford it this time!

  • learn to crochet

Over lockdown I’ve rekindled my love for cross stitch, knitting and sewing so I might as well learn to crochet too, right? I picked up some needles in Wilko relatively cheap and I got this Crochet Therapy book in Hobbycraft and I’m very much looking forward to properly putting some time aside to read and understand each exercise, calm my mind and learn something new all rolled into one!

  • writing challenge: 45,000 words

Every other month this year I’ve set myself writing challenges with increasing goals in ‘training’ for writing 1,667 words a day in the 50,000 word writing challenge that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Alongside reading through my old drafts of my book to write my notes for the new draft I intend to write in November, I’m going to be writing some nice, cutesy, fluffy fanfiction because I don’t want anything too intense while I’m trying to write a 5000 word Masters dissertation essay simultaneously!

The last couple of challenges I’ve done I’ve got into a good routine with my word counts so I’m hoping to figure that out again this month and use creative writing as a form of relaxation from dissertation writing!

And my recurring monthly goals remain the same!

  • date night
  • read one book

With my original goodread’s goal being to read one book a month, I maintain that minimum or one book a month and anything else is a bonus! I did finish six books in August though so I think I’ll manage this one!

I love planning out my little goals – I don’t know how interesting they are to read as a blog post for anyone who isn’t me, but I find it incredibly therapeutic! Maybe I should make it something I journal about rather than posting on the internet but that’s a debate for another time.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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Treasured In… August

2020, books, lifestyle

Hello!

Another month has rolled around and I’m trying really hard not to comment on how fast the month has gone but also, pretty sure it’s still April and summer’s just around the corner?

But alas! August has been an interesting month – I’m definitely getting more stuck in to my dissertation research as the deadline for that looms ever nearer, I’ve been trying some new things with my time management to work with my fluctuating mental health and I had a couple of splurges too so here’s a little roundup of the things I enjoyed in August.


  • purchase

I may or may not have had a sad spending trip to Hobbycraft earlier this month… I needed one last colour embroidery thread for my latest cross stitch project and I found a book on meditative crocheting and I picked myself up some crochet needles last month and I loved the idea that it came with breathing and meditative exercises to follow along with in the book. Perhaps a tad pretentious but I’m excited to give it a go next month!

I also picked up a couple of cross stitch kits that I’m working on intermittently and I just find it so much fun – if you want a new hobby that isn’t particularly skilful but is offline and you get a pretty picture at the end of it, I thoroughly recommend cross stitching!

  • recipe

I’ve been experimenting more with the ‘orange lid’ spicy seasonings in my cupboard this month and whilst I’m the worst at handling spicy food, cooking up a bunch of vegetables, mixing it with some rice and using turmeric, smoked paprika and a little cumin with a bit of garlic puree is so yummy! It’s so simple but makes the meal so much more tasty and I’m trying to acquire new seasonings every time I go to the supermarket – am I brave enough to try chilli flakes? Probably not, but I’m going to try some new recipes from The Green Roasting Tin book this month so maybe I’ll find something new there!

  • song

The only thing my boyfriend and I have been singing at each other is the tune to ‘Savage Love’ by Jason Derulo because we’re late to the tiktok trend… It’s just too catchy!

I’ve also just discovered Kings and Queens by Ava Maria but the chorus is the only bit I like so I’m mostly listening to covers on tiktok… I also ‘discovered’ tiktok this month, I can’t stop.

  • YouTube video

With my boyfriend going back to work and having the house to myself, I have watched a lot  of YouTube this month! Nothing jumped out at me immediately but from scrolling through my history, I picked out my top three.

This video from Carrie Hope Fletcher and Oliver Ormson was very fun and picked out some of my favourite Disney songs.

I’m not a huge  fan of Dodie anymore but this arrangement of two songs was beautiful and the video is very clever and creative.

And this video from Jessica Kellgren-Fozard was very fun and I love the dynamic she has with her wife – they’re both hilarious and adorable together.

