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It’s True, Nobody Likes You When You’re 23

I must admit, 8 months into my 23rd year and I’m starting to think Blink 182 were on to something.  In case anyone reading is unaware, (and it’s not obvious from the title), they coined the infamous lyric ‘nobody likes you when you’re 23’.

Twenty three is just awkward. It’s not as crazy as 18. It’s not as fun as 21. It’s not as blissfully oblivious as 22. Why you might ask? well because 23 is that horrible year where you have to start realising things. (Kylie Jenner I’m lookin’ at you).  You’re plucked from your lovely little college nest and turfed out in the real world to start fending for yourself.

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They don’t prepare you for this kind of thing. Nobody teaches you how to suddenly adult. Sure I spent the last four years perfecting the art of seeking out the cheapest wine, but that’s not exactly going to equip me for the impending 9-5 slog (although some would disagree with me!).

I’ve found these months of my post college life to be some of the toughest thus far. It’s more than coincidental that this time seems to coincide with my 23rd year..

I mean it’s very difficult figuring out what you want to do with your life, and it can be disconcerting when things don’t go how you expect. I packed up my life and hopped on over to London, only to move back 8 months later. As buzzfeed once said (yes, I’m quoting buzzfeed), you’re expected to have your shit together, but have none of the resources required to get your shit together. Truer words have never been spoken.

It seems like you have a lot of options, but they all come with some sort of catch. Do you find a job and start working right away? But that leaves no time for travel. But how do you fund the travel without a job first? So many questions, so little answers. Whatever you find yourself doing though, it’s terrifying because it’s the first time you have any real responsibility.

You’re an adult, but you’re essentially the baby version of an adult.

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Now you have to start thinking about scary things, like making appointments for yourself and learning how to cook a roast dinner. On top of all this you’re faced with the realistation that your next significant birthday isn’t until 40 (we all know people who throw 30th’s are kidding themselves).

All of a sudden you can’t afford your lifestyle. All of your lovely luxury student discounts have disappeared, and you weren’t prepared for the reality of ‘adult’ prices. Honestly how do they expect you to afford full whack when now you actually have to pay bills? So rude.  With that being said, I’m still doing my best with the ‘strategic thumb place’ and wrangling whatever cinema and train tickets I can. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do;)

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The thought of getting older is scary because you feel so far behind both in an emotional sense and a career sense. You’re itching to get beyond your years and make something of yourself, yet at the same time you don’t feel as if you’re ready. It’s a total mind-field really.

I read someone describe the year of 23 as ‘upsetting, brightening, hardening and hectic all at once’. I couldn’t agree more. It’s just one big massive limbo. I find myself pushing myself to be the best version of myself. I’m constantly striving to do better. I find myself in working environments surrounded by people who have achieved so much, and subsequently I feel a bit useless. I then have to remind myself that these people are much older than me. They have more experience, and I am only, after all, just twenty three.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last few months is that sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. Because the truth is you ain’t gonna walk out those college gates and into your dream job. You’re still gonna have to rely on a helping hand every now and again, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You have to walk before you run and all that jazz.

If nothing else, 24 is only 5 months away 😉

 

 

 

 

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From One Big Smoke to Another

In my last post I talked about quitting my job with no backup, well now I’m happy to announce that I am now officially employed again, woohoo! (The company I’m going to work for is coincidentally named BACKUP, but more about that later).

This new venture will see me move back across the pond. Yep back to the Emerald Isle, a mere 8 months after leaving. It’s all  kind of mad, and I’ll admit I probably do seem like a bit of a Yo-Yo!

I had my reservations at first. I didn’t want to seem like a failure for leaving London. I was worried people may see it as a step backwards.Especially when you come from a small town like I do,  where all people do is talk. You decide to move away and the whole village accuses you of thinking “you’re too good for the place”. But then I decided not to give a fuck what people may or may not think.

It is my life after all, and as cliché as it is, I’ve learned that you have to do what makes YOU happy.

I suppose I wanted to write this blog for two reasons.

  1. To update everyone on what’s been going on in my life (not that many actually care, but nonetheless, here we are 🙂 ).
  2. I want to share my advice and experiences with anyone who may going through a similar situation

So if you’re still interested in my not so fascinating life and words of wisdom, do read on.

