Isolation with Nora

It started with Heartburn. The novel, you understand, by Nora Ephron.

It had come my way as a recommendation from a friend, as a book perfect for These Times. And it was. For three glorious days I was transported out of myself and lockdown London and into the life of Rachel (Nora) and the 1970s on the East Coast.

I really did, for the first time, forget about The Situation.

I finished the book and moved on. I read other things. But nothing else compared, nothing had the wit and style and compulsive energy of Nora’s writing. I was hooked.

So I sought her out and, deep in a writerly love affair, ordered the full collection of her writings. I liked that it is called The Most – not the best – of Nora Ephron. It is a tome, and the description fits her: she writes effusively. The most, she is.

I’m aware that it would be more proper to refer to her, as one does with writers, by her last name. But her nonfiction – she was a journalist and essayist much more than a novelist – is intensely relatable. Reading her this week, she has kept me company, has been my friend. She isn’t Ephron, she’s Nora.

And here’s the thing: I’d quite like to be Nora, too. Minus the divorces.

She is smart, witty, pithy. She digresses from her point. She is acerbic. With a phrase, she has conjured an entire personality.

She is honest, wise. She does not shy away from the hard topics: divorce, feminism, family, death. On love, she is mercifully quiet.

Wouldn’t it be something, to be as gutsy as Nora? I thought she must have acquired wisdom with age, but many of the essays in the book date from the 70s, when she was in her 30s. I guess I have about a decade to learn to put it all out on the field. We’ll see.

She writes about journalism, and you can tell how she despises much of the news industry. But she loves it, too, perhaps even better for knowing its flaws. I don’t know a single journalist who doesn’t feel the same way.

Her description of a mid-century newsroom is enough to make me nostalgic for things I never knew. It’s also enough to make me very glad I missed it, too. But it reminds me of why I do what I do: the excitement of a break, the thrill of holding people to account. I have much to learn.

And then there’s New York. It’s the backdrop to her writing, seeping through all her stories. She is, unarguably, part of the Manhattan elite. She hangs out with New York Times food critics and artists from the Village. It’s glamorous and creative and gossipy.

No doubt it’s also unattainable. But Nora’s New York chimes with my long-harboured desire to disappear to the Big Apple – for, I don’t know, six months, a year – and just write and meet interesting people and in some way live outside myself. Just for a little bit, just to see.

Of course you cannot, in fact, live outside yourself. If I were to disappear as above, I would still be chronically anxious – and being several thousand miles away I would likely be acutely anxious too. And yet I can’t help but feel the shock would force me to write, and cope, and be more gutsy. To be a little more like Nora, but without her inexplicable antipathy towards the New Yorker, my one true love and another cause of my ridiculous obsession with the place.

Just as Nora can’t let go of the ideal of being married, I can’t get over the ideal of the city, or rather, myself in the city. She is, like I say, very relatable.

And like all writers, she writes about writing. We can’t help ourselves. It makes me like her even more.

I often worry that while writing comes naturally I don’t really have anything to say. It should, I fear, be the other way round.

So I am going to try to remember Nora’s maxim, learned from her mother, that ‘everything is copy’.

Everything is copy. Even, it seems for me, Nora herself.

School: Seven years of madness

This week, satirical website the Onion ran this headline about the coronavirus pandemic:

Man Not Sure Why He Thought Most Psychologically Taxing Situation Of His Life Would Be The Thing To Make Him Productive

And we all laugh, right? Because we’ve all, at some point, declared that we’re going to learn French or get fit or make bread while knowing that actually we’re going to binge-watch Netflix dramas and eat a lot of pizza.

We’re aware enough to know that we can’t expect too much of ourselves right now – and if we weren’t, an Instagram quote post has surely put us straight by now.

So why do the daily Duolingo reminders make me feel so guilty?

And why did I, and I do not exaggerate here, recently declare to a friend that I should have written a book by now?

