Category Archives: Graduate

2017: The Year of Grit

Dear Alex,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and 2017 is your best year yet. I aim to make 2017 my best year yet, and have started the year with a string of resolutions, all which I feel are manageable and achievable – hopefully. One of these resolutions, is to do at least one productive thing a day that is just for me (i.e. work doesn’t count) and should hopefully mean by default, my blogging record is better than I ended 2016 with.

All my New Year’s Resolutions are based around the ideas of a truly great book I’ve just finished. This truly great book, is entitled: ‘Grit’ and is written by the psychologist Angela Duckworth, who has quickly been awarded a place on my list of idols and people I admire. Short of being a book that only people who are interested in Psychology will enjoy. Defined as a ‘special blend of persistence and potential’, a will to never give up and to overcome setbacks in the pursuit of long term goals; the cimages.jpgoncept of grit is something anyone can live by and is perhaps more relevant than ever today.

I have long believed that our focus in society on talent and intelligence is unhealthy and inaccurate. To me it seems that the suggestion is, that only the talented and intelligent can truly achieve. Therefore leaving everyone else in some grey area that will never match up to those who are ‘bright’ enough to achieve greatness, all because we weren’t born with a gift. It disregards so many other character traits that may in fact allow us all to achieve. In other words, according to Angela’s book, it disregards grit.

‘Grit’ is filled with case studies of gritty people who have achieved through pure hard work and an overwhelming attitude that they weren’t going to quit that is hugely admirable. What I’ve gained most from her book is that it is also achievable. The majority of people in her book credit their failures as the reason they are now a success. Failure and how they handled it, has allowed them to achieve.

Angela notes towards the end of the book, that so often the restrictions we see as barriers are not because we aren’t talented, clever, fit enough or whatever enough we’ve talked ourselvesimages-2.jpg around to believing is the reason we can’t be successful and happy, but instead are self-inflicted. Gritty people don’t impose limits on themselves and the best part of the whole concept of grit is that we can all learn to be gritty.

I love this idea. I have fallen culprit to the idea of talent and intelligence being the ‘be all and end all’ myself too many times. I have a sibling that has so often achieved more than what I have worked hard for, naturally. Whilst I want the best for him, I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes seeing someone achieve things you strive for easily is difficult.

But I also don’t think I would change it, because the achievements I’ve gained through hard work, the ones where grit has been the key reason for my success, are the best ones.

So this year, I’ve decided to be the grittiest I’ve ever been. Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to the most success I’ve had. But if not, I don’t think resolutions that are based on grit can be a bad thing.

Love T x

P.S Anyone who is interested can also test their own level of grittiness using the ‘Grit Scale’ created by Angela Duckworth (whom I admire – don’t know if you got that) and find out more about grit, on her website

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Reunions, unicorns and wake-up calls.

Dear Alex,

Despite not living next to each other, we are still very much in sync, because I couldn’t agree more about Twitter and actually the blog I wrote over the course of last week, follows on with a very similar topic.

So last weekend was my five-year school reunion. We left school five years ago. FIVE. I’m not sure how this much time has passed, whilst at the same time, the feeling

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Spoiler: people are better in real life

of returning to school felt daunting.

Like most people, I’m sure, I had goals or ideas about where I would be when I attended the event at 23 – an age that at 18 felt mature and adult. I looked at 23 year olds and thought how grown up they were. They had their lives sorted, they were successful, happy and ticking all the boxes society tells us we should have done by the time we’re 23 (degree, job, boyfriend, your own flat, the list goes on). Boxes, that are all the more painfully obvious we haven’t met because of social media. I couldn’t feel further from a grown up – perhaps because I’m still calling adults ‘grown-ups’, when real ones of couMjAxMi1hY2NmNGQ4NDQyZTA2Y2Fk.pngrse, don’t call themselves a ‘grown-up’.

My point is, is that when I thought of the concept of being 23 it was of someone who was ‘sorted’ and ‘together’ and a lot of the time, I feel like I am neither. The worst part about growing up in our world today is that you can’t escape what looks like evidence to prove that you are the only one feeling this inadequacy. On social media, my peers seem to be far closer to the idea of what I thought 23 would be than I am.