I still have over 300 videos left in my watch later, so who knows how long it’ll take me to watch videos that aren’t a couple of months old…

  • books I’ve read

I’ve been reading loads this month so here’s a quick run down (with links to my reviews on Instagram)

I only finished Checkmate last night so a few words – I was so impressed with Noughts and Crosses and the rest of the series has been such a disappointment. The beginning of Checkmate gave me hope because it was set a bit further down the line and I thought it had a different main character but it was just a new character and all the things that annoyed me about Knife Edge annoyed me about Check Mate too.

I’m about to start the fourth book in the series, Double Cross, because I bought the series and the painfully optimistic part of my brain keeps hoping that it will get better, but I don’t have a lot of hope. I definitely won’t be buying the fifth book that came out semi-recently.

  • snack

I have two very contrasting snacks for this month and I’ll start with the boring one first.

Tins of sliced peaches – I don’t know why I had these as a kid, but I recently rediscovered them and keeping them in the fridge on a hot day is glorious and relatively healthy because it’s fruit so I can enjoy it guilt free. If you gave me a normal peach would I like it? I don’t know, I’ve never tried one and I’m not very good at trying new things but tinned peaches? Gimme more!

And the second thing is a small Victoria sponge cake with Harry Potter house themed crests as decoration on the top. My partner and I went on a cake run to Asda because something popped up on Facebook memories and we decided we needed cake to celebrate… and then I ate the whole thing. Then I got another one in our weekly shop.

I’m going to stop myself buying them now but a £4 Hufflepuff themed Victoria sponge has brought me much joy this month!

  • TV/film/streaming thing

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube this month so I wasn’t sure whether I’d have anything to write about, then my boyfriend and I binged the entire of Umbrella Academy season 2 on Netflix in a day and it was glorious. 100% on par with how brilliant the first season, amazing character development, same incredible sense of humour and generally so much fun and such a huge twist of an ending! Already eagerly anticipating season 3.

  • wedding planning update

It’s mostly been a month of waiting on the wedding front – we sent an inquiry to the venue we like to discuss the quote we were given but I haven’t heard back. Though I did spend an afternoon reading about how the heck a registrar works and how to arrange a civil ceremony so I’m all prepared to ‘give notice’ within 12 months of our wedding date and then just waiting for the venue to confirm before I ‘book’ (if that’s the right word?) for the registrar to perform the ceremony. It all feels a little more real now!


I’m sure September will absolutely fly by but with a couple of trips, my birthday and drawing closer to the end of my masters it’s looking to be an exciting month.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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new (school) year, new start

2020, student

Hello!

The end of summer and September is my favourite time of year – I feel like there’s a certain type of person who’s favourite month is September and it’s either:

  1. People who enjoy school (whether it’s educationally or socially)
  2. People who love stationary and buying a new pencil case is very exciting.
  3. People whose birthday is in September

I am all three – I’m pretty sure everyone has a soft spot for their birthday month in the same way that December is always exciting because of Christmas, I am somewhat of a stationary nerd (though I’ve been on a pencil case and pen spending ban for, like, years and I still have so many) and my birthday is September; the full trifecta!

For so long, the start of the new academic year is more impactful than the New Year – 14 years (minimum) of new school uniform, new stationary, new shoes, seeing your friends every day after 6 weeks of not being able to meet up because everyone’s on holiday at different times, a new planner, a new timetable! I’m getting excited just thinking about it and I’ve not had a new planner for six years!

This year I feel a bit different – this is the second time I’ve not been going back into education in September since I was a toddler and even then it’s still a bit strange because my masters dissertation deadline is at the end of October so I’m still somewhat in education and having been at home for the last 23 weeks (not that I’m counting) the whole ‘new school year’ feels so much less significant this year.

But outside of school, using September as an excuse to have a fresh start is an opportunity that I think many of us will be taking this year! Any time is a good time for a fresh start whether it’s a Monday, a new month, any time but sometimes it takes these markers to feel like we have the opportunity to put something into practise. Hence why I love setting my monthly goals!

Maybe it’s because I’m still working on my masters dissertation which should have been nearly ready to hand in but now the deadline is six weeks later – I do feel like November is going to be my ‘fresh start’ because I’ll be officially done with education (though I said that after my undergraduate degree and here I am… but I mean it this time!).