What is it inside my head that thinks that despite having my dream job at 25, because I am single, haven’t moved to New York and remain stubbornly bookless, I have somehow not done enough?

I have thought about this a lot this week and the answer is pretty clear: School.

Ah.

Yes.

Hmm.

I have been seeing a counsellor for the past few months and when I told her this she suggested I try to write about school, as a story, as if I was watching a little girl called Lucy and describing the things that happened to me happening to her.

This seemed, on the surface, as if it was the last thing on earth I would want to do.

And yet. I write to sort out my thoughts and feelings. On the subject of school, I have many of both – and none of them are good.

Seven years later, much of it is still too raw. One day I hope to be able to write about how they failed me as a disabled kid, but today is not that day.

But what I can write about now is how they apparently convinced me that nothing is ever good enough.

This messaging was so common that I accepted it as background noise; only with a few years of hindsight did I really understand it had been there at all, and only now do I see the toxic residue that it left in my brain.

Most of the incidents were too small and too common to remember, much less document. So here I present to you, the true howlers:

The time I had to do extra lunchtime Latin – Latin! – because I was on course for an A at GCSE.

The time I couldn’t be in the choir because I couldn’t read music on first sight.

The time it was pointed out by my economics teacher that I wasn’t good at maths because I’d got an A at GCSE, not an A*.

The time he made me retake one AS module because I got a B, despite getting an A overall.

And the one that truly made my jaw drop, the big one: The time, when I had collected by A-levels and was ecstatic about having got in to Warwick, that same economics teacher looked me dead in the eye and said “shame you couldn’t make the leap to the A*”.

Come to think of it, most of the issue was clearly that one guy. Last I knew he’d been promoted to deputy head.

They also used to give these bizarre assemblies about successful women, with the tag line that they were the kind of people who could have gone to the school (if they’d have been richer and, let’s face it, whiter). I presume the whole exercise was meant to be motivational and feminist, but it always made me feel uncomfortable.

I didn’t know why, at the time, but now I think it was the implication that with all our privilege – and god knows we had so much it was coming out of our ears – we were on course to do something extraordinary. We were duty bound to be the next Marie Curie or Jane Austin. The possibility of happiness in ordinary things was simply never discussed.

The truly maddening thing is I knew it was all crazy at the time, and I sure as hell know it is now. All the true joy I’ve found in life has been in ordinary things; books, food, a good job and good friends. If anything extraordinary has happened, it has meant very little indeed.

So why does this need to do more affect me so much? It angers me that they wormed their way inside my head.

But I guess seven years of exposure would wear anyone down.

Seven years of pressure. Now wouldn’t it be ironic if I wrote a book about that?

This year

0fd2ccea-a523-4588-acd3-9e6b2149c223

This year I laughed a lot.

I faced my fears and made a film. I will never do it again.

I got to feel a warm breeze as I watched Caribbean waves.

I read good books and not enough of them. I lost and found myself in stories.

This year I began learning to be kind to my body. I am still trying.

I was not kind enough to my brain and I paid the price.

I made it through. I asked for help. I am taking one day at a time.

This year I loved.

I was heartbroken.

I grieved.

This year I started a writing course and quit after one session. I remembered I knew how to do it all along.

I tried very hard to put myself first. Often, I failed.

I stood from my wheelchair and clung to a railing to watch the sun set over Manhattan.

I looked for Rocs and I found him.

This year I covered an election for the BBC.

I interviewed for jobs and didn’t get any of them. I ended up doing what I love, anyway.

This year I cried a lot.

I was lucky.

As ever, I was so proud of Stan and Boo.

And over and over again, I was grateful for the army of friends who made sure I got this far.

This year, they were simply the best.

To do

It’s two weeks into 2017 and things are starting to come together. After a bumpy end to last year, I finally have full-time care sorted out (hurrah!) and some idea about where I am going with life. I am carving out a new existence back in London, at home for now but with plans to be a real adult in my own place sometime soon-ish. I have a couple of job interviews coming up and I am excited about the schemes I am applying for. I am feeling very 22.