Nowadays, there are more ways for us to connect to people, to communicate, to share – there are many positives. But there are also far too many opportunities for us to compare ourselves to others and in doing so feel worse about ourselves. The constant inescapable presence of others happiness, or a Lo-Fi filtered, brightened, colour tinted, staged happiness in our faces when we don’t feel the same, is doing nothing for people’s mental health.

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Clever.

Seeing people in real life as opposed to the happy, together and sorted version I saw on social media, was a wake-up call. A wake-up call to how inaccurate of a picture it can produce. People were talking about how unhappy they were, their arguments with friends or the jobs they hated when it would have been impossible to gauge any of this from their social media presence. Obviously I have always known the potentially misleading culture of the online world – it’s like a unicorn, you know it’s not real but you can’t help thinking how pretty or magical it looks and wishing that you could own one. If at 23, and pretty secure in myself, I can still be influenced by these misleading portrayals of people, what hope is there for young adults today?

Talking to old teachers, they told me about the suicide attempts and self-harming that is more commonplace in education now than there ever was even when we were at school five years ago. Of which, they largely accounted it to social media. If true, it’s a frightening reality.

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CNN’s graphic summing it up perfectly.

I worry that the technology we are so proud of, is also hurting us, and hurting a younger generation the most.We are not only, or solely, happy and I doubt many people feel ‘sorted’ or ‘together’ at any age. Not one of us is perfect, and we have made it harder for people to see this, to separate illusion from reality.

 

Nowadays we live in two worlds, but for teenagers it’s harder. They live in limbo between these worlds, perhaps at the cost of never being themselves, feeling complete, or figuring out who they are, in either. It’s something that weighs, and has been weighing, on my mind more so than ever. All because of a school reunion.

Love T xx

Can it.

Dear Alex,

I am continuing your very British last blog on the ‘Great British Bake-off’, and its future *chokes back sob*, with an equally British topic: the unassuming cup of tea.

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Yesterday was the 358th anniversary of tea in the U.K, an event so important Google informed us of it.

I am stereotypically British in my love of tea. It is a trait that makes me incredibly proud and I have no idea why. Perhaps because there are only certain things that make me feel proud or patriotic to be British. The Olympics (I don’t know if you got the fact that I love the Olympics from my last blog, but just so you really know, I do), the national anthem, but most of all is when people use tea as a way to conquer any uneasy situation – boredom, sadness, anger, tiredness, unpredictable weather. Well, actually just weather in general.

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Pinterest gets it.

The British can put the world to rights over a cup of tea and I strongly believe tea can conquer anything. At times of uncertainty the simple act of putting a tea bag in a cup, adding hot water and stirring, is a therapeutic enough task for me to gain perspective and calmness. It’s like magic – exclusive magic reserved just for hot beverages.

 

So this is why I was so upset when I found out last week that a company, with bold claims of innovation, has made tea…in a spray can.

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Yum Cha Drinks’ new innovation ‘No More Tea Bags’, a useful invention for…I can’t think of who.

Now I know when the teabag came in all hell broke loose. I have a friend whose family still refuses to use a teabag, loose leaf all the way in their household. But they are distinct as far as I am concerned and amongst the general population, the teabag is THE way to make tea.

So was there even any kind of demand for this spray-can-tea madness? Were we ignorantly avoiding our tea-making destiny? I’m sceptical.

THEY claim that it says goodbye to the hassle of dirty, messy tea bags you have to throw away, not like any other form of household rubbish then. Please can someone make carrots in a can so I don’t have to peel them anymore and go through the hassle of putting the peelings in the bin? That would be foolish surely.

They also condescendingly note that it will result in:

“Properly brewed better tasting tea”.

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This must be what happiness looks like.

Clearly they have no idea who they are dealing with. As if the British have ignorantly been drinking under brewed, bad tasting tea for decades. A realistic possibility, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not incensed by the madness of tea in a can. Now we know how infuriated the Italians felt when they found out you could buy tinned ravioli.