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After leaving my last job in January, I spent the best part of 2 months in London  searching for another. I went through approximately 6 interviews and probably twice as many existential crises. I questioned absolutely everything about myself, from my past decisions to my future career ambitions and then some. I wondered would I ever be good enough to land my “dream job?”. The industry I’ve entered into is tough. It’s fiercely competitive and it’s so hard to make yourself stand out. It’s even harder not to feel dejected when you see that 100+ other people have applied for the same position you have. It’s not the same as other professions. The world is constantly crying out for teachers and nurses, but content creators? Not so much.

With each rejection letter I was finding it harder and harder to believe in myself . Sometimes it feels impossible not to take the “best wishes for your future endeavors” as a personal slap in the face. I was feeling so down in myself when I learned I’d been invited to interview for an Editorial Position for Arcadia. Arcadia are a collective group for a number of fashion brands including Topshop, Topman and Dorothy Perkins. The role was for Dorothy Perkins and involved creating content for their blog, working on social channels, assisting with fashion shoots etc. It sounded right up my street and I was so excited!  I had to do a couple of tasks ahead of the interview, which were time consuming, but enjoyable all the same.

The day came, and I felt it went well.  I was told I’d hear back soon. A week passed without news, and so I decided to follow up. HR assured me they were chasing Dorothy Perkins for an update, and would let me know soon. Another week passed and I still hadn’t heard anything. Eventually I got an email to say it was down to me and another candidate, and that they should be making a decision by the end of that week. Great I thought, not long left to wait! That was until another week passed and then another and I STILL hadn’t heard.I had just about given up, when I got a call apologising for the delay and inviting me to a second interview. By this stage a month had passed since the original interview. I had other prospects in the pipeline, but despite the waiting I was still keen. I did the second interview  last wedensday, and was assured that this time I  would definitely  hear by the end of the week.

In the meantime I found out I’d been offered a job back in Dublin. I was genuinely a bit shocked! I was told they were interviewing with six other candidates, so I’d pretty much written myself off. I now found myself faced with a big decision:

Do I uproot myself and move back to Ireland after less than a year in London?

Or do I hang on and wait to see if I got the job in London?

I got a call last Thursday after my second round interview with Arcadia and Dorothy Perkins. My heart was in my mouth thinking finally this is the answer i’ve been waiting for. Alas no, it was just more time wasting. They just called to inform me I was one of 3 finalists and the decision would be made on Friday.

Friday came and I waited all day with my phone glued to my side, willing it to ring. It was 4.30pm when I got yet another  shoddy email from them saying that seeing as the Editor was out of the office, I would now be informed on Monday. I honestly couldn’t fathom the unprofessional-ism. This was the third or fourth time this had happened, and I was quickly losing patience and faith in the company. I couldn’t help but think, if this how they treat people in the hiring process, what on earth would it be like working from them? Unprofessionalism and misscoummincation were two of the factors that contributed to my decision to leave my last job. I wasn’t going down that route again. Trust me, it’s not worth being treated like shit for any job (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt).

Throughout all this the crowd in Dublin were above and beyond supportive. I was told to take my time with my decision and if they could assist me in anyway to give them a shout. The manager even offered to help me make a pro a con list regarding the decision to relocate again. It was so nice to feel valued and appreciated. I think deep down I knew I’d only be staying in London just to stay in London, and that makes no sense. Part of me didn’t want to give up this newfound freedom and cosmopolitan lifestyle I’d become so fond of. It felt a bit like I’d be admitting defeat. Reflecting on all of this now kind of makes me laugh. I mean it’s a bit silly isn’t it?  I’d just been offered a job that genuinely excited me. I should’ve been feeling elated!

When I had a few days to mull it all over I realised how ridiculous I was being. Things happen for a reason. Opportunities don’t often fall on your lap, and when they do you have to grab them with both hands. Even if that means uprooting yourself yet again! So what if I’m leaving London? I’m going back to an even better big smoke. One that 20 year old me fell in love with back  when she got her first taste of a big city and the working world.

As I mentioned above, the company I’ll be working for is called BACKUP, they are a creative marketing and ad agency based in Dun Laoghaire (I’m looking forward to walks on the pier and those sea views!). My job will involve creating all of the internal blogs and social content. I’ll basically be responsible for content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as working on campaigns  for the company’s big brand clients. It’s super exciting and exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing. So I’m excited to move back and get stuck in. I informed Dorothy Perkins that if I didn’t hear from them on Monday I’d be accepting another job offer. Surprise surprise there wasn’t a peep out of them. I didn’t even get the usual fob off to say it would be another day. I guess I should thank them for making my decision easier and showing me all of the qualities you do not want in an employer. I sent them an email on Tuesday asking them to withdraw my application, all the while expressing how unprofessional I found the entire process. I haven’t received a reply. The job has since been re-advertised.

