A survival guide to uni & post-grad life

Hello blogging world, it's my first blog post as Lauren Goodland (Ba Hons) and I still can't string a decent sentence together so you'll still have to put up with my unfiltered ramblings. I haven't blogged since February because I had an impending cloud of guilt over my head whenever I did anything that wasn't uni work, so it feels really good to finally be able to post again! I thought I'd put together a survival list based upon my time in uni and now 3 months into post-grad life. Alumni should be called alNUMBni because it makes your life feel weird. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not king of advice, Jeremy Kyle so if you use my advice and mess up your life this disclaimer has saved me from blame *chuckle*

How to survive university (just about):

1. BE INDEPENDENT - You're old now, it's not up to your parents to pay for your tuition, to make you lunch or do your washing (although some mollycoddling is appreciated on dark days), you will become a much better and more independent person if you flee the nest and fend for yourself, washing and all. Give them a break and let them go on clubbing holidays to Ibiza. 

2. FAIL(YAY)URE - The confusing part which education really doesn't prepare you for is that it teaches you to measure success on grades for about 18 years of your life, which is complete and utter bullshit. Success isn't measured in grades and I began to realise this about 2.5 years into my degree, but even when I had realised it was still really hard to detach from grades. The less you care the quicker you can become Stefan Sagmeister. 

3. SORRY I'M LATE - Commuting sucks, you will be late, you will be drenched and fed up and you will miss out on lots of social events because 'you have to get the last train home'. It's not a good way to start the day or spend three years, just man up and move to where your uni is, because I didn't have the balls.

4. DO STUFF - Be as pro-active as possible, but don't worry if you're broke or too tired to socialise, that's totally okay too. I'd recommend Design Stuff Cardiff, they're scattered across the UK too (I believe) and gives you a good chance to hand out business cards when you're hammered. 

5. LIFE IS IMPORTANT TOO -  In relation to the above, remember that life isn't all about university, you may do other things in your life that bring challenges and sometimes university has to be pushed back. Even not living at home adds stress to uni life and mundane things like having a house inspection, raw sewage coming up in your kitchen (actually happened) or simply just staying at home to tidy because you're having to wade through piles of clothes on your bedroom floor is okay (although your lecturers may think otherwise). *wink*

6.  BE ORGANISED - Don't leave everything to the last minute at deadlines, it will feel really really bad and you'll develop a photo album entitled 'times I cried over uni' like I have. Get yourself a diary, guuuurl. 

7. THANK YOU MILEY -  Three words I never thought would leave my mouth. Little did I know the motivational playlist I created in a late night A-level graphics class featuring the likes of 'Lose Yourself' and 'Eye of the Tiger' would get me through another three years of uni. A special one in that playlist was 'The Climb' by Miley Cyrus that I liked to blast through my earphones on deadlines. I'd highly recommend it.

8. GUTS - Like your mum when she tells you to take a coat when it's raining, your tutors are almost always right. But not always -  so don't forget to go with your gut. 

9. DON'T BE A DICK - There can be a lot of pressure, especially in final years of uni, because everyone surrounding you is competition. But who cares if they're competition? These people could also be people you work with in the future and they're also friends. Be friendly, help them when they need help and forget about the competition. 

10. WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK -   If you can go financially without having a part-time job I'd seriously recommend doing so. Although I feel like I wouldn't be the person I am now without having miserable customers moan at me. Another thing I'd say is don't take on heaps of freelance work in your final year. It can get VERY stressful and you'll want to curl up in a ball and forget about the world. 

How to survive post-uni life (just about):

1. WEIRD - You will feel a combination of weird, lost and free (Like Jean Val Jean when he got parole) I stole a loaf of breeeeaddd

2. BROKE ASS POOR (still?) - You'll think your lack of student 'dolla days are over and that your first pay check will come to you with "Goldigger" playing in the background, but it doesn't work that way. Save money to back you up.  Switching jobs always comes with a risk of being short of money, depending when pay day falls. 

3. WHERE ARE ALL MY FRIENDS -  You will miss people and it will feel like you're never going to see them again - I'm hoping I will see people from uni, the money situation hasn't helped, but I really miss just spending time with people in uni and mainly going to Wagamamas with Josh & Ben. I feel like I got close to a lot of people in my final year and I wish the whole three years could've been that way.

4. WHAT'S A SKETCHBOOK?  - You know those 3 sketchbooks you work on in uni for one project? They don't exist in the real world, and I knew this all the way through my degree and found it so hard to push through and create pointless pages of "Possible logo ideas". I've always been the kind of person to go with my gut and I feel like my gut has always been right so far. What I love right now is that I can sketch one or two ideas if I feel the need to, not because I'm forced to. It's GR8. But also I'm not going to lie I also really miss making pointless pages with cut outs from Pinterest. 

5. GOODLAND: RETURN OF THE WHITE BLOOD CELLS  - Enjoy not being ill! No more freshers flu, no more stressy illnesses from deadlines, no more dripping snot on your work. I have never felt SO weak for so long as I did throughout my degree. It was just three years of stress, illness and feeling generally exhausted, but it's all over now (yay!)