Still, being unemployed and living with my parents is not ideal. So I need to make the next few months as fun and productive as possible – resisting the lure of doing nothing but completing job applications and watching Netflix. In a bid to force myself to do things, I am holding myself accountable by making myself accountable to you as well. Here’s a list of things I want to do before I get a job and move out – a last hurrah of growing up, if you like. Please, please make sure I do them.

  • Read interesting books and keep learning. One of the few real joys of leaving full-time education after a long 17 years is being unshackled from reading lists. I can officially read what I want! This is very exciting. Recently I have enjoyed some good history and am looking to expand into the genres of memoir and philosophy; so much more enjoyable in their popular rather than academic forms.
  • Cultivate a proper journalist’s Twitter profile. Share pieces that I like and connect with other writers. Write a quick message when a thought strikes me. Develop a following and a real presence.
  • Learn some digital skills. I have signed up to CodeAcademy to get up to speed on HTML and CSS, the core components for building web pages. I started this a while ago and haven’t stuck with it but now that my days have more structure I am determined to do a little, often. The same is true of Photoshop. I know being able to use this programme will really help me in media jobs, so I have signed up to an online course. Once I have the basics down, I will move on to InDesign, the journalism staple.
  • Write more. I say this all the time, but I really want to up my game here and stop feeling life a fraud when I call myself a writer. So here’s the deal: I am going to write twice a week. I am going to stop feeling like blogging doesn’t count or matter and I am going to stop telling myself the idea isn’t worth pursuing. I am going to stop finding excuses. So be prepared for some random blog posts and lots of rambling about what I’m up to.
  • Pitch. Until I have a job, my only source of income will be freelancing, so I’d better do more of it. More importantly, I want to build up my portfolio, especially by writing different types of pieces for different publications. As much as I wish it were so, I probably can’t make a career out of 700-word comment pieces for the Guardian. The challenge here, of course, isn’t so much in the writing as it is in the having an idea in the first place. Hopefully the aforementioned reading will help, but I think it’s a bit like everything else: the more I do it the easier it’ll get. Watch this space.
  • Write a long read. This is the biggest challenge on this list, but also the most exciting. Recently I have found myself buried in long reads – in the Guardian, New Yorker, Atlantic and more (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent Atlantic piece, ‘My President was Black’ is a must-read) – and now I want to try this extraordinary kind of journalism for myself. I have been further inspired by the Longform podcast, which I listen to every night as I fall asleep, in which incredible writers discuss their stories and methods with other incredible writers. It’s journalist heaven but I am also extremely jealous of the exciting work they do. I want to jump on the longform bandwagon, especially as it’s a form which is actually thriving in the digital age. To this end, I have just read Storycraft: the Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Non-fiction by Jack Hart, which is absolutely r ammed with tips and examples, and now I am raring to go. For practical reasons, I am going to try my hand at some personal essays first before one day attempting some reported narrative. This is hard stuff and completely outside my writing comfort zone. Wish me luck.
  • Learn French (a bit). This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but I really didn’t like the way languages were taught at school (agh worksheets, my nemesis). So now I have left formal education it’s time to give this a decent go, especially as the lack of a second language feels like a glaring hole in my CV. I’m still working out how best to approach this (classes? books? online?) but by 2018 I hope to be nodding less and speaking more when I cross the Channel.
  • Not have a nervous breakdown about global politics. The less said about this the better.
  • Stop wasting time. I have accepted that procrastinating is just an essential part of my nature, just like wobbling and bitter sarcasm, so the aim is to make the procrastination worthwhile. This essentially translates to: get off Facebook, read a book.

Some of this is fairly ambitious, some of it I should have done years ago (French, I’m looking at you here). But having written this list, I can say that everything on it is achievable. Feel free to pester me about it; I’m just hoping a job comes along and lets me off the hook!