If I’ve learned anything over the past few days it’s that you can’t stay in a place just for the sake of it, or just out of stubbornness. In fact, (as cheesy as it sounds), the past couple of months have taught me a lot about myself and about life. I’ve done things I never thought I’d do. I’ve surprised myself in ways I could never have imagined. I packed up my life and moved across the shores. The job wasn’t what I expected and so I quit. Some might call it recklessness, I call it chasing happiness. I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say with this long rambling blog post, is that you should never settle. Never compromise. Scare yourself, believe in yourself and go after what it is you really want. Whether that sees you in Ireland, London, China, Timbuktu, wherever.  This is the time to be figuring it all out. Job hop, country hop and make sure to learn and laugh along the way.

I know I did! 😉

Until the next rant or ramble,

~J

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Why I quit my job with no back up

I started my 2017 by boarding a plane back to London with no Job. The crazy thing is, I did it by choice.

Shortly before Christmas (most inopportune time, I know) I decided I had had enough and handed in my notice to my most recent employer. I left a full time permanent job with absolutely no back up lined up. Now at this stage you may be thinking that I’m reckless, stupid, irresponsible or all of the above. Believe me I’ve had those thoughts too.

But what do you do when you’re no longer happy?  What do you do on a Sunday night when the thoughts of going into work on a Monday morning are giving you a physical pain in your chest?

I moved to London as a fresh, doe eyed albeit, enthusiastic graduate. I had landed my first ‘adult’ job and I could not wait to start making my mark on the world. However, I quickly realised that the job I had entered into was far from any of the things I wanted. It was monotonous, repetitive, badly managed and lacked so much as a drop of creativity. Not only that, but I wasn’t learning anything. It soon became clear that there was absolutely no room for progression or career development in the role whatsoever. Having spent 4 years in university that’s something I would consider very important to me. I want to learn, I want to grow and I want to progress. I want to be in an environment where hard work is truly recognised, where creative people are encouraged and valued. So I took the plunge.

I scared myself and pulled the security and safety right from under me. I spent 6 months putting all of my energy into something I really didn’t care about. Something I wasn’t passionate about, and something which was giving me nothing but stress and hassle in return. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I’m quite a driven and ambitious person. I am never ‘half arsed’ about anything I do, so I didn’t make this decision lightly. I didn’t wake up one day and decide ‘oh, i’m going to quit my job’. There were a lot of contributing factors, and I spent many hours discussing it with my family and those close to me.

I’m only 23 after all.  This is the time in my life where I’m allowed to be unsure, I’m allowed to make mistakes,  I’m allowed to try new things and I’m allowed to go after what really makes me happy. Yet there are days like today, when I’m pouring over countless job applications and  trying to prove that i’m the ‘perfect candidate’, that I feel a little lost. I find myself questioning my decision, questioning my abilities and questioning what it is I really want from life. Did I make another bad choice by quitting? Could I have stuck it out another 6 months?  I mean probably, but that would have been another 6 months trying to fool myself into thinking my situation was okay. I was afraid of getting stuck and then never having the confidence to (as incredibly cliche as it is),  follow my dreams. A lot have people have told me I’m brave. But I’ve yet to decide whether that’s true, or whether I’m just incredibly stupid 🙂  (Let’s go with the former).

I’m not sure where these next few months in my life are going to take me. But then again 6 months ago I wasn’t sure either. Not knowing is both terrifying an exhilarating.  It’s only been 3 days since I’ve officially been unemployed. In that time I’ve sent approximately 20 job applications, received 5 of those lovely generic ‘unfortunately you have not been selected on this occasion’ rejections,  and binged watched 8 episodes of ‘Jane the Virgin’ (hey a girl’s gotta stay sane!). It’s early days yet. I’ll admit, it is hard not to feel a bit like ‘no one is every going to hire me again!’, but I’m doing my best to remain optimistic. Of course there are moments that I wish I was at home, where I could have access to an abundance of hugs from my boyfriend, dad, sister and nan. I’ll have a little cry, wipe my tears, then sit back in front of the laptop and attempt to tell faceless strangers why I’m great, and why they should hire me.

