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The other day, it hit me.

Out of all the jobs I’ve wanted to have, only two weren’t creative. Two. Amongst about 14. Aside from wanting to be a doctor and an international human rights lawyer, I’ve aspired to be a graphic designer, fashion designer (thank you Project Runway), architect and author amongst a heap of others. Another particular job I wanted was as a creative director, although at the time, I had no idea that that was even a thing. 13 year old me never bothered to research it and completely forgot about it. However, last week I had one of those weird moments where the most simple and trivial thing sparked a new wave of inspiration in me. Or, maybe it was just that new burst of creativity my horoscope has been yapping on about. Anyway, back to the point. I walked into Mecca Maxima and I picked up the monthly magazine. The A5 booklet was promoting the latest Urban Decay Naked palette amongst a number of new products. It was one of those bizarre moments where I had an epiphany.

So how exactly, with all this love for being creative I have, did I end up studying a Law and International Studies degree? A course that, if I had to be honest, isn’t the most creative nor does it allow you to explore your creative endeavours. In no way am I writing this with the intent to spread my bitterness about the choices I’ve made, I’m merely just highlighting how I came to be a law student over some kind of design student. Although I’m not going to lie, my realisation at the reasoning behind why has got me a mixture of frustrated and concerned.

One of the major things that I think deterred me from pursuing a creative career initially was this idea I had planted in my head from the environment around me that a creative career wasn’t as reputable as something like a career in law. Perhaps it was a pride thing, or maybe it was just wanting to show off a little bit. Or maybe it was me just wanting to people to be proud of me because I was doing such a ‘prestigious’ degree. Or a bit of everything. When I would mention something about a more creative career, such as being an author or interior designer, I would be laughed at and judged. I would get questioned and told how hard it is to be a successful author and make loads of money. It would be ‘made aware’ (as if I wasn’t already) of how everyone wants to be one these days and how difficult it is to get published. It was like I was a naive fool who had an unrealistic dream and did no research for whatever arts-related career I wanted. It was like I hadn’t spent hours researching options for what I could do, how I could make money and what it would take to be super successful.

In this day of age, the decision to choose a particular degree is often centred around money. In no way whatsoever am I saying this isn’t a good thing, nor am I saying we should revert to communistical mindsets. Far from that. My point is that people are solely choosing careers for the mere reason that  you will apparently make a heap of money and if you don’t, you’re a failure. If you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or someone in business, you’re going to be bringing home the big bucks.  Sure, typically these careers appear to have higher salaries. Technically though, this is when you’ve been in the workforce after a number of years and you’ve worked your way up. Unless you have a genuine passion for that job and are willing to put the hard work and long hours in, you’ll likely find yourself a slave to the system and incredibly unhappy. Where there is passion, the hard work and dedication will follow and instead of there being a constant daily struggle where you whinge about how tough you have it, it’ll be more of an understanding that what you were doing was just a step you had to take to further your career. Sure, money is important. It makes life a whole heap easier when you’re dealing with rent, a mortgage, food, clothes and other essentials in life. It’s necessary for stability. However, just because someone has a more creative occupation, it doesn’t mean they don’t nor won’t make money. Just because a career has a title doesn’t mean they will provide you with the benefits you have been told about. Being creative doesn’t mean you’re unrealistic, it just means your passion lies more so in the arts than they do in sciences or law.  

If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard things like an Arts degree is just a paper degree, I would be a billionaire. The truth is, every degree is a paper degree if you have no idea how to use it. If you have a vision, if you know what you want to do, if you know what you have to do, then any degree is useful. Yeah sure, diplomas and degrees in things like fashion and interior design are competitive, but so are law and medicine degrees. Just because something isn’t as prestigious as another thing, doesn’t mean it’s any more or any less competitive, nor does it mean one would make more money than the other. That’s to even assume in the first place that someone chose a career for the money. To a number of people, it’s not even about the money. They just want to create and live life doing what they love. Surprise, surprise.  Not everyone needs a whole heap of money to be happy, contrary to popular belief.