New starts and this time of year can always feel exciting and nerve wracking and both significant and vastly insignificant simultaneously – for some getting out of the habit of feeling like a new school year is easy because they leap straight into a full time ‘grown up’ job, for some it’s nice to have that time of year as a little mental shift and for others it’s just another month.

As per, I think I’m making a much bigger deal out of something that’s not that big! A new month always makes me feel a little bit excited – like I can reset and refresh a little, but then suddenly it’s the 25th of the month and time feels like it’s going too fast and I can’t hang on to the present for long enough to enjoy it.

Today was a day I just needed to have a little ramble! I consider my corner of the internet to be a personal space for expressing what’s going on in my life – whether it’s new exciting things like moving house or reading a new book, less exciting things like navigating my mental health in a pandemic or things as trivial as an outfit I enjoyed wearing or a place I went on holiday! I love having my little space and a time capsule of who I was at so many different points in my life.

2020 is a weird ass year, we can only hope that 2021 gives us a bit of a break!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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the best books I’ve read this year (so far)

2020, books

Hello!

I feel like I haven’t written a book blog post in ages and I’m feeling incredibly invested in what I’m reading at the moment so I thought I’d channel that energy here! That might be the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written.

I feel like I may have said this a million times before but some brief context; I was the kid that would sneak out of bed and stay up reading, fell out of love with it as I had to study books I didn’t like and decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to get back into it with the help of reading challenges on the ‘goodreads‘ app – made it to 9 of last year’s target of 12 and as I didn’t meet the target I set the same one-a-month target for 2020.

I’ve currently read 34 books.

So I thought I’d write a shortlist of those 34 books of the ones I’ve absolutely adored! I write mini reviews on my Instagram if you want to see what I’m reading and my ongoing thoughts but I thought I’d collate my favourites for anyone who’s in a reading rut and wants some inspiration, wants to try something new or just fancies reading something book-ish!

Mild disclaimer: I will link to all these books on Amazon however if you have a local independent bookstore or retailer I highly support seeing if they have it or ordering through them, especially in the current covid economic climate!


I love ‘fantasy realism’ as a genre, where there’s an element of fantasy but it’s so well integrated into ‘normal’ human life that it almost doesn’t feel like fantasy. So when there’s a service where someone can see their future with a person, generally a romantic relationship, the gossip, reality TV ‘realness’ of it all is just the recipe for the perfect book.

Interesting and realistic characters are something that really grabs me and is a huge factor as to why I rated all of these books at 5 stars, but the concept in The Future for Curious People is so much fun and the ending is wonderful.

I asked for this book for Christmas the year it came out and it’s taken me two years to read it. I decided to read it on a long train journey to Birmingham to meet my mum to go to a wedding fair and whilst I was very excited about the wedding fair, boy o boy all I wanted to do was get back to the book. The whole mystery, teenage drama aspect mixed with a painfully relatable depiction of mental health (and helped me understand symptoms I don’t suffer with) meant I finished this book in one day – absolutely devoured the first half on the way there and nearly finished it on the way back; I had to drive home and finish the last 60 pages before I picked up my boyfriend from work because I was so absorbed.

John Green books are a bit hit and miss for me – I loved The Fault In Our Stars like every other 20-something (though I’ve never watched the film because I don’t think it’ll be as good) but I never massively enjoyed his other books. The style is a little pretentious – all of his characters are into niche poetry and philosophy and take themselves a little bit too seriously, but I think once I accepted that it’s just how John Green characters are and I loved so many other aspects of this book more than those parts annoyed me. I still gave it 5 stars.

I avoided buying this for ages because it was everywhere and everyone was reading it and I’m that kind of hipster. But inevitably I picked it up and it was Worth! The! Hype!

Another story about mental health and the ending really gets you but the two differing perspectives on similar mental illnesses and how the characters are so opposite but so puzzle piece perfect is just magical and the kind of character writing I can only aspire to.

This book actually has a John Green feel in it’s somewhat self-important characters but it was wonderful and I devoured it in just a couple of days. Definitely worth the hype!