As coldplay once said, ‘nobody said it was easy’. But I’m very fortunate to have such a loving support system around me. It’s so incredibly cheesy, but life really is too short to feel anything less than fulfilled. Hopefully I’ll have an update regarding my new ventures soon. If not, I may be flying back to the Emerald Isle to take up residence on an unassuming couch. (Advanced offers welcome).

Until the next life update!

~J

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My Two Cents on Trump

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This morning, a long with millions of others across the world, I woke to the news that America elected Donald Trump as it’s 45th President.

Donald Trump.

A man who has stepped into the shoes of the many greats that have gone before him. A man who has come out with the most vile, derogatory, sexist, racist and hateful remarks throughout this entire election. A man who cares more about his own ego and boasting about ‘grabbing women by the p**sy’ than anything else.  I think it’s safe to say those shoes have been irrevocably soiled. I can only imagine George Washington is turning in his grave.

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on politics, in fact I’m far from it. But you don’t need to be an expert to know in your heart of hearts that this decision wasn’t the right one. America I understand your people are angry, fed up and wanting change, but this was your alternative?

How can a nation vote for a man who decided to enter politics on a mere whim, over a hard working woman who has built her entire career on it? Perhaps it’s hard for me to comprehend looking on through a European lens. I know I’m not an American, and I haven’t had to face the issues that a lot of them have, but it’s just baffling.
I know Hillary has her faults, as do many politicians. She’s untrustworthy, and she’s been embroiled in many a scandal. The infamous emails, her husbands sordid affairs, and of course whitewater. I understand Americans were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It really was a case of having to choose the lesser of two evils. But surely Hillary was far far lesser?

Today I am sad for Hillary, and I am sad for women. But most of all I’m frightened. I’m frightened for the direction this world is taking. I am hurt that people can be this intolerant. I am shocked that so many can stand with a man who literally epitomises sexism, racism, fraud, exploitation and assault. I can only hope, as my gut tells me, that perhaps Trump is all bark and no bite.

Yes it’s awful to have a man that volatile as the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world, but is he really going to follow through on some of the outlandish things he’s said? We’ve already see him mellow, taking a more calm and collected approach with his victory speech. Will he really be able to throw up a giant wall on the Mexican Boarder? Can he seriously place a ban on all Muslims? Part of me is saying no, it’s all ridiculous nonsense. Classic trump rhetoric to stir things up and create shock and disgust. But it was naivety and complacency that rendered us all in a state of shock this morning.

So many of us, both in the US and beyond believed it would never happen. We laughed when he announced he was running. We scoffed and said he would never get the the nomination. We dismissed it when he did, believing that surely he would never get within a foot of the White House? Yet here we are. It wasn’t too long ago we were all picking our chins up off the ground after Brexit, and now we find ourselves doing the same thing.

I suppose there’s one thing I can give him – through gritted teeth albeit- and that’s his determination. The power hungry business tycoon managed to blag his way to the White House. How? I really don’t know.

So what’s going to happen next? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Judging from the reactions on social media this morning the world seems to be in a state of shock and panic.

Is America going to accept ‘President Trump?’ It would be ironic if they pointed the finger at him and said get out,  ‘You’re fired’. A line we’ve heard many times from the man himself back in his Apprentice days. Sadly it seems that America and the rest of the world will have to accept that President Trump is now in fact a reality, for at least the next four years.

I don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m thinking perhaps a president Kanye West in 2020 isn’t such a bad idea…

In all seriousness though, America we’re not laughing at you, we’re crying with you. ❤

A small glimpse into twitter’s reaction:

Earlier today it was announced that the annual John Lewis Christmas Advert is to be released tomorrow, thus lifting spirits somewhat. No Pressure…

An appropriate gif shows how it was by no means an easy decision for the electorate

If only..

2016 really is testing us..

Not Just a loss for Hillary, but a loss for women:

Many Celebs weighed in on the results:

Well Mr Adams, you do play the wonderful Mike Ross, so maybe you can overturn his presidency in a court of law? No? Please?

And then we have those directing their anger towards Florida..

Social media has been hopping since the news broke, a mixture of anger, sadness, and dark humour.