So the truth is that if you are good at what you do, you have a greater chance of making more money. If you have a vision and set out your goals and how to achieve them, you’re more than likely going to make money regardless of the career you choose. If anything, creative careers provide more of an opportunity to do so as the ranks you need to climb aren’t as structured as that of lawyers, doctors or engineers. From what I’ve been told, there are more students studying law than there are jobs available in law. Yeah so about that competition within arts related careers…

I’m not saying that every single person should undertake a creative career, but I can assure you that this post will resonate with anyone who has wanted to pursue something far more creative than the typical prestigious degrees. My message to those trying to figure out what they want to do when they finish high school is to follow your passion, find a career you genuinely want regardless of how much money it makes or what people around you expect, and most of all, allow yourself to grow as a person and not beat yourself up if the path you wanted to go on as a 17 year old changes as a 20 year old. Follow your goals and whatever you do, make sure that you are happy. As I said before, where there is passion and hard work, money will follow (if you want it too). Life is too short to be unhappy and there’s no point wasting years away in a job that you knew from the beginning wasn’t what you wanted. Not only do creative careers (like many) have the ability to make you the big bucks if you play your cards right and have a vision for what you want, but they will more than likely have a heap of health benefits and give you the chance to explore and utilise your creativity. Without art, the world is a boring, dull place where people will forget what it is like to use their imagination and discover the endless possibilities available to them. Whatever you do, do not let others impede on your passion for creating. Sure, they might say they want the best for you in terms of making money and living a more stable life, but only you know what’s really best for you. Make your choice based on what makes you happy, ensure you continuously remind yourself of your end goal and tackle any obstacles in your way with optimism and an open-mind. If you stick by that, and work smart, success will follow.

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As I lay in bed unable to fall asleep and getting irritated by a stubborn stomachache after consuming feta cheese that I realised really didn’t taste quite right, it occurred to me how lazy and unproductive I’ve been in the past week. It also occurred to me that I have assignments that are due in the coming weeks that I haven’t even started yet. I think the first is due on the 4th of August and yes, I know some of you are probably thinking that I still have ages to go. However, I’m that student that likes to get stuff done early so I do not have to stress later.

Two weeks ago, I was injured and as soon as I got better, I got hit with a cold. Thanks winter. So for those two weeks, I didn’t get much exercise done and I think it has most definitely been detrimental. I have noticed that this week I’ve hardly gotten any uni stuff done. I’ve been procrastinating and just lazing around (well, my idea of lazing around at the very least). Nevertheless, I have come to this realisation and I am taking steps to get back on track.

So here are a couple of ideas and words of wisdom in case you’re stuck in a bit of a rut and either have no idea how to get out of it or you just need a bit of a kick start.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.
You can be a little bit annoyed at yourself that you’re in the position you’re in and haven’t taken precautions to avoid it, but not to the point where you have become a ball of anxiety and stress. When you start being too hard on yourself, you end up worse off. You end up stressing yourself out more and start thinking irrationally. You are human. You have moments where, for whatever reason, you just haven’t done as much as you want. You’ve gotten out of bed at 10am every morning and you’ve been on slack on studying. It’s normal. It happens to everyone. It’s not the end of the world and most importantly, it does not mean you are lazy, useless and a bludger.

Take time out to recollect your thoughts and get yourself back into a routine.
Sit down for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour or however long you need to just take a pause and think about your goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Sometimes when you get used to something too much or if you’re away from something for a while, you unintentionally forget the reason you started or you lose motivation. Personally, I find just laying everything out in front of me and having a systematic approach works wonders and gets me back on track to achieve my goals. This can include writing down a list, organising what you need to do and when you need to do them, or just brainstorming different ideas of what you can or have to do.

Just do it.
Once you’ve done all that and you’re in a more motivated mindset, just get going. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Usually, when you start thinking you end up going off course again and eventually, you’ll end up back to square one. Don’t worry about the what ifs or the do I really have to’s? Just go. If it doesn’t work out the way you plan, so what? If you want it bad enough, you will find another way. If not, then something else will be right around the corner for you. You don’t know if you don’t try.

