10 things I'd tell myself....
So I've just turned 31, and it doesn't feel much different to when I was 21, except that absolutely everything is different.
When I was 20 I moved to London, and that's quite a big leap for me being as I love my family and friends and home very much, but my dream was to become a fashion photographer, and it seemed to be that the best thing to do at the time was move to the Big City as that's where dreams come true.....
So I went when I was 20, and by the time I was 21 I was so miserable I didn't even look like myself, the turning point came when Hannah visited me in London, she got off the train and I was waiting on the platform for her. Instead of running over to give me a hug she walked straight past because she didn't recognise me and that I thought must mean something was wrong. The person who knows me best in the world couldn't even spot me in a relatively small crowd at Paddington Station.
I do think that time of life was probably the most challenging for me growing up (most people thing they're grown up by 21 but you're really not), so I thought do a mini blog post and write the 10 things that I would now say to my 21 year old self
1) Stop thinking about what everyone else is thinking about.
No one actually spends as much time analysing you, how you dress, how you talk, your hair, your skin, your weight, as yourself. If you're struggling with your confidence and really trying to find your identity in a new environment, then you're probably not helping yourself by placing too much value on other people's opinions. You know when you're walking through the street towards Oxford Circus campus and loads of people look you up and down? They're probably not, they're probably just checking their phone, or thinking, or just looking at the floor because they don't want to make eye contact, so put them out your mind and really just make some head space for yourself. If they are looking you up and down, it's very likely because they have a lack of self esteem themselves.
2) Don't focus too much on the future, graduating and getting a job.
Try to enjoy the here and now, because you're only going to get to go to Uni once, and all the experiences you're having are likely one-offs, so don't always think about the bigger picture. Sometimes perhaps it's best to focus on the smaller picture, like today, and whether you took a really great photograph, found a beautiful editorial in a fashion magazine or had a reply from a makeup artist or a hair stylist that you'd like to work with, than always wondering what tomorrow or next week will bring.
3) Tutors opinions are always subjective.
So your tutors think your photography is 'too commercial' and 'too colourful' and 'too contrived', they really don't like it, that is true. But, you know what you like, and your unique style of photography is what will earn you fashion clients when you leave uni, so don't let the tutors opinions knock your confidence. Stand up for your work and your vision and say well that's my style and it's what will work for me in the fashion industry when I graduate. As long as your work is recognisably yours, you are definitely not doing anything wrong, so keep doing you.
4) Do not die your hair red to be 'cool'
Just because everyone around you may seem like they're much more stylish and cool, (most people really were seriously cool, international fashion students from Paris, Rome, Russia, Barcelona, LA... me from Barry) doesn't mean you have to die your blonde hair a random shade of cherry red (which will fade to a dull ginger) just so that you are a bit more edgy. You're not that edgy, so don't try to be, it goes back to point number 1, think less about what people are thinking of you. So what they have pre-conceptions of Welsh people and think that you're a bit of a chav, own it.
5) Work experience is the best experience
You may be doing essays, photo shoots, dissertations, research etc. and really have no energy to go out there and do work experience on top of that, but you really will appreciate what you've done when it comes to working in the real world. Work experience isn't something most people have the luxury of doing when they graduate, they have to go out and earn money to support themselves like you will, so although it feels really tough to keep up that retail job and the assisting job, and the stylist job, but trust me, learning to multi-task, work with clients, work on branding, work with customers and everyone in between will really benefit you in the long run.
6) Don't ever be rude or ignorant to people
Even though it feels like everyone you encounter is, remember that's not you and you don't want to become one of those people (later in life you will become quite blunt, but that's different and is called 'take no shit').
7) Take everything with a HUGE pinch of salt
Most people and most companies as it turns out, after you've been applying for jobs are actually full of shit, yes they promise you the earth and offer you a job then that job never materialises, but that's not because you've done something wrong, you just take people too much at face value because that's normal. But what comes from this is that you will become more sceptical and questioning, and actually realise that getting a job for someone else maybe isn't even the best option for you in the first place.
8) You don't have to be in 'The Big City' to be a success
You can go home, people won't judge you for it. They'll be thrilled to have you home and really glad that you think your town is better than London, they know you're a Barry girl at heart and really that's part of who you are and you're starting to accept that and embrace it. (This point applies to anyone, you really don't have to stay and try to survive in a 'big city' to succeed, so many people work remotely, and with so much business done online, the world is your oyster, even if that world is a small town in Wales.)
9) Going alone isn't as scary as you think
Everything happens for a reason, so if you don't get a media job or a design job, or there aren't any fashion photography jobs in your small town, then really it's time to assess the situation and adjust. Turns out that freelance work isn't as scary as everyone thinks but it does take a bit of time. You'll find your niche and all the experience you've gained while working your ass off in London comes in very handy. Just don't undervalue your work, this goes back to point number 1 about confidence, know your worth as a freelancer and charge accordingly, if clients want quality and professionalism, that really does have to be worked into the price...maybe just not right at the very start when you're still building a freelance portfolio.
10) Everything happens for a reason
Just remember if everything seems to be going a bit differently to what you imagined or what you hoped, that everything does happen for a reason. You won't be sure what the reason is, but go with the flow. Say yes to opportunities that are good, and don't be afraid to say no to things aren't. You'll find your confidence and from there there's no harm in dreaming big. If your dreams don't scare you then you're probably not dreaming big enough. Remember that your own success is only limited by how hard your willing to work for it so when it doesn't come easy that's also a good thing, it means it will be worth it in the end.