At this point I really don’t have anything left to say. I’m not even American yet I can’t help but feel shaken by the news this morning.  So I’ll  leave it there, and sign off by saying my thoughts are with my US friends and family, who I know are deeply and truly saddened by this result.

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The everyday struggles of a commuter

After the seriousness of my last post, I thought why not go back to the whingey ranty Jess that this blog has come to see a lot of?

At least once everyday I tweet some commute related frustration of mine. So I decided it’s about time I compiled them all into one go to blog post. (Not to say I’m going to stop moaning about it on twitter mind, I probably won’t).

So all you commuters out there, lets all unite in mutual misery. FYI If If you happen to be any one of the following ‘types’ of commuters that are mentioned in this blog, please, take note and change your ways. Immediately.  Here are my “Every Day Struggles of a Commuter”:

1. The Lack of Personal space
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If you’re hoping for a nice comfortable seat away from the rest of the masses you can forget about it. Unless you get on at the first station, are old, pregnant, or otherwise incapacitated. (Actually even then you’re still not guaranteed). Instead, you get to spend twenty minutes on a train and another ten on a tube pressed against other people’s sweaty backs. 🙂 🙂

2. Coming up against a seat hogger
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Okay this person is the worst. The one who takes up one of the precious rarity’s that is a spare seat with their shopping bags. Look, I get it. You want your space. We all do. But this is no time to be selfish. The worst part is they act like you’re doing them some massive inconvenience when you politely ask them to move.

3. The Ticket Inspector coming around after you’ve put your oyster card back in your bag
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Seriously. I’ve held it in my hand for the last half an hour and you choose to just appear and demand to see it when it’s probably swimming around in the sea of disorganisation and chaos that is my handbag? Rude.

4. The people who stand on left of the escalator
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Tourists I can maybe forgive, but for god sake people there are signs literally everywhere! ‘Please stand on the right’. I know walking the escalators can be a workout in itself and sometimes you just want to stand idly as you rise above ground (literally). But there are times when I am literally rushing to make the 18:01 train and some idiot is standing on the left of the escalator and I’m trapped. Probably going to miss my train and definitely cursing your existence.

5. Slow walkers with massive wheelie suitcases
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No, no, no just NO. Don’t get me wrong, in a city this size there are bound to people with suitcases travelling here there and everywhere. My issue is not with your suitcase (i’ve been there my friend), it’s with your inability to handle it. I know there’s nothing worse than having to lug baggage across public transport, but you need to learn the basic fundamentals of proper suitcase etiquette. Long quick strides, handle down as you walk up the stairs (never drag it up you’re asking for injury). And for heavens sake don’t suddenly stop dead in amongst a hoard of commuters. and don’t roll over my toes!

6. Platform Pushers
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Pushing me on the already crowded platform is not going to get you on to the train any faster. I know we all have to be ruthless in these situations, but come on. If you’re behind twenty others and there’s no room to sneak around the sides, well that’s your own tough shit.

7. The Smelly food eaters
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This has long been a common commuter complain of mine, but funnily enough I haven’t encountered too much of these creatures in London. I suppose there’s no real room to eat at the end of the day.

8. Delays, Cancellations and ‘Signal Failures’
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As IF my commute wasn’t horrendous enough, now because of yet another southeastern rail fuck up I’m spending the precious hours of my evening on a mobbed platform. Delightful. Just where I wanted to be and not snug in bed watching netflix.

9. The fear of falling asleep and missing your stop
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Okay this hasn’t actually happened to me yet (TG, Touch Wood)  but the fear is real. I always feel really uneasy when I see some poor tired soul asleep on the train. Like I know you’re tired, but I don’t want you to miss your stop hun. A guy I work with was coming home drunk one night. He only had to go to Kennington, which was two stops up on the Northern Line. He ended up in Gillingham. In Kent. In Southeast London. No shit, that actually happened. Just sellotape your eyes open and don’t take the chance.

10. Forgetting your earphones
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Easily, without doubt, hands down, the most painful of them all. Now you’re stuck actually having to listen to the insufferable sounds of other commuters. Screeching school children, the cougher, the snuffleupugus. The horrendous squeaking of the train against the tracks. Delightful .
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Getting to The Heart of Homelessness

So today I want to talk about something which I’ve witnessed more and more of since moving to London. Something we are all very much aware of, but often turn a blind eye to.

That something is homelessness.