The beginning of the end, and the new

Exams are over. I have finished my degree. I am still in complete denial because I can’t believe I will never again get a book out the library or get lost in the social science building. It’s taken me a week of sleep and relaxation to process that in itself, and now somehow I have just three weeks to reconcile myself to the fact that I am leaving Warwick. I am trying not to think about it too much, because doing so is just too hard.

Eyes firmly on the horizon then. I realise that I haven’t written here about what I’m doing next. Provided all goes well and I bag myself a 2:1, I will be taking up an offer to do and MSc in the Theory and History of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Lots of people are telling me how exciting this is and how great it will be, but for now I am too caught up in the worry of finding new carers and having to make new friends and missing the Warwick gang like crazy to get too excited. Once the practicalities are sorted and I’ve got over the exam-induced academic fatigue, though, I will be able to look forward to it, and once I’m thrown in to the course I’m all but guaranteed to enjoy it. Or at least I hope so, anyway.

The good thing is that the course combines international relations, my favourite part of my undergraduate degree, with history, an interest I put on hold after school. The bad news is that LSE recently cancelled the module I was most looking forward to, on the Middle East, which means that despite years of waiting I will never get to properly study the region I am most fascinated by. Hopefully this summer I will be able to read about it in addition to actually preparing for the modules I will be taking. I am also counting on my best friend’s history essays to get me back up to speed with the discipline (thanks Soph!).

Before all that, though, I have a reading list of random interesting books to get through, including a selection of feminist work. I’m currently reading Germaine Greer’s latest, The Whole Woman, which I am agreeing and disagreeing with in equal measure. Perhaps when I have finished, it will provide a good topic for a post here.

I’m looking forward to writing more in the next few weeks in preparation for a week back at the Guardian in July. Most importantly. though, I am soon off to Ibiza to help the wonderful Fran celebrate her hen do. I’m very excited and am sure I will come back with stories to tell – although maybe not here!

So yes, I’m nervous about the future, but when you think about it, this is only the beginning.

A late night post

It’s late at night and I’m in a pensive mood, so of course I’ve ended up here after a long time away. And as it’s Easter Sunday, I don’t have to feel any should-be-working guilt. In fact, I don’t have anything in particular to say. Perhaps that’s a dangerous way to start a blog post, we’ll see.

So many deeply sad things have happened around the world since I last wrote here and no political debates or rousing sentiments, no matter their real importance, can heal the wounds. They will and must sting forever. And while I am so lucky and personally happy, surrounded as I am with love and laughter and opportunities at every turn, I have lost my once-cherished belief in the inexorable march of progress. While I still remain hopeful of better times, I see that one step forward will inevitably be matched by several backwards, and that there are no simple solutions (writing a dissertation on the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan has definitely seen to that). In fact, I sometimes wonder if there are any solutions at all. But I haven’t stopped trying to find them, if only as an intellectual challenge. And really, I don’t think the world has stopped trying either. Maybe hope and despair are just two sides of the same coin.

On a more personal note. As I reach the end of my undergraduate studies at my beloved Warwick (yelp!), I have been thinking a lot about who I am and that’s always tied up with the questions I have about disability: how does it affect who I am? How will it influence my life from here on in? What needs to be done to make disabled people’s lives better and how do we do it? Is it my responsibility to do something or should I just live life as if it didn’t matter to me? I still don’t have the answers.

Studying politics has taught me one thing above all else: everything is socially constructed. And so I am forced to ask new questions. What does it mean to be disabled? How can I be proud of my social identity while still challenging it? How do we break down barriers of difference and fear? How, how, how. And university has taught me that nothing operates in a vacuum, so we need to look at disability and everything it intersects with: race, class, and most importantly for me, sexuality and gender. I’ve had an article on the latter bubbling around in my head for months now, but I can’t quite tease it out and haven’t had much luck pitching it either. I am determined to get it done somehow though and it is on my post-exam to do list. Once in a while something comes along which feels necessary, as if it has to – is demanding – to be written, and as a writer I think I’d be pretty stupid to let it pass. And this, my god, needs to be said.

