Job interviews and fears for the future

Lately, I have concluded that, if there is such a thing as a midlife crisis, it starts no later than graduation and finishes the day we die. In other words, life is just one long crisis that we all have to adapt to. Who’s with me? Somehow, I doubt I’m the first person to realise this. And if there’s one thing that is making me face this reality, it is: job hunting.

Actually, my very first job interview was in 2012, at a Christian holiday, conference and retreat center in Devon. As well being a theological learning opportunity, my trial week included making friends from across the world, three square meals a day plus cake, and unlimited access to the sea. I had never felt more at home. And you know what? A week later I got the call saying they couldn’t accept me because I’d need extra help adjusting, didn’t socialise enough* and am too open minded in my beliefs. Not gonna lie, I was heartbroken.

My more recent interview experiences were more bog standard. In fact, all they demonstrate is my tendency to only come tantalisingly close to getting chosen. Last summer I applied for an internship on the marketing team at the Curve theatre in Leicester. Over 30 people applied, only six were interviewed, and I came down to the last two. Gah.

Then last Friday, I had an interview at a skills and employment advice centre in Nottingham for a copywriting position. They were friendly, helpful and impressed by my “passion for writing and making a difference”, but couldn’t accept me due to my lack of previous experience. Were my experiences not obvious on my application?

Realistically, I know this was probably their only way of choosing between me and someone similar but older. But still. Was it worth the two hours (each way) of travelling? Or the resulting blisters on my feet from the smart-but-impractical shoes I save for these occasions? Well, on the bright side, they are keen to have me for work experience after I graduate. Wahey!

Will it ever become easier for young people to find jobs or will it just get harder and harder until all but the most privileged are broke? Clearly I, for example, need more experience before I start working, even though the only relevant experience I can get is work! Can we really stay strong together across divided political or theological opinions without destroying each other over them? Actually, don’t answer that.

If you haven’t already noticed, I do fear for the future at the moment. For myself, for my generation, for humanity as a whole. I may elaborate on this separately, or on the EU referendum, or the Orlando shooting, if ever a 500ish word-long thought strikes me that I feel like sharing with the public.

In the meantime, I’d better get my backside in gear and apply for more jobs that require more experience than I’ve got. And try to keep myself occupied without becoming a couch potato. In other words, hurry up and wait. A phrase coined by a recent graduate, I reckon.



*Even if I wasn’t autistic and a bit of an introvert to boot, it was a silent retreat week! I still feel like shouting this, if only for the irony.





Students can’t be choosers

Brief recap: in January, I mentioned that the accommodation my housemate and I found was clean, secure and functional. Frequent visits to said accommodation, followed by the long-awaited moving day, have challenged my original opinion, leading me to just accept how we will be living for the next academic year. But, despite all the horror stories I’ve heard, not least regarding living with your best friend, things are getting off to a pretty good start, with partially amended plumbing, teddy bear fights and a balanced diet of apples, baked potatoes and church refreshments. More about the flat in a bit, but until then, my much-loved best friend and housemate…

Hannah and I first met at a Christian youth group, aged 14 and 15 respectively, when she spotted me being the recluse that I was and gave me a hug because I looked “depressed”. On seeing each other in the school corridors after that, my reaction to her gradually went from “who is this strange person?” to “Somebody actually notices me!” Realising that we were both “special” was one of the things we bonded over – I have Asperger’s, she is severely dyslexic. Our mutual school/Christian activities were another, and before long we ended up in the same tent at Soul Survivor, annual teenage Christian camp extraordinaire. Since then, Hannah has never had any faith in my sense of direction. So looking for the facilities in the middle of the first night was a bad idea. How did I know I was going to need a search party? Despite that, she has put up with me with unending patience, hugs, and renditions of “Amazing Grace” to this day, supporting me through my grandmother’s death and my exam disaster. And I couldn’t appreciate her more.

Back to the flat. More recent visits to it revealed that all was not quite as it should be. One thing that bothers me is that we are not allowed to use blu-tack. Which I think would be a small price to pay for fatty deposits all over the kitchen, a broken entrance light and dysfunctional bathroom plumbing. The issue that made the biggest impression on me, as a notorious hygiene freak, was the fridge. Many of you whom I have spoken to recently may have picked up on this by now. Hannah and I came over last Tuesday for some last minute cleaning and tidying. I had just started anti-bacterialising the stale smelling fridge when I inadvertently opened a well concealed compartment full of stinking, decaying food. Curry sauce, garlic, mayonnaise, chocolate and goodness knows what else.

After staring in shocked silence, I called Hannah over and we attempted to remove the worst of it, with me having a heart attack when some of it fell on my hand. Hannah suddenly announced she was going to be sick; not wanting to ruin the recently cleaned floor, I unceremoniously bundled her out of the room. Though I myself was fighting the gagging reflex for the rest of the day, we managed not to throw up and, perhaps more surprisingly in my case, didn’t develop a phobia of fridges.

Moving out has been a blur of stress, excitement and exhaustion. On Saturday morning, I was a bundle of nerves and emotions, not helped by certain cats desperately trying to follow as I left the house. Arriving at the flat somehow calmed me down no end, and our parents soon left us to it with a cheery farewell. We tried out Leicester City Vineyard Church yesterday, and found ourselves up to our ears in food, old friends and more new people in a day than I normally speak to in a month. A bit demanding of social energy, but a sure sign we had landed on our feet. Our second day ended with us snuggling up in bed with Hannah’s laptop in front of us, watching a film, chatting and having a laugh just as we always do. I sincerely hope that we always will. Two days down, eight months to go!