  • Love, Rosie (Cecelia Ahern) (originally ‘Where Rainbows End’)

I picked up the film edition of this book mostly because of Lily Collins and Sam Claflin on the cover but avoided reading it because wow it is a chunky read. But surprisingly quick to get through once you realise it’s all told in letters – from childhood to old age the main character Rosie progresses through life, love and loss with letters, emails, texts, passing notes and other forms of communication that I’ve forgotten about but it’s such an interesting narrative that never explicitly says ‘2 years later’ or ‘three months later’ but as a reader, you know that time has passed. It’s just brilliant.

I’m not sure how the original title of ‘Where Rainbows End’ really suits the book, maybe because I’ve only ever known it as ‘Love, Rosie’ I couldn’t see the connection but that is the original novel’s title so if you are struggling to find it, check ‘Where Rainbow’s End’!

I fully intended for this to be one of the only books I bought this year as a new release… then I hit my goodreads goal in three months and needed some more books to read… Regardless, I’ve been buzzing about this sequel ever since I read ‘Eve of Man‘ in approximately two days last year. I love the concept, I love the characters, I love the world building and how painfully believable a world that derelict is and the sequel didn’t disappoint.

If I’m being brutally honest, I didn’t think it was as good as the original, but not in a bad way – I still adored it – I just felt that it was a bit like ‘The Two Towers’ in Lord of the Rings; it’s there to move the story along in a trilogy so it has to be there but it’s not the most exciting part.

Eve gets a little bit bratty, everyone gets a little bit melodramatic, I loved the inclusion of the third perspective in the different chapters and the twist at the end was so obvious I saw it coming from a mile away but still made me double take for a second (I thought she might be a time lord, if you’ve read it, you know!). Eagerly anticipating the last novel in the trilogy!

I really rated the Fletcher writers this year! This is Carrie’s first fiction novel and having struggled to read it twice before and realising this time that if I’d have read just one more chapter I’d have been hooked till the end always makes me laugh.

Another wonderful version of fantastical realism that takes you by surprise a little bit (lifting written words from a birds wings and putting them in a notebook did make me question the writing just a little bit until I remembered… fantasy). The love story that just wasn’t meant to be, I thought the characters were going to be much more ‘idyllic’ like early Disney Princess-esque where everyone is swept off their feet and everything’s too perfect but it wasn’t like that at all. It was lovely and as the story moves more into the modern day I could feel my heart being given in pieces to each character.

I can’t wait to read more of Carrie’s novels this year – I read When The Curtain Falls last year and I think I’ve got All That She Can See on my shelf to read at some point!

This book I picked up dirt cheap in a 3 for £5 sale at The Works – I wasn’t sure whether I wanted it because the whole premise of the book is based on a massive lie and I hate when characters make things difficult for themselves by not communicating openly. But it didn’t actually annoy me at all – there was a couple of really cringey moments but all round it was a sweet, heart warming book about the spontaneity of social media, the importance of family and not taking those you meet at face value.

Another one in the sale from the Works but much more sci-fi/fantasy – a meteor crash in a small town in the US (obviously, it could only be the US!) disguises an alien spaceship landing and two unidentified creatures are saved from the wreck. Another heartwarming story about family beyond blood relations and accepting people for all their quirks. Looking forward to the sequel!

One of my newer books and probably my first adult crime novel though it had very YA vibes. A 19 year old girl tries to navigate life as a college drop-out refusing to live with her mother at home following a car accident in which her friend died and she survived, but with a severe case of amnesia she remembers nothing from before she started high school, including her dad’s death. With many twists and turns and wondering if you can trust the narrative of the protagonist herself, so many things unfold about the true reason behind the crash and the real reason David died.

Genuinely amazing story – I’ve never read a book where I felt like I couldn’t quite trust the person telling the story and it was so interesting! I have another book by Jeff Abbott on my shelf but it’s the second in the series so I’m going to buy the prequel when I’ve read through all the other books on my shelf.

A book that was huge when I was in school but I read so slowly that I never got round to it. Seeing it recommended over and over again in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, when I saw the whole series on offer in the Works (it’s such a good place for books!) I knew I had to pick it up.

Learning about the privilege of my race through fiction was always going to be the way to help me best understand – I’ve never been able to apply so much of what I’m reading to real life and feel like I’m really learning from it. It was so eye opening and heartbreaking in equal measure and I can’t wait to read the other books I picked up to continue my education on racial inequality.