I know it’s a rather grim topic and isn’t really in keeping with my usual light hearted or ranty pieces. But it’s important. And I feel like we need to keep the conversation going, at the very least. The last three months in this city have really opened my eyes. Behind the twinkling lights and the bustling excitement of London city life are real people on the streets. People without a home. People nobody cares about.

I suppose airing from rural Ireland, it’s something I was never really faced with on a daily basis. Sure I’d hear about the “poor homeless people” on the news.

But I never really witnessed their situation for myself. Only the odd time when I’d find myself in the country’s capital, and even then it was usually just the drug dealing chancers harassing me at the Luas stop. I made the mistake once of giving one of them a couple of euro for a “sleeping bag” only to see him a mere half an hour later sauntering around Abbey Street again, a pack of Malboro Lights in tow.

So how do you tell the genuine from the chancers? How do you distinguish between those who are desparate for food or shelter, and those who are just looking to con you out of a few bob? For me I suppose it comes down to gut instinct. I think the majority of us have enough cop on to recognise when someone is really in need and not just looking for a quick score.

 With that being said, It really angers me when I hear people say things like “sure it’s their own fault” “they are druggies” “they deserve to be homeless”. No. No one deserves to be homeless. Sure some people may have made some bad decisions, but haven’t we all?

When you think about it we are all only one step away from homelessness. All it takes is the loss of a job, the inability to pay rent, or a mortgage. Some of us are lucky. We have excellent support systems, loving families who will take us in at the drop of a hat if anything ever goes wrong. But not everyone in this world has that. Some people literally depend on only themselves.

Last Sunday I was walking through Liverpool Street with my boyfriend when another couple approached us. They didn’t look much older than us. In a perfect world you could say we were just two happy couples in love out enjoying a Sunday stroll in sleepy London. Only the other couples reality was far different from ours. They were homeless, and clearly starving. The guy politely interrupted us, apologised for what he was about to ask, and then went on to explain that he and his girlfriend were homeless.

He told us he’s been looking for work for a number of months, but can’t find a job. He asked us whether we had any change at all to spare so that they might be able to get some food or a place to stay for the night. I turned and looked at the girlfriend who was holding her hands to her face and my heart honestly tore in two. I couldn’t help but think how different our situations were. How did they end up in this situation? What if that was us? We didn’t have much cash on us, I could only give them £2.50 and my boyfriend only had change in Euro, but they gladly accepted this anyway. The guy then tried to give us one of the lighters that he was selling but we told him to hang on to it. I couldn’t stop thinking about them afterwards.

I am met with this sad reality every morning on my commute. Many homeless people sit outside at the top of the tube stations, thousands rushing past them, ignoring their existence. We are all guilty of it though. We have more important places to be. We don’t have time. It’s not our problem. They got themselves into this mess, they can get themselves out. Oh if the shoe was on the other foot.

Lately though, I’ve been noticing more and more people stop to talk to the homeless, or buy them food, or offer them some small token or gesture of kindness. Yesterday evening I saw a blonde woman give a homeless man a bottle of coke and a sandwich. He couldn’t stop saying thank you.

This morning at Old Street a man in a suit stopped to talk to guy and his dog sitting on a tattered sleeping bag. “Alright mate” , he said, before saying he couldn’t chat long this morning, but he would see him later. It’s truly heartwarming to see these little moments of kindness in the face of such destitution.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this on my Twitter timeline and teared up.

It would be great instead of shaking our heads and thinking “oh how awful” that we actually took action and did something for these people. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but something as small as a sandwich or a coffee is honestly so appreciated. If you find yourself on a serious budget (like myself), even a smile, a hello or a quick chat could really make all the difference. I know I’m starting to sound like one of those pushy charity workers you find yourself running away from on the street, but it’s just something I really wanted to talk about today. So if you’ve had a particularly shitty Tuesday like I have, be thankful in the knowledge that you have a warm house to go home to, food on your table, and a pillow to rest your head on.

There will be some very cold and lonely people out there tonight.

~J x

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Asking for it a Review: Social Media, Slut Shaming and The Issue of Consent

*Contains Spoilers*

I don’t normally do book reviews, but after recently finishing Louise O’Neill’s asking for it, I almost feel compelled. In fact I think it’s something I’ll start doing a lot more of. Since finishing college It’s great to finally have the freedom to read what I want to read again! So lets get down to it.