I definitely don’t have the answers to this bigger questions. But I have come to one conclusion: talking about these things is doing something about them. Speaking about disability in seminars this term has been so incredibly rewarding, as I have been greeted with support, understanding and, most importantly, an eagerness to understand and know more, even from academics. Recounting these conversations to my mum, she labelled me a ‘one woman campaigner’. But I’m not really, nor will I ever be. Instead, I will keep doing what I’m doing and see if I ever find some answers. And in the meantime, I will keep being honest about what it means to be me. In the end, that’s as much as any of us can or have to do. Look, there’s that quiet hope again.

Why be a journalist?

As ever, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything apart from course notes. Again, I’ve slipped back into university – lectures, reading, friends, not enough sleep – and out of writing. I don’t know why it’s so much harder here; I don’t know why all the ideas I had in the summer have disappeared like a well running dry. If this is what I do, who I am (and I firmly believe that it is), shouldn’t it come a little easier?

In a New York Times’ op-ed this week, Hector Tobar, a journalism professor, writes of his students’ resilience in the face of the looming question: “who’d be a journalist?” With everyone seemingly keen to question the wisdom of entering a industry that is ‘dying’, from friends to family to the voice in my head, it would be easy to say “not me” and turn the other way. It would be easy to take that job in the civil service, policy analysis or think tanks. It would be easy to do something that would pay the bills. But it would be impossible not to look back and regret.

Because whenever anyone asks, I point to the reporters showing us the world’s forgotten people; I link to the columnists questioning an unjust world; the people telling their hard and uplifting stories, all in the form of newsprint. I open up the New Yorker and find an exquisite sentence, a unique viewpoint in the Guardian. Everywhere in journalism I see people being brave, speaking truth to power, asking the questions no one is answering. How could I not want to do that?

People misunderstand journalism as simply relaying events and opining on them like a public school debater. Some merely think of the gutter press and write it off as immoral. But that’s the bad journalism, the stuff just written for page views and sales, and that’s fine, because it props up the profound stuff. I genuinely, wholeheartedly believe that words are power, power that can do so much good. That’s why people write, that’s why people stare down the barrel of long hours and low pay and ‘we’re not hiring’ emails. Because of a passion for story telling and a determination to be heard. I may never go on a protest or find an answer to any of the world’s problems, but I will always – always – stand up and be counted.

But despite such fierce belief, and no matter how much talent or effort you summon, writing is hard. Writing is painful. It is so full of self-doubt that sometimes it’s easier to just get on with all the things that don’t require you to look inside yourself quite so much.  Strings of letters cannot be but an imperfect rendering of the idea they flow from. And it happens so very slowly, each decision considered and reconsidered. It cannot be done in a hurry, and yet time must be made. Writers are known to be neurotic and it is easy to see why. Writing is as much about guilt and fear as freedom and hope. But get it right, and what a sense of satisfaction. What a relief.

When people come to understand the effort, conviction and bloody-mindedness required to be a journalist or a writer, they are wont to say that they “don’t know why you do it”. I try to explain the passion and the inability to imagine yourself doing anything else. Still, they say, why not choose something else, why take the risk of endless disappointment? “Yes,” I say, “it’s hard; you have to really want it. And I really want it.”

Summer’s end

I’m going back up to Warwick next Saturday for my final year, which has come around way too quickly. As I desperately try, and fail, to cross things off my to-do list, I am struck by how long it has been since I posted here. I admit I don’t really have an excuse for my lack of blogging; I have been busy, busier than in all past summers combined, but really I would have had plenty of time to blog if I had made the effort. I didn’t. This post is likely to become a long and rambling attempt to make this up (mainly to myself) but I hope it is interesting for you too.