Hopefully, this post has resonated with some of you and is exactly what you needed to get back into the swing of things. Just remember, you’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to be a bit slack from time to time. Just make sure you don’t make it a habit, be mindful of what you are doing, stay motivated and most of all, don’t stress. It’ll all work out the way it is supposed to in the end.

So uni’s around the corner for most of us Aussies- unless you’re one of the lucky few who have already started. If you are, then this post wasn’t directly made for you, however it might remind you of something that you have forgotten to do or make you realise that you should be doing something that you didn’t think you initially needed to do. Anyway, hopefully we’ve all had enough time to rest and recuperate over the summer holidays and just spent time relaxing and doing our own thing away from the pressure of uni. It’s nice to just be able to do your own thing, catch up with old friends who are also ploughing through the hustle and bustle of uni and work life and of course, sleeping. Some of us were lucky enough to go overseas somewhere- whether it be gallivanting through Asia or Europe, or just went somewhere for a week away with a road trip down the coast line. Others of us worked to get a little bit of extra cash and then there’s those of us who made a solid start on goals they had set for themselves.

Eventually though, most of us have to come back to reality and return to the hustle and bustle of uni life. Well, you don’t have to. Some of us do want to go back and finish off what we started but that’s another point in itself. At some stage in the next few weeks, you’ll find yourself trying to figure out what you need to do and how best to prepare yourself before the new semester starts. So, here are a couple of things that I think you should do.

I’m super pedantic when it comes to organising my text books and all the stationary I need. I like to have a squiz through the books before the semester starts and familiarise myself with the potential content. I find that doing this helps me when I actually get up to that chapter or point because I had already read it and had a basic understanding of what was going on. It’s helpful to read through beforehand because it won’t be a massive surprise or overwhelming when you have to read it thoroughly for class. Additionally, you’ll be in good stead once you start and won’t have to worry about whether your books arrive in time if you buy them earlier. Same goes for stationery. Sorting all this out will make the start of your semester a little less stressful and you can be organised from the get-go.

I’m one of those people who sets timers and dates for when you can start organising what units you want to do for the semester and sorting out my timetable. The sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be and it’ll save you a tonne of stress and worrying when the start of semester looms ahead of you. Sort these out within the time frame and you should hopefully get the timetable and units you were hoping to get. Yes, sometimes timetables can be a total pain and there’s no times that you really hoped for. But, chances are it’ll be a tiny sacrifice in comparison to what you do get. There’s nothing worse than copping the most inconvenient class time just because you didn’t put your preferences in when you were supposed to. Don’t be one of those people.

Take the time to make sure you’ve caught up with everyone you wanted to catch up with and do what you need to do. The next couple of months are likely to be flat out studying and work, so you’re probably not going to get as many opportunities to catch up with people who are on the same break as you. This is especially because not every university has the same semester structure. Do what you have to do and then when the time comes, focus on your studying without the distractions.


One of the major things I’m going to be working on is getting back into a proper sleeping schedule. I admit- sleep has always been one of my biggest downfalls but this year, I’ve decided I’ve had enough not sleeping enough and the effects it has on my body. It’s important to get those 8 hours of sleep- hours that include those prior to midnight. According to a number of studies (so I’ve been told but I can say I can vouch for it through personal experience), the hours before midnight are far more beneficial than the hours after. So if you’ve slept from 12-9am, chances are you’ll still be just as exhausted. Additionally, sleeping from 12am to 9am isn’t exactly useful when you have to leave the house at 10am. Anyway, get back into a good sleeping schedule. Thank me later.

What do you want to achieve this year? What are your academic goals? Do you want to meet more people? Join more clubs? Take up a sport? Now’s the time to plan out what you roughly want to do and what you want to achieve. Write yourself a list or keep up a diary of some sort. Make yourself some kind of reminder that will keep you on track. That being said, make sure you give yourself enough room for flexibility and don’t go too hard too soon. Life’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out too quickly and go at your own pace. Do you what you think is right for you and not everyone else.