I picked up this wonderful gem whilst browsing Waterstones on a lazy afternoon last Saturday.
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The story follows Emma O’Donovan an 18 year old girl from a small town in Ireland.

It was one of those books I found myself wincing the entire way through. It invoked every single emotion in me, and some I didn’t even realise I had.

On the surface Emma seems to have it all, she’s popular, is surrounded by a group of friends and is incredibly beautiful. If I’m honest at first I found her character a little annoying. She’s selfish, inconsiderate, and obsessed with material things. She’s not a good friend and to be quite blunt about it, she’s a bitch.

However, I soon came to realise how important these elements of Emma’s character were for the development of O’Neill’s plot. She doesn’t create the stereotypical ‘good girl fall from grace’. Emma is desperate to prove herself. She does things she knows are reckless to test people’s perceptions of her. She constantly repeats the mantra ‘I am Emma Donovan I am Emma Donovan’, in an attempt to reassure herself that she knows who she is, she is confident and in control, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Deep down Emma is struggling with her sense of identity, placing all of her self worth on her physical attributes. It’s almost as if she views sex as a form of acceptance. She ends up being raped at a party by 4 boys she thought were here friends. The narrative that ensues as a result can only be described as heart breaking.

On the night in question Emma flirts with boys, wears a revealing dress, and even takes drugs. All actions which are used against her afterwards in an attempt to claim she deserved what happened to her, that ‘she was asking for it’. Pictures of Emma passed out on a bed with the boys taking advantage of her are uploaded to a Facebook page called ‘Easy Emma’. In one picture one of the boys is seen vomiting over her, while another urinates on her head, evoking a vile comment on the page saying ‘she deserves to be pissed on’. Emma is completely unresponsive in the pictures, but don’t worry ‘she was asking for it’.

The rest of the novel deals with Emma’s struggle to come to terms with what happened. The saddest part of it all is that like many victims of rape, she blames herself. She didn’t want to report the boys. She wanted to protect them. She even tries to apologise to them after  a school teacher contacts the guards. She lies and tries to pass it off by saying she was pretending to be asleep. It’s her fault her mother has taken to drinking and her father can’t look her in the eye or socialise with his friends. It’s her fault her brother has lost his girlfriend. It’s her fault her friends aren’t really her friends any more. It’s her fault the lives of the ‘Good Boys’ are ruined.

Only it’s not. It’s not her fault at all. And that’s the point O’Neill is cleverly hammering home. Emma gains national notoriety as ‘Ballinatoom Girl’, and it’s an all too familiar narrative. We’ve seen it with Ireland’s own ‘Slane Girl’, where photos of a young girl performing oral sex  at an Eminem concert surfaced on the internet. Of course she was the slut. She was the whore. She was the irresponsible one. No mention of the boys on the receiving end. Or the person who photographed it and circulated for the world to see.

‘Ballinatoom girl’ is not just a work of fiction. She is a representation of every woman who has fallen victim to harassment, assault, slut-shaming, and rape. She is someone’s daughter, sister and friend. She should not be dismissed. We need to talk more about consent and rape culture.

O’neill’s novel is forcing society to take a long hard look at itself. Why are we vilifying young girls for virtually everything they do? So what if they wear short skirts, drink vodka and post selfies. Does that mean they deserve to get raped? I just don’t understand why we are so quick to pardon the guilty and punish the innocent.

The shocking reality is this novel is everywhere. It’s real. It’s happening here in Ireland, and it’s happening all over the world. Take the recent Brock Turner case in the US. It honestly makes me sick to my stomach. A rapist serves 3 months of a pitiful 6 month sentence for the rape of a girl at a college party. But it’s okay. It wasn’t his fault. His life was ruined. Dreams of becoming a professional swimmer slashed as a result of what was it his dad put it? ’20 minutes of action’.

It was all her fault of course. The girl who’s name we don’t even know. The girl who was attacked. The girl who’s body was laid bare behind a dumpster for all to see. The girl who cried rape. The girl who can’t remember. The girl who was drunk.

It’s just not good enough. I am so grateful to Louise O’Neill and the many other talented and brave authors who are writing about this subject. Lets not give in to this ‘keep it quiet’ attitude that Ireland has long grown accustomed to. Let’s give our ‘Ballinatoom girls’ and our ‘Slane girls’ a voice. It’s the least they deserve.