I always knew it was writing I wanted to do. As a kid I always had my head in a book and I thought this is what I want to do; the idea that I could write whatever I want, any story that came to mind and I could actually be paid for it seemed too good to be true. When I was younger I always wrote stories, consisting of about 5 or 6 pages so of course I had no idea that being an author was not as simple as coming up with something on the spot, any kind of plot, random characters and any ending I want. I had no idea it required planning and implementing all these fancy writing techniques. I soon realised I didn’t necessarily have the patience to be an author. I knew I should do something writing-related though, all my teachers had said English was my best subject. I always loved English, until I did English Literature at A-Level, but that’s a whole different ballgame. You have to write in such a structured way, constantly criticising a text or an author, there was no longer any freedom in reading or writing. I couldn’t get lost in a text because I started to wonder why the author made the protagonist wear a blue jumper, or why they’d chosen the name Mr Green for the bad guy. I started to loathe writing.
It was actually in passing a neighbour mentioned that I should be a journalist, I was no older than ten, and I had no idea what a journalist was. She implied it was because I’ve always been a bit nosy and like most kids, I didn’t have a filter. Little does Jean know that small comment she made in passing influenced the rest of my life. Yes, in the future I may have realised I wanted to become a journalist some other way, but she definitely gave me that stepping stone. She planted that seed.
Over the years I contemplated different career paths, marketing, for example. I looked into all these business management and marketing degrees because I knew it would open many doors, plus my sister and dad both went into this sector. I soon realised I was taking the safe option, this is perhaps what I told myself I should do, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Even law, my grandparents told me I should consider being a lawyer, it took me a while to think… actually I need to think about what I’m good at, what I want to do. I needed to stop thinking about what others wanted me to do.
Being a classic overthinker, I felt I should take a year off between college and university. Having not done anything like Journalism before I feared I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. Plus, A-Levels took away for me any sort of academic drive. So I felt I needed a break, some freedom, time to just sit at home and do nothing (should be careful what I wish for, in hindsight).
My gap year wasn’t the conventional one, I didn’t go travelling for months to ‘find myself’. I would have loved to go travelling, but my dad being a banker told me really I should be saving pennies for uni. Boring, I know. I remember when I was sixteen discussing with my best friend how we’d go travelling around Australia, Thailand, anywhere we wanted really. Then reality settled in, and I realised I didn’t have this endless bank of money.
So I got a job at an independent coffee shop in town, and actually made four of my current closest friends. Hospitality isn’t the most pleasant job, especially when you’re a bit of a clumsy waitress like myself. Plates of food have ended up on customers laps, I even dropped a jug of milk over this ladies brand new scarf. She wouldn’t let me forget it was ‘brand new’. I knew I wasn’t destined to be a waitress, but it was temporary. Plus, there’s nothing quite as therapeutic as steaming milk in hopes of achieving the perfect latte art. As jobs come, it definitely wasn’t the worst one I’ve had.
I knew I wanted to practise writing on my year off, so I started my own blog. Ironic really, it’s taken me all year to write this one. Thanks to the likes of Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty, I knew I wanted to go into journalism, ideally writing for a women’s magazine. Cosmopolitan, Glamour, something for the average woman really. So my blog consisted of beauty and lifestyle hacks, tips, that sort of thing. I did really enjoy writing it, for a year or so. I didn’t necessarily care about getting the biggest viewing, it was more for me to practise writing over 2018-2019, I really enjoyed the freedom of it. Even if it was telling a small number of people the lipstick I’ve been enjoying that month, or a really good dupe for a high-end product. That was my muse, and I really enjoyed it.
Soon enough, out getting some milk, I bumped into a school mum, of someone in my brother’s year and she asked me what I’d been up to. I told her I was thinking of studying Journalism after summer at university and how I’d been writing my blog. I had forgotten she was an editor at a local magazine. She got me a few pieces to write at the Sussex Living Magazine, it was really exciting to be writing for some form of publication, and to actually have a few pieces published.
I enjoyed this, it gave me insight as well to what it could be like, and what it was like receiving feedback. Even seeing their tiny little newsroom, wasn’t quite what I envisioned, but it made it all feel more real. Gave me a little more drive and a feeling of what it could be like to be a Journalist.
Brick by brick, and the more writing experience I got, I realised yes this is for me. I also spent some time volunteering for the Mid Sussex MS Society on my gap year, in which I put together seasonal newsletters for the charity. This consisted of me doing several interviews, reporting on events and such. Although this wasn’t my ideal type of journalism, I was grateful for any experience, and it all made me realise I was definitely on the right track. I enjoyed it, I learnt more about MS (Multiple Sclerosis) which a relative of mine had, and immersing myself in a mini project, really did get me excited for the years to come, studying Journalism at uni.
All these little things I did on my year off, collectively made me realise it was writing I wanted to do after all. All in all, although my gap year wasn’t as exciting as younger me had imagined, it gave me time to have a break and to explore journalism a little more before diving into the degree. I know I made the right decision.