Today is my 23rd birthday and, unless something goes catastrophically wrong, in just a few hours I'll be in New York City! (Apologies in advance for the delay in replying to comments for the next week or so whilst I'm away!) I feel like it's the perfect time to sit down and gather my thoughts on how I feel my life has changed in the past 12 months and my plans, hopes and fears for the future.
Looking back on 22
I feel like so much has changed in the past year, and honestly it was all for the better! I feel like I'm becoming the adult I'm going to be, if that makes any sense whatsoever. All the silly little things I used to worry about even a couple of years ago when I was at university just don't seem to matter any more and it's a liberating freedom. I feel so much more confident in and accepting of myself and just having a lot more self-belief.
I can't deny that a lot of that was down to getting on a graduate scheme and escaping what felt like a dead-end job. Whilst your self-belief should never be reliant on the approval of others, it has been such a boost to my confidence to have people think I am capable. I find it so much fulfilling when people set the bar high to push me to work as hard as I can to reach it than when people have zero expectations or no faith in me.
It has definitely been tough to factor in all the studying for my professional qualifications (to put this into context, most people take 5-6 years to achieve what I'm working towards whereas on the graduate scheme we are expected to do it in 2!) However it's affirming that I've managed to do that so far, along with the job, my boyfriend, my friends, my blog, my family and everything else. And failing something doesn't phase me as much as it did before - it's almost inevitable when you're doing so much at once that you will drop the ball on something eventually. It won't be a good feeling if/when it happens but it isn't going to feel like the end of the world.
Overall I feel in a much better place and I'm excited for the future and where it might lead. Yes, there's uncertainty but it isn't tinged with fear or anxiety about my career right now.
The future: the bad parts
One of the things that has really struck me now I'm at the ripe old age of 23 (!!!) is how fast life goes by. Being 18 feels like yesterday, but it wasn't - it was 5 years ago. Whereas when I was 18 '5 years ago' was 13! I don't want to get too weird here but I've always had a bit of a strange anxiety around time slipping by. The thought of blinking and being 50 terrifies me more than anything in the world. Cheesy as it sounds, it has definitely made me want to 'live in the moment' more and appreciate the good in every day instead of wishing for the next. I'm really trying to drum into my head that life isn't a series of milestones, so I need to stop obsessing over the 'next thing' and just enjoy what I'm doing right here, right now.
One of the things that does scare me is that we aren't living in the same world as our parents did. You grow up being taught to work hard in school, go to a good university, get a graduate job, buy a house and all the rest. However our generation are facing the very real prospect of working hard, doing all the right things but not getting what we feel we were promised at the end of it. A large chunk of us will probably never own our own home; especially young people in London, as house prices continue to inflate disproportionately against even a 'good' salary, whilst it's easy to argue that the standard of living is in decline. I was lucky enough to go to university whilst tuition fees were 'just' £3000 however they have now trebled and many young people are facing that impossible decision about whether it's worth it or not. Ironically, a measure implemented by people who went to university completely free of charge...
I'm also concerned about where I'm going to 'end up' in the country and what kind of opportunities will be open to me there. Myself and my boyfriend can't go on living 200 miles apart forever but he's from London and I'm from Manchester so there has to be a compromise somewhere but how much of a compromise will it be?
The future: the good parts
Although there are certainly a lot of fears for the future, there's also a lot of hope. I feel extremely grateful for all the people I love in my life and how we've supported each other through thick and thin. I'm especially super-lucky to have my boyfriend; thank goodness I went to the Student Union night that Saturday (or I'd never have met him!)
I'm excited about everything I have to learn because I'm honestly one of those people who really enjoys a new challenge and won't really rest until I've found out literally everything about a topic! It's kind of perfect for a career in Underwriting and I feel like after a lot of confusion, I've found a career path that really suits me; it's challenging, interesting and engages all the different interests I have.
I feel extremely fortunate to be in the position I am. I've worked hard but there's always that little element of luck to every success you have in life and for that I'm grateful.
I hope you enjoyed this really honest post from me. I've just let everything that's in my head spill out onto the keyboard!
What have you learned in the past year and how has it changed you?