Help Wanted: Accommodation

When I was little, I was sure that, as an adult, I would have a house of my own, know the answer to everything and be in control of my own life. And my parents wouldn’t force me to eat broccoli, brush my teeth or get dressed in the mornings. And it would be great.

House hunting in Leicester has shoved the reality of such ideals right in my face. The first three ideals, anyway. I have long accepted that broccoli, tooth brushing and getting dressed in the morning are all just a part of life. Moving out had always seemed like something that would happen in another life altogether. I got an offer from De Montfort University and assumed I would move into student accommodation sooner or later. My feelings on moving out still hadn’t changed. Then my best friend Hannah, who will be at uni with me next year*, suggested that we look for a place together and become housemates. Wooo, I finally had an official plan! A plan that we didn’t even have to carry out for at least eight months. So, how hard could it be?

Well for a start, I think time must have cheated and fast-forwarded itself. Eight months into the future felt like over thirty two weeks away at the time. Eight months ago feels like less than a year ago now. Thinking that four or five housemates would make things cheaper than two, I spent a good part of the autumn trying to connect with other students in the hope of finding housemates. I also created a few little adverts asking for housemates. I stuck one up in one of the DMU “help” offices. I say “help” because the person at the desk thought that simply making friends would be a much easier task for me than sticking up bits of paper. Me being a bit of a fish out of water in the world of connecting with other people saw Hannah and I giving up with finding other housemates and scouring the internet for two-person houses and flats.

I struggled not to develop a nervous twitch when juggling coursework with not knowing the first thing about house hunting, but to cut a long story short, we booked viewings for three different places. The first was scattered with litter and about four cubed metres in size. The second was virtually disintegrating into a mess of weeds, damp walls and chipped paint. The third was clean, secure, functional and had a huge bookshelf. So we went for the only option – make appointments to see other places that were previously unavailable. We even prayed that if that third place was the one for us, it would somehow be made clear. Our prayer was promptly answered in the form of two viewings on the same day being cancelled when we arrived, and a later viewing being as impressive as the first two. So overall, the best option was pretty clear.

Without even having moved into our newly reserved flat, I can’t help feeling that Hannah and I are already proving to be very “special” students. We must have come across that way to one of the staff at the lettings office who refused to believe, despite firm assurance otherwise, that we do not like drinking and partying and will not be starting anytime soon. Then again, if by that they mean drinking nothing stronger than hot chocolate, and randomly singing church songs in pirate/cowboy/cockney accents, then we will be taking student life by storm…

*she did a one year course last year and is returning in September

Fresher’s week and new beginnings

It has been the start of a new era. Gone are the days of sitting on my backside home studying, procrastinating and wondering where my life is going. Now has come a week in the life of a twenty-nothing year old Fresher at Big School – sorry, De Montfort University. Starting as follows…

Monday: I was dubious about how well my first day was going when the “butterflies-in-the-stomach” feeling got so bad I was beginning to think I was actually getting sick. Knowing that the pale, clammy, slightly befuddled look does not make for a great first impression, I firmly told myself to snap out of it and focus on the Journalism activity at hand: interview and be interviewed by my partner on each other’s lives. After an exhausting two hour day, I made it back in time for orchestra, much to the relief of my desk partner Katy (see March 27). Which can only be a good thing, because she has teasingly informed me more than once that if I leave the orchestra, she will stalk me to my house. And cry. A lot. But I digress…

Tuesday: Would have been more enjoyable if it hadn’t been for the 6:00 am start. My first Creative Writing lecture saw us all attempting poetry; more specifically, epitaphs. An epitaph, for those who don’t know, is a poem about someone who is dying or who has recently died. Cheerful, I know. Our first task was to think of an epitaph for a (living) famous person, our second, to write one about ourselves. If I die tomorrow, at least I know that the words on my grave will include “Will leave with Grace”. Simon Cowell’s, on the other hand, will read “Still through to the next round.” True poetry emotion.

Wednesday: Began with the Matriculation ceremony. Whoever wrote the freshers week timetable wasn’t wrong when they said it would be full of surprises. Besides all the speeches about uni life, freshers week, etc there was a very long section that involved a gospel choir, dancing cheerleaders and sportsmen/women and even students showing off a car made of tandems and a small robot dog. No, I’m not sure why, but I was suitably impressed all the same.

Thursday: Another 6:00 am start. Had trouble sleeping, partly due to my heart rate after seeing a giant tarantula lookalike in the living room and partly thanks to Basil opening my door and attacking the other cats. Very loudly. I also woke up to a constantly tingling hand, complete with what looked suspiciously like a spider bite. Not the best start to the day. Especially not that of Fresher’s Fair, which had me surrounded by too much noise, too many people and too many things happening at once. When I wasn’t directly in the firing line for basketballs, volleyballs, lacrosse sticks etc., I was constantly faced with students thrusting free sweets and cake into my face. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the students that advertise their societies do it by thrusting as many free sweets and cakes as possible, in the hope that those who get a sugar high are more likely to sign up.

Friday: A pleasant sit down to a plate of cake at the Macmillan coffee morning. Followed by me exploring the apparently empty Macmillan bus, only to have a heart attack when two Cancer Research people suddenly popped up from behind counters cheerfully asking if I wanted to read their various leaflets.

Since then, readers, uni life has been a tumultuous blur. A blur of computers that malfunction only when I use them and a timetable which I swear is deliberately deceiving me so that I miss some lectures and turn up unnecessarily for others. Commuting from home, rather than living in halls does provide a good excuse for not joining other freshers in getting completely bladdered each night. However it often means getting up, looking at the clock in horror and frantically legging it in the general direction of the train station at some unearthly hour of the morning. I had hoped that, compared with home study, there would never be a dull moment at university. At least now I know I wasn’t wrong.