On the bright side, it is not as if I have been lazy. I’ve visited the Edinburgh Fringe and Crete (both hugely enjoyable) and been to Birmingham a few times. I’ve recruited new carers, caught up with family and countless friends, researched masters programmes and done nowhere near enough preparation for my dissertation. At least I now know that I will probably look at the problems of democracy promotion in post-conflict settings, most likely Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Rwanda, but this will probably change and become more refined as I read around the subject. Right now I will just be happy if I manage to write 10,000 words on anything.

The masters research has paid off a little. Although questions still remain over accessibility, I am pretty sure that I will be applying to the LSE, UCL and King’s College London to study international relations. While I do not want to and can’t move back in with my parents, it is time to come home to the city, especially with my career beginning to take off (read on for more!). I miss its unique sense of being simultaneously at the middle and on the edge; a great tumult of humanity, which for me holds so much possibility. For now, my heart lies in the small patch of land outside Coventry that is Warwick’s campus, but London is where I need to be. And so I find myself trying to write personal statements good enough to give me the remote possibility of getting into such prestigious universities and it’s not proving to be easy. Wish me luck.

Best of all this summer, I have been writing. I didn’t quite fulfil my goal of pitching to loads of publications, partly because of business, partly because of fear of the unknown and partly because I have yet to crack the skill of having multiple unique ideas at any given time. But I have officially earned the title ‘freelance journalist’ having continued to write for the Guardian since my internship there. For the first time in my five years of writing, I am even making money from my words. Perhaps you can understand why I have been concentrating on freelance work over blogging. Anyway, I couldn’t be happier. I was quoted in the Week too so I seem to be doing alright.

And what of the summer’s politics? It was dominated by two stories; Jeremy Corbyn’s improbable victory in the Labour leadership election and the heart-breaking refugee crisis. When it comes to the former, I am simply disappointed. I think the media furore around Corbyn’s supposed radicalism missed some deeply concerning social conservatism buried in his economic leftism and, unable to command loyalty within his own front bench of supporters, let alone the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party, it seems unlikely that Corbyn will be an effective opposition to a Tory government in desperate need of restraining. The rhetoric of a ‘new politics’ is all very well, but Corbyn’s version is both a return to the 1970s and a free pass for Osborne. Hardly progressive, and an even deeper shame in light of the progressive, positive centre-left vision set out by Yvette Cooper, the only candidate to inspire a modicum of excitement in me.

But if Labour have driven me to shake my head in bewilderment, Europe’s response to the refugee crisis has left me both angry and deeply sad. There is too much to say here, bemoaning the lack of solidarity between the EU’s member states, politicians’ inability to act with moral conviction, and the complete failure to tackle the desperate situation in Syria. But the biggest issue is politicians’ and the public’s refusal to recognise the reality of the situation: that refugees fleeing the bloodiest war since WWII should be exempt from the politics of migration and instead should be treated with the basic human compassion Europe was built to express. If a mother is frightened enough to put her children aboard an unseaworthy raft, who are we to question her motives? In all things, if you wouldn’t swap places with someone, don’t judge them. It really is that simple.

As I head off for the start of a daunting and exciting new year, answers for these desperate people do not appear any closer than they did at the beginning of the summer. I can only hope that future generations of politics students are not taught that refugee crisis of the summer of 2015 did not presage the crumbling of the European principles of solidarity and free movement, or of the EU itself. They should be defended with everything we have. I hope to be able to make that argument as I write more and more over the coming year.

Interesting times

What a week it has been. Between the Greek crisis, the anniversary of 7/7, and the budget, just the first three days were hectic. And then from there we had budget fallout, the unfolding situation in Tunisia, a Chinese banking crisis and, of course. more Greece. As a new week starts, it remains entirely possible that the embattled country will crash, or be forced, out of the Eurozone and maybe the EU.