I’m just going to point out that whatever I’ve written here has been from my own experience and isn’t the same for everyone. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it works for everyone else, it’s just a personal insight into my experiences and perhaps can help guide or make some people have that a-ha moment about what they’re going through. Additionally, for non-Australians- VCE means the Victorian Certificate of Education- which is what the majority of students in their final year of high school undertake. 

It’s been over a year since I got my VCE results and I’m sitting here reminiscing with songs that remind me of my final year of high school (well, not really). As much as I loved school, the people and the opportunities, I could not wait to start university. Some of the most valuable lessons during VCE were the experiences themselves- not the actual content (the content was still good though, don’t worry).  These are the sort of things that I’ll not only be carrying with me during university but also for the rest of my life and I think they are a couple of notions to keep in mind.

 

How not to worry:
In the years prior to year 12 you’re going to hear the constant “they expect *this and this*” or the “you’re not going to get full marks if you don’t do this” in year 12. The teachers pump you up for what everyone says is your most difficult, stressful and enduring year of education and more often than not, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and stressed out- big time. I did- but not in the common way.

From my personal experience, the beginning of year 12 saw me slightly worried at the fact I wasn’t worried. I was confident. I walked in feeling like I had myself all sorted and was ready for that 90-something ATAR. Fast forward to March and there was my first sign that something wasn’t right. I was sitting in an English SAC when 15 minutes in, I started having trouble breathing. I felt like the walls around me were closing in and couldn’t think straight. Luckily, when I took a few deep breaths, I recollected myself and finished the SAC with five minutes to go. I didn’t think much of it but I knew I had had a panic attack. I just brushed it off and carried on. A couple of weeks later, I was on a flight to Canberra for the National Schools Constitutional Convention and long story short- I was quite sick. My parents just put it down to nerves and I brushed it off.

Come the end of May and I suddenly felt my health deteriorating. There were three days where I was basically unable to do any studying because I was that sick, and the following week I had 5 SACs to complete. That’s when everything changed for me. I had this uncomfortable burning sensation in my stomach. I went to the doctor and he said it was because I had excessive acid retention or something of the sort and gave me tablets to sort it out. As the curious hypochondriac I was, I decided to WebMD more about the issue and saw that one of the causes was stress. I mentioned it to dad and it all suddenly fit.

Even though I wasn’t consciously freaking out, pulling my hair out and having emotional breakdowns, I was stressing subconsciously. Turns out that when I get stressed out, it affects my digestive system in particular. I feel nauseous, endure acid retention amongst other things and I was desperate to find a way to get over it. I decided to talk to my student managers about it and their guidance helped me immensely. I went to see the school counsellor and ended up going to the stillness sessions (which I had spent the last two years dissing and claiming they were a waste of time). Honestly, if I didn’t attend those stillness sessions, I don’t know if I would have overcome the excessive stress.

Basically, year 12 is nothing to worry about. Work hard- yes. But if you don’t get the marks you want, so what? You can get into courses through alternative routes. Year 12 isn’t the end of the world and it’s definitely not worth your health. Yeah, it does help you get to where you want sooner, but when it gets to the point where you’re health is affected, it’s time to reconsider your priorities. Grant yourself leeway, figure out different avenues of reaching your target and most of all, look after yourself.

It gets better.
There are going to be moments in year 12, as in life, where you’re thinking- what in the world am I doing? You’re going to have moments where you’re like- I’m a failure. I’m not going to get anywhere. I’m going to be stuck in a rut. And you’re going to have moments when you’re sick where you’re like– oh dear, I’m never going to be a healthy person again.

Yeah ok- I’ve been susceptible to all of the above thoughts more than once. Yes, me. The one who always seemed to have everything together. Truth is- nobody has it all together. And if they say they do, they’re either lying or they’ve got an odd idea of what that concept is. The reason not many people knew about what was happening was because I was always one to just keep it on the down-low. Only those closest to me knew just in case a problem would arise and they’d have an understanding of what was happening. So from that, I guess I can say that you should never just assume what someone is going through.