6. BE A STUDENT -  It's okay to still be a student in your mind - Get drunk, stay out late, do this until you're 50 if you like.

7. BINGE WATCH - Binge watching TV shows feels SO good - That series of GOT you missed because of your deadlines? You can watch that now and feel totally guilt free, it's amazing. You can slob *yay* 

8. MAKE BABIES (OR DON'T) - Society will probably start expecting you to conform to social standards - you're a graduate, now you can focus on getting engaged, married, buying a house, having 10 children, right? No, you do what you like and when you like with your ovaries and sperms. They're not going anywhere (except for when you're 30 maybe and then you should probably start mating)

9. THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT - When you get a job in a career you love you will feel so insanely happy that you're no longer in your crappy retail job, you'll want to hunt down all the customers that were really shitty with you and put a middle finger up to them and tell them they're not always right. It really is that much better. 

10. LIFE IS EXHAUSTING BUT NOT AS EXHAUSTING AS UNI - You will want to do lots of things when you finish work, but you probably won't - This could just be me, but it's hard to come home from work and do work, especially when you work creatively and come home and try and push yourself to be creative. Try your best to do this though, but remember it's also okay to just lounge on your sofa with chocolate and binge-watch episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Thanks for reading.
Lauren :)

Learning to fail

Originally, I was scheduled to post about university and how much I have enjoyed it, I have - but right now I hate the system (not my course, just the way the whole university system works in general). Mainly because I'm currently crying* feeling like I'm going to let the whole world down, worrying that my life will be over if I do badly. I massively dislike the fact that university tells you how successful and good you are based on a template of grading systems, what do numbers even mean?! 

I haven't received any grades yet (surprisingly), I'm fully aware this sounds like a bitter grade-receiver post but it's just a post because I'm worrying. I think we might get grades back tomorrow and I am so nervous to the point where I don't want to go to university tomorrow or Monday, I don't want to open the email ever.

It really bothers me that every individual is treated with the same template and guidelines to stick to, as if we are all Lego characters with square hair cuts singing 'Everything is awesome' *now it's in your head*.

The truth is, everybody works differently. Everybody is a totally different human being made up with different feelings, ways of doing things and ways of dealing with things, especially when it comes to creative work. I'd quite happily rip up that really expensive piece of paper, that's probably not even printed on good gsm if it meant this awful system would change.

I know in fact deep down, that I'm not a failure. I've tried hard, I'm a stronger person, I've learned to make good sauces from scratch (maybe not as relevant), but I know that society will see me as a failure, even without meaning to do so. If anything, I kind of want to be a failure, I just don't want to have to deal with disappointing people or people thinking that I only want to fail because I've done bad. 

I'd be much happier for creative university courses to have no grades at all, and not even be a degree qualification. I'd still pay ridiculous money just to have three years of freedom. WHO EVEN CARES ABOUT DEGREES ANYMORE? Why can't a degree just be three years of experiences and doing whatever the hell you like, why can't degrees be more like sabbaticals where you find your inner yoda like I have apparently and take risks? I think we'd see a lot more bravery. 

It has taken me three years of my degree to be brave enough to take risks, and now I'm loving university, I'm making work that has meaning and can either go totally wrong or totally right, and I love that risk, even though I'm juggling with a lot of invisible money that has paid for my degree.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't say:  "You'll do great, you'll get great grades!". Because this hasn't really helped at all, I know these people mean well, but it gives me this horrible tight knot in my stomach and makes me feel even more pressured to do well because they think I should, or it makes the stigma of failing worse again. It's like when someone dies and they say "I'm sorry for your loss." NO, DON'T BE SORRY FOR MY LOSS, JUST BE NORMAL WITH ME AND BUY ME CAKE. 

We need to give more gold stars for failing, school house points for having a terrible maths test result and throw parties for people who fail driving tests because they probably have a lower risk of dying than others. 

So here's to failing, to learning from mistakes, to crying over silly things and feeling stupid about doing so afterward (see below) and to being so stressed that my body learns how to deal with stress. I want to join the band-wagon of successful creatives who have failed pretty badly (James Victore you are my hero). I'm trying to be good at accepting failure, and I'm getting there, but for now I'm just a little bit worried. 

*I am no longer crying and this terribly written ranty blog post has done its job, now I will just regret creating this awful creation of word vomit. 

ignorance is smellier than death - #nofilter

Hello! Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho. What better time of year than to write a blog post about death? I could write one about sparkly candy canes and turkey dinners but, you know me.

This week I'm doing a kind of raw social media week where I accept my mistakes as good things and get personal with the hashtag #nofilter. My project has been about bravery and I'm exploring that via social media at the moment and how 'brag culture' exists & creates a seemingly perfect life. This is a good week for me to be brutally honest and post parts of something that I've been afraid to post before now. Bravery in this case is an 85-year-old lady suffering from early dementia who had lost her husband, wanting to die. That's how brave my lovely nana was.