What made the week even more remarkable was that I spent it in the Guardian’s newsroom, having won work experience at their Student Media Awards. So far it’s been fantastic; I’ve gained experience researching, contacting press offices and using the newswires. I also get to sit in on the meeting where they decide which story goes on which page of the next day’s paper; a journalistic skill in itself. Excitingly, I’ve also been allowed to write – covering Nicky Morgan’s response to a sexist photographer, Ian Duncan Smith’s fist-pump, and giving a student’s reaction to the budget. All being well, another piece I wrote will run in the society pages of the actual paper in August. Of course, I enjoyed this writing immensely.

But by far the highlight of each day is the 10am conference, where senior staff and editors gather for a discussion of the day’s events. Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief, always starts the meeting with a list of the previous day’s successful and enjoyable pieces – on Friday my student piece made the grade! Then it’s on to a fascinating discussion of the top stories. With staff giving explanations, sharing opinions and making predictions, I can almost feel my brain soaking up knowledge. I am very proud to say that I contributed to a discussion about why politicians feel able to ignore young people. Despite the fact that my heart was pounding away, it wasn’t a small achievement for someone who does not enjoy public speaking. If only I could have kept it up when Katherine Viner briefly spoke to me afterwards, but inevitably the cat got my tongue.

On Tuesday, Yvette Cooper came to conference to give a small speech and answer questions. Although this was very exciting, as an unconvinced floating voter, I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed. But impressed I was, both with her principled moderation which does not pander to her party and her strong feminism (I’d probably support a feminist in any stripes). I’d like to see her take David Cameron down a peg or two. Andy Burnham, one of her competitors in the Labour leadership election, is coming in next week; it’ll be good to see how he compares. I never thought I’d be in a room with top politicians at the age of 20, but there I was.

I have had a great week, topped off with the news that I got a first in my second year of university. I am looking forward to another week on news and then another on the comment desk. With negotiations between Greece and its European creditors on-going, it could be an interesting time to be in journalism.

Lessons from the year

My second year at university saw success on three fronts: more work, more reading and more writing. Somewhere along the way, I learnt quite a bit; about myself, journalism and politics. And so, having, like a lot of journalists, bemoaned the advent of the ‘listicle’ (which I still maintain should not be a word), I present you with the highlights of these lessons.

  • There is absolutely no point in reading an entire book that you don’t understand just because it’s required reading (in my case, political theory from the 18th and 19th centuries). Find one that explains the core text in intelligible English and save time, boredom and exam season stress
  • On a related note, John Rawls is god’s gift to politics students
  • Planning essays is the best way to revise
  • My academic interests lie in security studies, human rights, justice and feminism. I am probably a constructivist but I believe in moral imperatives
  • It’s probably high time I transferred my essay-planning skills to pitching articles (by which I mean: knowing what my point is before I start)
  • There is nothing as gratifying as reward for hard work
  • There is nothing as uplifting as well-loved friends making you laugh on a bad day
  • No matter how inconveniently-timed the urge to read a novel or write something is, do it and don’t feel guilty for not doing other things. You’re probably learning more than if you were writing an essay and the inspiration is fleeting
  • My heart lies with 20th century American novels, the Guardian, New Yorker and New York Times, and inexplicably compelling internet think-pieces
  • I am not an aspiring journalist. I am a journalist
  • Not to overdo things. Take a break if your brain is no longer absorbing information. Lie in if you know that extra hour will help you function at your best
  • Coffee is wonderful
  • I write best between 11pm and 1am. I do not know if this is a blessing or a curse but count me in for the night shift
  • Old friends are precious. So are new ones
  • General elections are simultaneously banal, depressing and riveting
  • Being open about my disability is, with the right people, very freeing
  • I do and don’t need a plan. I wish I knew what I wanted to do after university and what the best course of action would be, but I’m happy to take the time to work these things out – as I am always being told, I have plenty of time

Not bad for a single academic year. And at least I spared you the GIFs.