A perfectly timed end of year holiday to Croatia and Italy helped me relax and get back on top of things properly, allowing me to get back to my normal self and boy, was I thankful or what.

To sum it up, it’s not going to last forever. You’ll get over it. You’ll be fine. Just calm down and do what you have to do.


Priorities:
I think I’ll keep this point short because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Prioritise yourself. Prioritise your health. Don’t put yourself at risk for marks. Mental health is not like physical health in my opinion. It’s not like you’re putting your body on the line, throwing yourself into a goal post as you prevent the opposition from getting a goal that could lose you the World Cup. I mean, by all means go for it, but personally, I don’t think it’s worth it in the long run. There’s generally no glory- there are just endless struggles and problems.


Things don’t go your  way.
Sometimes you don’t get the marks you desired or the ATAR you *think* you deserved. You bust your gut and sacrifice so much just to get a top mark only to fall short. Personally, I already knew that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you’re not going to get the outcome you desire- be it because of a bad day in the office or you’re just unlucky. What was different about VCE was that quite often, these results were in the hands of the marker on the day. What you consider to be an excellent piece could be mediocre to the marker, especially if they do not agree with your opinion. In sport, it’s generally up to you and your performance. If the referee makes a bad decision, there’s often the opportunity to redeem yourself afterwards. But in VCE, once you’ve handed a piece of work in- that’s it for that piece of work. Another thing I found was that teachers would guarantee that you would achieve the marks you want if you worked hard. That’s not true either and I feel like that’s one of the major reasons I’m writing this point. More than anything else, it taught me a more general understanding that the actions of others can impact you and most importantly, no matter what happens, you are the ultimate controller of your destiny. These people are just obstacles. You can’t let them prevent you from getting where you want to go. And to be honest if you’re successful, you can make as many snarky comments as you want by saying “oh yeah, not too bad for someone who wasn’t good enough to get this and this mark for that and that unit”.

Work smart.
Be organised. Block out your studying. Don’t just go full speed ahead with studying sessions that last until 2am. I mean, if that works for you then good on you. But for the average person, it’s just going to be a huge detriment to your health.  Find what works for you and stay organised. There’s going to be a tonne of trial and error and you know what? That’s fine. You might find what works, you might not. But don’t be stagnant and just complain that what you’re doing isn’t working. Find something that will. Be smart about what you do. Don’t stay up until midnight if you know that you’re just going to be moody and unproductive the next morning. Organisation is key. If you’re struggling, I’d suggest to look up how to work smart on Pinterest or Google and there will be plenty of options there- it’s just about figuring out what suits you and sticking with it.

GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT:
What VCE taught me the most was that if you need help, no matter what it is, get it. Go see your teachers, your student managers, counsellor, parents, friends, other trusted people- go to them. Tell them what your situation is and ask if they, or anyone they know, know how to help you out. I can almost guarantee you that there will be someone there that does and I cannot stress (no pun intended) how useful and beneficial it will be to you. It’s not just for VCE, but anywhere. If you need the help, get it because it is going to make your life that little bit easier.



Credit: Yousef Espanioly from stocksnap.io

 

I’ve been off uni for almost two months now courtesy of summer break, so I thought it would be a great time to reflect on my first year at uni. When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait until I got to go to university. More freedom. More content that I’d actually be interested in learning. More choices for what I wanted to do. It wasn’t as confined as high school. You didn’t have teachers handing out detentions for whatever reason (not that I would know what that’s like as I never got a detention in my six years at high school). And that’s exactly what I got. I’ve absolutely enjoyed this year and honestly, as much as I love and need a break, I’m not dreading returning after I get back from Thailand in March.