Couldn’t recommend this book more highly if you find non-fiction difficult to get into but want to educate yourself – amazing characters, so eye opening, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.


Did I plan for there to be 10 books in my highlight of 2020 so far? Absolutely not but I do find it incredibly satisfying.

I’m currently reading the third book in the Noughts and Crosses series ‘Checkmate’ by Malorie Blackman so if you want to see my thoughts on that when I finish it hop on over to my Instagram!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I’ve been writing about my bullet journal for a long time now – flip throughs, monthly set ups, weekly spreads, why everyone should bullet journal etc etc… but you’d think in a pandemic lockdown I wouldn’t put an effort into maintaining it, right? My uni is closed, I have no deadlines to meet for anything (pretend the dissertation isn’t real…), no social plans, so why am I holding my bullet journal closer than ever?

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

I’m someone who craves routine – the longer lockdown goes on the more lost I feel because it gets more difficult to motivate myself to maintain a consistent routine, but that’s where the bullet journal comes in! Having a to do list every day and a meal plan every week gives each day just a little bit of structure.

I’ve not been waking up consistently at all (this morning I woke up at 7.30am, then fell asleep until 10.20am – I’ve not slept that late since I was a teenager!) but I have lunch at 12, start cooking dinner about 5.30 to eat at 6 and aim to go to bed at 9… sometimes I don’t notice the time but generally I’m in bed by 10 at the latest! (I’m a granny, I need my sleep!)

My to do lists generally have 6-7 things on them every day and include things like washing my hair (because ya gal cannot keep track of the last time I washed my hair), doing my daily Headspace meditation and recording a clip for my 1 Second Everyday video – that’s three things already! Then I have 4 other tasks that generally include a form of exercise (I know! Who even am I anymore), something uni related, something craft related and then whatever else needs doing whether it’s cleaning the house or going to a pub quiz!

The system works pretty well for me most days – sometimes I get everything done by lunch time and I’ll either start the next day’s tasks or have the afternoon off, sometimes when my brain’s not doing so well tasks will start to pile up but after a day or two of feeling low I’m getting better at recognising that I don’t want to do that any more and just tackling one task at a time (then writing them off at the end of the week because no one needs to start the week with a bucket load of tasks from the week before – reassign them to the new week!).

Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated I’ll even set myself a properly timed schedule – this can be super helpful with bigger tasks because then I know I only have to work on them for a set amount of time then I’m done with it for the day. Even setting a timer so you get that proper sense of conclusion is great. I used our Alexa to set a one hour timer to do uni work, then my sister called so I paused it and when it resumed I carried on where I left off and after an hour I’d made really good progress and I felt really good about myself!

Obviously there are some days where the thought of even sitting at my desk is too much, but it’s working with your mindset and your emotions to make this time work best for you. We all have good days and bad days, especially when you’ve got mental health in the mix as well, but it’s listening to your own mindset and pushing yourself where you can. It’s all a balance!

I’ve been using the phrase ‘gentle productivity’ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it – lockdown is a breeding ground for bad mental health and being gentle on yourself (whether it’s giving yourself a break or pushing yourself back to your desk) is the key to having a bit of routine and normalcy and protecting your mental space.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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being fashion conscious on a low budget (and when not to feel guilty about where you shop)

2020, fashion, sustainability

Hello!

Fashion in a minefield at the best of times – keeping up with what’s trendy and what’s not (if you care, I don’t particularly), what clothes really look like on people that aren’t size 6 models and then figuring out how that all fits with your budget.

Having followed many beauty and fashion influencers (not because I particularly care about fashion, I just like the personalities) I’ve seen so many talks about capsule wardrobes, fast fashion, slow fashion, hauls from every fast fashion brand you’ve ever heard of, wished for pieces from more ethical brands that are way beyond my price range  and watched people make and up-cycle their own clothes.

And it often gets me thinking – as a teenager, I definitely had far too many clothes and as I moved every year at uni I’ve become far more interested in minimalistic living and getting more use out of the clothes I own (and repurposing all my old t-shirts into a big nostalgic blanket). So on one side of the ‘slow fashion’ coin, I’m doing alright at making sure I get enough wear out of the clothes I own and it makes me much more thoughtful when I am purchasing new clothes.