I’m all for progress, but this just seems unnecessary and expensive. With a starting price of £3.99 for 20 cups of tea, who can afford the sci-fi nonsense of tea in can when you can periodically buy 480 teabags for £5, from a supermarket that “makes it”.

Once upon a time we were a country who loved watching a programme where normal (and sometimes loveably slightly odd) people made cakes on a channel that epitomises being British. All with a cup of tea we made with a teabag.

Now who are we? I don’t know, but I hope to God we don’t become a nation of tea-sprayers.

Love T xx

Hello again.

Dear Alex,

I’m back. Please don’t take my blogging absence as anything to do with your last blog; I thought it was absolutely fantastic:

“Who runs the world? Not girls, but the media and gender frameworks”

What a line. JUST FAB.

In fact, it got me thinking quite a lot. Enough to write two blogs myself, promptly decide I didn’t like them, and resume my social media silence. The truth is I’ve wanted to comment on quite a lot of what’s going on in the world, internationally, politically, interesting marketing and communications news at the moment. I mean, where do you even start? Over the last few weeks, ideas for blogs have come thick and fast – Taylor Swift’s latest addition to her campaign for Apple Music (wrote this one, may tweak it and post it in due course) the American presidential race, Hostelworld’s new campaign (again written, may post it later), Brexit issues and my internal rage over my own student loan and the state of them for future generations of students.

These have all remained ideas in my head or written in notes on my phone, and not appeared in the blogger sphere for several reasons. However, the main reason is that I have just been having too much fun exploring the place I have called home for six months.

The gorgeous Northern Spanish coast

It seems a cliché to say ‘time flies’ but for me this couldn’t be closer to the truth. How it is already June is beyond me. So this blog is an ode to everything I have discovered and done in Asturias and Northern Spain over the last month or so: a semi tourist guide of ‘musts’ to do if you ever come here. Whilst I am acutely aware of all that is happening in our world today, for the next two weeks at least, this is my world and I couldn’t feel any luckier that it is.

A true highlight of living in Northern Spain is the food. They champion the long lunch here and I’ve never paid more than 16 euros for a three-course meal with drinks and bread. I feel like I’m going to be in for such a shock when I get back to the U.K and have to pay £7 for a churro at Glastonbury. Plus as a general rule here, the grimier the place looks, the more incredible the food is – a rule that typically cannot be applied to places in the U.K.

A few weekends ago I went hiking with some friends along a trail called ‘Ruta de las Xanas’ (Xanas being the merpeople that supposedly live in the lakes in Asturias).

But at the end of the trail was an incredible view and a run-down restaurant where a little grandma asked us what we wanted to eat from the daily menu options, shuffled away and came back bearing giant cauldrons of food that was the best I’ve tasted. My friend’s Spanish boyfriend validated this by saying if the waitress is an old grandma, the food will be incredible. Evidently he wasn’t wrong.

In addition to the hiking I’ve had a pretty activity packed couple of months. I’ve been paddle boarding in the Pico de Europas (a mountain range) and kayaking and cycling in the most gorgeous scenery. I didn’t fall in once paddle boarding but did fall off my bike in spectacular fashion – classic me.


Plus my parents finally came for a visit last week and we spent every minute that they were here visiting the parts of this beautiful region that I’ve not been able to easily without a car.

The weekend before the last, we went to Bilbao and San Sebastian, stopping in little villages on the way and the way back, all along the Northern Spanish coast.
 It was beautiful.

Turns out, after having to persuade my Mum that we should stop in Bilbao before San Sebastian, that it was actually the preferred city of us both. The Guggenheim, ‘pastel de arroz’, the old buildings and the general feeling of life you get from a city, were all well worth the trip.

San Sebastian was a tourist haven, and this fact let it down for me. It’s saving graces were the beach, the view from the mountains that bookend the city and the incredible and imaginative ‘pinchos’ it boasts. Thank goodness I was with my parents because the ‘take your plate and help yourself’ attitude that most of the pincho bars have is dangerous for my waistline and my wallet.

Pincho highlights including croquetas and a chorizo cupcake 🙂

Now I’m down to my final 10 days here I can say that my bucket list of things to do is shrinking and my collection of unforgettable experiences mounting, with every one my spectrum of feelings about leaving point moving closer towards gutted.