Here are a couple of things I’ve learnt  from my first year:

  1. Don’t expect to be the best and be the top of the class.
    As a perfectionist and someone who has been known to be the top of the class throughout much of my learning career, a big eye-opener was my realisation that I wasn’t one of the top students. There are so many people from different schools, careers, different ages and paths of life. An important thing I learnt was to not worry about what others did. Yes, I did that in high school where I just focused on myself rather than what everyone else was doing (and it helped big time), but walking into university, it was easy to forget about it due to being overwhelmed by the whole new environment. I think the primary reason was because I was so used to guiding others, that I almost forgot what it meant to let other people guide me. Hence, it came to me to not let the pressure of the high expectations you put on yourself to hinder your ability to use these sort of opportunities as chances to grow and develop.
  2. Don’t expect to have yourself together.
    I’m a generally impeccably organised person, but sometimes even the best of us have our moments where we just stop and think, “what in the world am I doing?”…ok, maybe some of us with some additional, multilingual profanity…but the point is, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. You’re going to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. You’re going to feel like you’re a total fool for thinking that what you were doing was a good idea. Allow some time to just think and reflect, let all the negative thoughts out and don’t bottle them up because there’s more of a chance they’ll return. The sooner you realise the potential issues, take note of them and then figure out how best to tackle them. The main thing is to stay positive and relax, because once you start officially letting the negativity rule your mindset, that’s when you will fail. Once you start stressing out, that’s when you are going to make unnecessary mistakes. Don’t pressure yourself into thinking that you WILL or MUST have yourself together from day one to be able to be the most successful person in your profession. It’s often the ones who build themselves up and allow themselves some leeway who become the most successful. 
  3. Learn from others
    The first two points touch on this quite a bit, and it’s true. Use your first year of uni as an opportunity to learn from others. See what other people are doing, but strike a balance with doing so and not comparing yourself to them. Become comfortable in who you are and admit that you have room to grow. It’s only when we recognise where we’re at that we can move on with what we have to do to improve.
  4. You learn things along the way
    Like I’ve said before, your first year is a learning experience. In fact, everyday is a learning experience. But more specifically, during your first year, or particularly your first semester, you’re going to learn a lot about what does and what doesn’t work. You’re going to pick up tips and tricks from your lecturers and fellow peers, many of whom have most likely been there, done that. Use it to your advantage.
  5. VCE didn’t prepare me for university  
    Sure year 12 taught me a lot, but learning wise at uni? Barely. VCE is go, go, go. It’s stressful. It’s intense. It’s pure grit, guts and tears for 10 months (I mean, if you’re determined to get that high ATAR). The non-stop assignments, the long hours stuck in classrooms, the infamous “VCAA” being quoted on a daily basis, the SACs- it’s crazy and it takes a toll. If you were anything like me, you would have spent hour upon hour studying, and when you weren’t studying you’d feel guilty because you felt like you should have been studying. From what I’ve seen at uni, it’s a lot more flexible and you can generally do things at your own pace. Personally, I love this. You don’t have to worry about teachers harassing you or constantly reinforcing the importance of studying. There’s next to no pressure compared to VCE and you feel free and liberated…until you finish what you have to do and stand in the middle of your house, with your hands on your hips with a frown on your face, trying to figure out what studying you have to do. In addition to this, sometimes what your high school said was the way to do something, could be the complete opposite at university. So with this, I suggest to keep an open mind and always seek clarification on what you really have to do (before it costs you marks like it did for me).
  6. Get involved…but not TOO much
    Backtrack to orientation week and you could see me signing up to a number of clubs, wanting to get involved as much as possible. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was like yeah ok, calm down Monique. It’s all good and fine to want to get involved as much as possible, meet as many people as possible and so on, but I would personally also suggest that you give yourself enough room for rest and to give yourself the time to just be able to recollect yourself. Yes, that’s what being organised is for, but give yourself some leeway. You’ll be thankful in the long run.
  7. It’s a time for trial and error
    I guess one of the main things you’ve gathered from the above points is that your first couple of months at university are pretty much the time to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. Don’t beat yourself up over things that don’t work it. It’s all about trying to figure out what works best. What works for some, doesn’t work for others and to be successful, you have to figure out exactly what works for you. The most important thing overall is that if you get knocked down seven times, you get up eight. No matter what.What did you learn in your first year of university? What would you change about what you did? Comment below if you have anything to say or ask.