What I’m Grateful For in 2016

What really is there to be grateful for in 2016? The year has been full of strife and struggle on a personal level for many, including myself. The world has seen the rise of the alt-right in the United States, challenges to free trade in the abolition of TPP and TTIP, as well as Brexit, the Syrian conflict is razing Syria to the ground, and taking scores of innocent men, women and children with it. Many celebrities and people worthy of admiration and accolades have passed away this year.

It’s definitely going to be a year we need to reflect on, both on a personal level and in terms of the new world we will see in 2017. I, for one, could not have made it through the year the way I have without the support of my family and friends. And because it’s the last day of the year, I thought I’d send them all a very cheesy message. I wanted to cringe as I’d finished writing it, but I sent it out anyway. Why should we cringe when we’re expressing love and gratitude for our loved ones? We might not tell them how we feel everyday, we might even poke fun at each other on a daily basis, but we know that we couldn’t do without them.

So, with this is mind, I sent out the following message:

“As it’s the end of one of the hardest years of our lives, I just thought I’d say thank you, and I love you so much. I’m really glad our friendship/family is as strong as ever”

So, despite dealing with the loss of loved ones, dealing with disappointments on a variety of different levels, and dealing with world news, I have come out of 2016 as a stronger person.

I’ve also grasped a lot of various opportunities in 2016. I applied for a job that I did not think I would get. I’ve learned about digital marketing. I’ve learned what makes my friendships special. I’ve rediscovered what I love about my family. I’ve signed up for a whole host of writing and marketing projects and I’ve realised that I don’t ever want to stop learning.

And with that, I’m going to leave you with some of my favourite photos from 2016. While it’s been a hard year, I’ve appreciated many moments of it.

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Whatever Next?

The title of this post is inspired by a board game I used to play with my family, called Whatever Next. Depending on the square a player landed on, they would have to imitate a certain animal, act out a certain scene or make certain choices in the game that would determine if they could move their token. It’s quite fitting, as it’s almost an analogy for the choices we make in our lives. 

2016 has been a year of chaos, reflection and change. As I welcome 2017, I think of the trials and tribulations I have been through on a personal level this year, but also the supposedly new world order that could affect my future, and that of my peers.

The future is daunting. My university graduation is six months away. I must admit, it is scary to go beyond the confines of education, and the safety blanket of family, friends and my day-to-day life that I have grown so accustomed to. However, when the time comes, I know I’ll have to meet the challenges of the big, wide, adult world head-on. While I will miss the life I have led in the past 20 years, there is no way to go back to them. When I wear my black cap and gown, walk across the stage to receive my diploma, and shake the vice-chancellor’s hand, my time will be up. And it will be time to move on.

So what will I be moving on to? I am getting this sort of question very often these days. Will I launch into a Masters degree? Will I go straight into journalism? What if I want to try something new?

I’m going to share a very personal story, that will hopefully help you understand the trajectory I hope my life will take.

When I was thirteen years old, I still held my childhood dream of becoming a well-renowned author. My dream life consisted of working for huge news organizations, of writing pages and pages of literature. My dream was to transport audiences into a world of dreams, and to write for hours on end. With that dream in my heart, I happened upon the chance to go to a book signing and workshop, by none other than Anthony Horowitz. One of my best friends found the event and made sure I went alone with her (thanks Shaneelah).

He had authored the last book in the Alex Rider series (or so we thought) at the time, and Shaneelah, her brother and I were very keen to meet him, and get the entire series of books, which I had coveted over the years, signed by him.

I remember being so starstruck, that when he chose me to ask a question, after waiting for 20 minutes with my arm up, I could not find the words to tell him what an inspiration he was to me. My mother, who caught on to my infectious excitement, spoke up.

“My daughter loves your books. She wants to become a writer, what are your top tips for doing so?”

Mr. Horowitz beamed at me with a warm smile. “Well, besides reading and writing constantly, get some life experiences. If you want to write about extreme sports, do some extreme sports. If you want to write about horror, go to haunted areas and talk with local people. If you want to write about the corporate world – you get my point.”

At the time, the fact that Anthony Horowitz spoke directly to me was enough to keep me going. I continued reading; I continue to write wherever I get the opportunity to do so. My desire to do an English literature degree quickly shifted, and I chose to study philosophy, politics and economics instead. I could see myself going for serious journalism upon graduation.

But then, something shifted within me at university. I started getting involved in startups run by my friends, and even founded my own social enterprise. I was doing marketing work, going to various conferences, meeting new people. I cast my mind back to those fateful words that Anthony Horowitz had said on that day seven years ago. I decided that I didn’t want to stop learning just yet, I didn’t want to just write without actually having new experiences.

When my parents heard this, they thought that I was absolutely bonkers. But the truth is, there are many people like me at university. People who want to dabble in consulting, work with a startup, campaign for environmental awareness and be the finance editor of their university newspaper.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. A lot of my extra-curriculars right now involve writing. Before I commit to writing full-time, I want to explore my options first. I am unsure of exactly what I’d like to do straight after I get my degree, so rather than doing nothing, I am doing everything I can to keep my options open. I’m applying for jobs not just in journalism, but in a variety of other fields, such as marketing and consulting. Should I get a journalism job, I will gladly take it, and will keep finding ways to learn and experience life outside of my office hours. But, should I receive a job offer unlike anything I’ve experienced before, I will consider taking it.

Life is too short to stop learning. I am at an ideal age where I can try new things, either succeed or fail, and learn new things. There is no time like the present, and that is how I hope to shape my future.