Buying new clothes is where I start to feel hypocritical – I love following creators that were sustainable brands and learning more about ethical companies and what makes fast fashion so unethical.

But I can’t afford it.

I can’t justify spending £50+ on one item of clothing, even if the cost-per-wear is significantly lower for how long it lasts, that still doesn’t mean I have the income to buy something that price in this moment. So I do my best to shop second hand in charity shops or find new ways to style the clothes I already have, but I do still shop in fast fashion brands because that’s all I can afford.

I treated myself to a little mooch in town the other day and after buying another house plant in Wilko, I wondered round Primark, popped into H&M and picked up an order in M&S. Granted, I didn’t actually buy that much – a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt in Primark and a dress in H&M (and some jeggings in the M&S sale but they don’t fit so I think I’ll take them back) and the whole time I couldn’t help but think about how I shouldn’t be shopping in or supporting these brands.

But I can’t afford to spend more than £10 on a pair of shorts, I’ve been looking for summer dresses all summer and when there’s a pair of jeggings in the sale for £5.50 it’s too good to leave behind.

And I shouldn’t let myself feel guilty about all this! Fast fashion is definitely still the biggest avenue of the fashion industry and whilst I’m still a full time student who can’t get a job and no income other than some family support to pay my bills, I’ve got to make compromises where I have to.

I think being mindful is the key to all this – when I do shop, I’m now much more thoughtful about what I already have, what I will actually wear and making the most of the clothes I do spend money on. I don’t own a pair of denim shorts so I could justify buying them, I’m wearing a lot more t-shirts at the moment and I loved the design so I could justify it; I’ve been looking for summer dresses in a style I like for months and the one I found in H&M was perfect (and looked really cute, might I add!). I wasn’t doubling up on things I already had for the sake of it – I’m still in the mindset of curating and developing my wardrobe to work in every season.

As I finish my masters and develop my career and have a bigger income to work with, I know I can justify spending more money on clothes knowing I won’t have to replace them as frequently and the people that made it are being fairly paid and working in good conditions. But for now, I have to make compromises where I can – fixing up clothes I own rather than replacing them, experimenting with the clothes I have in my wardrobe to give them a new lease of life; turning my long dungarees into short dungarees for he summer because I’ll get more wear out of them that way!

It’s all a balance – as we learn more about slow fashion and prioritise ethical shopping over cheap consumerism, there will surely be more options to make high quality, ethical clothes accessible for everyone, whether it’s being able to pay in instalments, normalising not buying new clothes as frequently or making the most of second hand shopping.

Being more mindful is a great first step – environmental progress doesn’t come from a few people doing it perfectly, it comes from everyone doing it imperfectly. If everyone was more mindful of how often and where they were shopping, took more public transport and ate one less meat based meal a week it would all add up to make a huge difference.

I don’t know a lot about these kinds of topics, but I’m doing my best to learn. I recommend following Ellie Stennett, Lucid Seams and Clean Kick on instagram if you want some accessible, not preachy ways of learning more about being more environmentally friendly in fashion, recycling and cruelty free beauty!

(also Simple Politics if you find the world a bit too complicated and need some nice simple graphics to make it more understandable!)

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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my new heaviest | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve written more about my experiences with weight loss and fitness in the last couple of months than in the last year or so and I’m trying to find the right balance, but this one is more about body positivity and body image if that floats your boat more than rambling about running!

I weigh myself once a week – with past issues with eating and body dysmorphia at school, I often have to stop myself from wanting to weigh myself every morning. But I feel like if I don’t weigh myself regularly then I lose a sense of control and knowing whether what I’m doing for the sake of my body is working or not.

But recently I’ve been watching the number on the scales go up every single week – I don’t want to talk about specific numbers because numbers are so personal to the individual and there are so many other factors that my ‘heaviest’ weight might be a healthy weight for someone else and someone else’s heaviest weight might be my weight goal so mentioning numbers doesn’t help anyone.