Stay tuned for appearances of the written yet never seen blogs and most likely an emotional ‘Don’t make me leave Spain’ one too.

Lots of love as always, and can’t wait to hear about all your news too 🙂

T xxx

Unchartered Territory

Dear Alex,

We are in unchartered territory. Today I have written a cover letter with a difference for a job application. This blog is the only copy and I hope you enjoy it, for whilst a cover letter is not something I would usually write to you, the content is, and has been, something I would write about. So in addition to this being to you and perhaps something you may find interesting, it is also for the eyes of a well-known publisher’s careers team.

SO. Dear All,

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I have been reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to all of my classes of 3-5 year old Spanish children this week. Teaching this age has been my biggest challenge during my time as an English assistant. The inevitable barrier of teaching those who find their own language difficult, let alone another, has at times been a hurdle I have had to retreat from in order to find another way around. However, this week has restored my faith in my ability to remain clam and collected when faced with a problem, and be an organised, patient and capable leader.

I have gained a certainty in the universality of stories, and the power of this particular story. From the moment I pulled out ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ my usually loud and feisty infant classes were as captivated by the story, and the intensely magical illustrations, as I have been since their age.

I have always loved the drawings and story of this book, even related to its ‘eyes bigger than its stomach’ attitude and even at the age of twenty-two I am still finding new ways to love it.

It is is the best teaching tool. Cries of ‘Oruga’ and ‘Mariposa’ (my all time favourite Spanish word) turned to ‘Caterpillar’ and ‘Butterfly’. Children were calling out numbers; fruit and colours in English with such delight it made pride and happiness bubble inside me. All because of one gloriously colourful story that surpassed different languages and childish impatience. Its greatness exceeded my expectations.

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I have re-found a love for children’s books now that I have to read them on a frequent basis and this love promises to continue through my adulthood with the rebranding of the Ladybird books featuring ‘The Ladybird book of…’ for adults. A take on the classic children’s book for adults and titles including ‘The Ladybird book of the hipster’ which has got to be my favourite.

The publication of these books is what made me stand up and take notice of Ladybird now that I am to all intents and purposes an adult. It was ingenious. The publication of ‘The Ladybird book of…’ books combines a symbiosis of adult humour and content with a nostalgic reference to childhood and tradition. In an uncertain digital age, people are seemingly craving a simpler time of paperback copies and classic stories and Penguin Random House seized upon this in a spur of brilliance that has sold over a million copies.

What a joy it would be to work on these kinds of ideas and help launch a rebrand trademark as captivating as Ladybird for the modern day.

 

I hope everything is going well with you and you have recovered from your idyllic trip to Italy.

Love T xxx

 

 

 

An Italian adventure and some big lemons

Dear T

Your Easter break sounded so fun – I hope you’ve had time to recover. We’ve both been lucky enough to enjoy a nice European holiday this Easter. I spent ten days in Italy, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go but never had the opportunity. Until now.

Where better to start the Italian tour than Rome. It felt to me like a city of a different era. In a good way. What I mean is that it didn’t particularly have the same modern, major, industrial city feels like say London or New York. I can’t recall a single time in those four days where a piece of Roman ruin or ancient architecture wasn’t rearing its old head just meters away from me. SO much to see so little time. We got as much in as physically possible without staying up all night. I’m talking the Colosseum, Forum, Jewish Ghetto, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s, Santa Priscilla catacombs, Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s villa, and what felt like 20,000 churches. And of course, I ate as much as I could stomach without exploding (when in Rome).

Here’s a nice photo montage so you get the idea.

From Rome we drove through Naples and onto the winding mountain roads of the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop was Positano where we stayed in the most magical surreal amazing dreamy place in the entire universe. Villa Treville, all I have done since the plane landed is dream about you. My life will never be the same again.

Villa Treville is made up of a number of little villas, all with stunning views of stunning things. You told someone what you wanted to eat and they made it for you. One of the showers was literally a huge room with water pouring from the ceiling. There were tunnels to the lobby that made me feel like I was in a James Bond movie. The sea changed colour every time you looked at it. There were chickens. I’m weeping a bit because I think maybe that this was the peak of my life.