This is something I've wanted to write about for a while but thought "nope, that's just too weird and people will think I'm either insane or want sympathy". That really isn't the case, I just want this post to help people. The question is, why do people think it's weird to talk about death? Maybe everyone's scared of the inevitable, surely discussion with people in the same boat would help this fear?

Death is a hard, natural process but something that has to happen. If you're waiting for it to happen the only thing you can do is to try and make it as dignified as possible, because that person deserves it. It's hard to leave a hospital, say goodbye as if it's the last time and then come back the next day and do it all over again, it's something that so many people have to go through and it's even harder when people are terminally ill. C'mon euthanasia law, be legal already?

There came a point where I was almost wishing death upon her, because it wasn't her anymore and she didn't deserve this long undignified process. Remembering her lying in a hospital bed waiting for her body to give up, is the main part that makes me cry now. It was like she had already gone at that point and we were grieving in front of her still-alive body.

Before I continue to ramble on about emotional stuff, I'm going to start talking about post-death, because I wanted this to be informative. I went to view my nan's body and d'ya know what? I had no clue what to expect. It was such an eerie thought and kind of exciting in a curious way (as bad as that sounds). We get such little information about death and I think that's what makes it an intriguing subject. It certainly intrigues me and I follow morticians and pathologists on Instagram – I find the subject so strange and exciting that I think I could (with a little bit of training) stomach the job of a pathologist (if I was brainy enough).

You can google 'What happens when you go to see a dead body' over and over but no one will be able to tell you how you'll feel (Not even me). What I can tell you is how I felt and what I wish I had known beforehand:

1. When you walk into the funeral home you won't see the body straight away -  (I thought you would, so I was freaking out). In our case we sat at a table with a lovely funeral director, who had an amazing top hat, which I really wanted to try on. She told us exactly what to expect, she even pointed out the bad things which I thought was very brave considering we were sniffly, grieving family. It's so easy for people to sugar coat bad experiences, but this wasn't the case at all. She told us it would be cold in the room and that this was needed for obvious reasons. My mum and dad went in first to let us know what to expect and me and my sister sat and flicked through casket catalogues, OH HOW MORBID.

2. When you walk into the viewing room it will be freezing – this can be quite eerie in itself. In my case I couldn't really see my nan until we walked a little further in, but as soon as I did I felt relieved because I was expecting so much worse. You're left alone, or with your family so you can have a few last moments with your loved one.

3. Coffins are really fancy – I had never seen one inside, but they look cosy and they're also really compact, I thought they'd have a lot more room inside.

4. Your loved one will look different, and it's strange -  Things that used to exist will be taken out and replaced with padding, like a weird human version of The Bear Factory. The mouth will look strange for this reason and eyes kind of do too even though they're closed. After seeing my nan in pain feeling horrible and groggy in a hospital bed, seeing her with makeup and looking peaceful helped. I'm sure she'd be happy to have 'a bit of slap on' too!

5. Seeing a dead body helped me accept it -  It gave closure that I needed and helped me see the body as a shell. It depends if you're into all this spiritual stuff, I'm not quite sure personally.

6. You can touch them if you like – I was EXTREMELY hesitant about this, but my curious side made me in the end. I touched her hand and I stroked her head and it felt strange. Her head was rock solid and freezing, her hands felt waxy with each vein and wrinkle more prominent. I believe this happens because of the preservative used to replace the blood.

7. Some parts might not be perfect, but it won't smell - The lady warned us that some discoloration had begun happening in places like her hands. This was mainly on areas where she had blood taken from in hospital that had begun bruising after she died. You might also see an incision where the jugular vein is in the neck, where embalming fluid may be injected.

8. Psychologically you will feel really weird – my feeling for that whole night and a few days after could only be compared to the scene where Lady Macbeth keeps washing her hands of invisible blood. TAKE HAND SANITISER (I didn't and felt SO conscious of the fact that I had touched a dead body). Dead bodies are clean and are hardly different to an alive body, but death has been portrayed as a scary and smelly kind of thing, so it's only natural to feel this way. When you're in a funeral home as well, if you're like me all you'll be thinking of is "what's in that cupboard", "what's down those stairs?" and "how many bodies are there that could chase me?"

9. You can take things to put in the coffin with your loved one – we took photographs but having known this earlier I would probably have written some kind of letter, because it would've felt nice, as lame as it sounds.

10. Finally, you will feel like you can do anything else life throws at you – not only after going to see a dead body, but after dealing with everything that death brings with it. Lots of people around me have died, but I've never visited for so long and watched it happen daily and I had never viewed a body until then. Now I feel stronger and my outlook on death has kind of changed a little bit, although it's still a little bit scary.

I hope that this post helps people who are a little bit curious and has been personal enough (I don't know how more personal I can get). I hope I haven't offended anyone with my weird humour or beliefs, but everyone is entitled to their own spiritual or non-spiritual thoughts on the subject.

If you have any questions then feel free to post in the comments and I will happily answer, not that I am a death guru or anything.