So at the beginning of the year, let’s call my weight X – my goal was to lose a stone to be at Y weight and for the first couple of months it went quite well, I nearly hit a big goal I’d been aiming for, I was making good progress and I felt okay. Then lockdown happened and the numbers started going the other way – I got back up to the weight I was at the beginning of the year, then it kept going, and I hit the next ‘stone’ marker and it just kept going. Then all of a sudden I was back at my heaviest weight that I was at in the beginning of 2018 when I was finishing my undergraduate degree.

Hitting that specific weight – let’s call it Z – didn’t make my feel as bad as I thought I would because I’d already been going in the wrong direction and been through disappointment, frustration, comfort eating, rationalising that I’m just trying to survive a pandemic, trying to figure out if lockdown should have been my opportunity to really focus on healthier life choices rather than go the other way. By the time I reached Z I had already been through all of these emotions and I had been mentally preparing for it.

In the month I started couch to 5k, I gained more weight than over the other six months of the year combined. But I know I didn’t eat well and there’s no amount of exercise that can compensate for that.

What I always used to say when I was in the height of my weight loss in 2019 was ‘everything in moderation’ – I’m such a fussy eater that eating healthily is really difficult, but smaller portions, eating food you like even if it’s bad but in controlled portions, making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and stop snacking on sweet treats in the afternoon (thought a 4pm ice cream in a heat wave is compulsory!). Moderation is key – doing a moderate amount of exercise and not becoming obsessive, making sure to have sensible portion sizes and not feeling like you can never have chocolate again.

Putting on weight isn’t a failure – your body changes all the time, no one ‘diet’ or regime is going to work for your entire life. Things change, tastes change, fitness changes.

If I want to hit my goal of ‘Y’ weight by the end of the year then I now have to lose much more weight than when I was at my starting weight of ‘X’, but I’m not bothered either way. I’m still running three times a week, I’ve been working on my home workout once a week, now that my boyfriend is back at work I have a bit more control over how frequently we eat vegetables, I’m working on my sleep schedule and looking after my mental health as much as my physical health.

Hitting a new highest weight could have been a new low, but I know why it happened. I know I went on holiday and didn’t eat healthily and lockdown with my boyfriend being home meant compromising on healthy foods. It’ll probably take time before the numbers on the scales start going the other way, but results are not linear – my progress in consistently exercising and looking after myself is more valuable than the number on the scales.

Remembering that is the tough bit though.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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just 10 seconds at a time

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

A lot of what’s taking up my brain space at the moment is actually fitness (I never thought I’d be saying that!) – with starting the Couch to 5k running program in July and aiming for one at home workout a week alongside running in August, I spend more time psyching myself up to do exercise, planning when I’m going to fit it in and mentally preparing myself for the physical challenge than I really need to, in all honesty.

I’m finding Couch to 5k really hard – it took me two weeks to make it through week 1 and I’m now finishing my fourth week of week 2 and I really don’t know if I’m ready for week 3, but with both running and my at home workouts I’ve got two phrases that are really helping me through.

The first time I managed the full week 2 run, I thought it was a fluke – somehow I’d made it through 6 repetitions of 90 seconds running and 2 minutes walking and it almost didn’t feel real. But next time I went for a run, I pushed through each run because I knew I could do it because I’d done it before. Even when I ended up falling through each step more than running it, I didn’t start walking until the lovely Sarah Millican’s voice told me I could (though, sorry Sarah, there’s no such thing as a ‘brisk pace’ when I’m wondering if my shins are going to snap!).

Simply knowing that I’d done it once before was enough to motivate me to do it again.

And the other thing that helps when I’m specifically doing a plank in my home workout, is just 10 seconds. Just 10 more seconds then I can stop. But when I’ve done that 10 seconds I have the option to stop or just do another 10 seconds. At this point I’m only aiming for 30 seconds at a time, but breaking it down into 10 second chunks is surprisingly helpful.

Also doing maths is a helpful way to distract my brain from the throbbing pain in my shoulders, lower back, ankles and abs – 10 seconds, just the same thing twice more, 15 seconds half way through, 20 seconds just need to do 50% of what I’ve already done again, 25 seconds means 5 seconds to go and by that point it’s done.

How often does it actually work? This morning I managed one 30s plank and then two 20s ones so all round, not bad for my second week of ‘at home’ workouts!