Anyway, enough gushing about long lost loves hotels and back to the whirlwind tour. We spent a day exploring the buried city of Pompeii, as well as Herculaneum and Oplontis. I still cannot understand how well these remains have been preserved seeing as they were buried by Vesuvius in 79AD… The world really blows my mind sometimes.

I also spent two days lying on a yacht. I know. It. was. the best. I sang the Lonely Island all day long. We explored little caves and nooks and docked at Amalfi for some pizza and gelato on our first day, and sailed off to Capri on our second. A highlight was definitely the blue grotto. The entrance is so tiny you have to go in via a little rowing boat and lie down. I was terrified but once inside… there are no words. It’s totally worth cramming yourself in/giving oneself a mild heart attack. Google it!

I spent the last two nights in Ravello which is further up the mountain than Positano with, as you’d imagine, rather impressive views. There was an infinity pool at the hotel. Enough said really.

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So that’s it! I’m exhausted after writing that. And craving carbonara.

So after we’ve spent the last two blog posts exploring the world I’m a little reluctant to see what our next letters have to offer. Hopefully they won’t be too anticlimactic now reality has ensued with an almighty, harsh bang.

Here’s a picture of some big Italian lemons to kickstart us back into normality.

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Love from Alex xoxo

Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home

Dear Alex,

All it seems I do is apologise for the delay of my blogs. At first my delay was because I had very little to write about apart from my burning desire for it to hurry up and be the Easter holidays. Then just before said Easter holidays I found myself with a million blog ideas and no time at all. What with frantically trying to finish all my work and achieve everything I wanted before the holidays.

Which to be honest was a bit of a shame because I have re-found my love of TED talks and one of my blogs was about this. I downloaded lots for the many long journeys I took over Easter and loved every one of them. I feel instantly more knowledgeable, intelligent and reinvigorated with how fascinating the world is. TED satisfies my innate curiosity that sometimes lays slightly neglected and dormant when life gets rushed. The good news is that this curiosity is being placated far more recently thanks to the TED app – on the go genius at my fingertips.

This is just as well because I have been very ‘on the go’ lately. A jam-packed holiday seemed exciting when I was last minute planning it before the break. A little bit less so now that I am back at work feeling pretty exhausted. Although I do have some fantastic memories and for that reason I wouldn’t change it.

So it all began with a fleeting visit back to the U.K. Just enough time for eat all of my favourite foods and spend time with one of my favourite people (shout out to my Mum there). Then it was back on plane to Spain, this time joined by Helen – think you’ve met her before, she is at Cardiff, one of my ‘rowing friends’ as I remember you and Meg always called them :).


We started in Valencia where one of the first things we did was go on a walking tour around the city. I love walking tours – the guide could be telling you pretty inaccurate information but I like to believe the majority is the truth and they are always good showmen, so if nothing else it is always an entertaining experience.

We also went to the beach for a couple of hours every day. There is almost nothing better than staring out to sea, I kind of wish I lived a bit closer to a beach, they make me really happy. We also got bikes and cycled along once of Valencia’s main features – there used to be river, now dried up and an amazing park, ate paella and ‘fartons’ and drank ‘Horchata’ and ‘Agua de Valencia’.



Then onto Madrid, which is almost colossal status. According to my good friend Google it in fact has a smaller population density than London, but it doesn’t feel like it. Cue three days of the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed in (loads of cool messages on the walls) museums, churros and tapas eating, a lot of walking on another highly entertaining walking tour, a couple of sunsets, more churros, a picnic in the park and a general good time in what according to our hostel is the sunniest capital in Europe.


Then all that was left yesterday was to part with one of my besties and get on over a 5-hour bus back to Asturias in preparation for work today feeling like I’ve doubled my body weight in amazing Spanish food, and a bit dejected to go back to reality after a pretty great Easter holidays. But then the old woman next to me insisted on sharing her sandwich with me as if she knew that all I needed was some Jamón Ibérico and I would feel better. To tell the truth, she wasn’t wrong.


Can’t wait to hear about your Easter in Italy.

Love T xxx