But it doesn’t just apply to fitness – we’re living through something completely unprecedented and there was never going to be a way to mentally prepare for a pandemic that no one was ready for. Maybe in ‘real life’ 10 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time, but if you’re in a moment of crisis, just making it through the next 10 seconds can be enough of a reminder that you can do this, you’re in control and you can take things at your own pace.

Whether it’s one day at a time, one hour at a time or a minute at a time, focusing on the here and now can make all the difference when the future feels so scary and uncertain. There’s so many things we can’t be sure of right now from when the heck the graduate job market will recover to when we can have a BBQ with our friends again, let alone the economy or housing market or other things that feel too grown up to me.

Things are weird – when lockdown started all those months ago, everyone said four weeks was such a long time and now it’s been five months. No one knows what ‘putting the world back together again’ will look like but worrying about how the future will look when there is no answer is just going to make handling the present more difficult – one day, one moment, one step.

We can do this.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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graduating in a pandemic

2020, career, student

Hello!

I feel like I haven’t written about ‘student life’ in a little while – once I finished my undergraduate degree and spent a year receiving rejection email after rejection email, going back to uni to do a masters didn’t feel like becoming a student again as much as taking a step back. I definitely haven’t felt like a student since I started my course but that’s a whole other kettle of fish (which is a very strange phrase now that I’ve written it down…).

I wrote a whole post about finishing my masters in a pandemic so I don’t want to repeat myself, but I wrote that post at the beginning of May and it’s now the beginning of August – a lot can happen in three months.

In terms of final dissertation deadlines and graduation, my graduation date was always going to be Summer 2021, as the course was intended to finish in September 2020 and my uni don’t do winter graduation ceremonies, so that hasn’t changed. However my final dissertation deadline has been pushed back by about six weeks, so I now have until the end of October. I was given the opportunity to drop my dissertation unit and pick it up again in September, finishing next May and still graduating next July, but the course has been so awful and with my project idea I could work from home without the resources of the university.

Oh how I regret that decision!

Kind of – I still don’t want the course to go on for the worst part of two years, but expecting myself to do everything from home including teaching myself brand new softwares, techniques, writing a dissertation essay (which I didn’t do for my undergrad)… that was a big ask and one that I’m not managing to keep up with.

But I didn’t want to write this post to complain about my dissertation – I wanted to talk about finishing a degree in a pandemic and the consequent graduate job market… or lack thereof.

I think back to 2018, I graduated with a really high 2:1, my lecturers and peers had all told me I wouldn’t struggle to get a job and here I was applying for probably over a hundred jobs in the space of maybe 6 months and not getting anything. It was soul destroying.

So applying that to a world that is on 80% salary, predominantly working from home and making redundancies left right and centre… I can’t imagine how much undergraduates are struggling when the job market is so significantly reduced.

I’m at the point where I’m starting to look for jobs, both because I need to financially support myself and my partner and because I want to start my career – I’m 23, I (nearly) have three degree level qualifications and I want to start building a life for myself. I want a routine and tasks to do that I haven’t set myself and work friends and to share ideas and go to meetings and answer emails and all the boring stuff! I’m sure it won’t feel nearly as exciting if I get there but right now? Working with a company for a purpose, rather than desperately trying to pull together a dissertation in the wake of an awful masters course sounds like a dream.

Do I know what I want to do with my career? Absolutely not. Do I know that I’m good at admin and organisation and diary management and would like to work in a creative environment? Yes, so that’s what I’m going with. But very few places are hiring. Unless I’m looking in the wrong places, any advice would be more than welcome.

Graduating is scary at any time – especially as an undergraduate, you’ve often been in education for about 17 years and not knowing what comes next can be equally terrifying and exciting. But in a year where you don’t get to wear the cap and gown, get nervous about walking across stage without tripping and say goodbye to your mates, I can only imagine how much more disconcerting it feels.

All I can say is my heart goes out to undergraduates with a degree and no graduation. And if you’re in that position and you feel like not being able to find a job is a reflection on your ability; it really isn’t, something will come in time but right now? We’ve just got to ride the wave; our time will come; and you’re still amazing.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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