Why We Need to Focus on the ‘Tah Dah’ Moments

If I were to draw a line graph of how I expected last year to pan out, versus how it actually panned out, the lines would be almost as out of control as Drake’s eyebrow hair…

I actually started my 2017 as a final-year Fashion Communication student, which meant my life revolved around developing my final major project: a bi-annual fashion publication. Although this may sound glamorous to some, the crème de la crème of my daily life was purchasing a £2.39 Innocent Smoothie as part of a £3.29 Boots Meal Deal. I’d even have to gobble the full two-course meal down whilst power-walking back to the library for yet another sixteen-hour work session. Time in the library was spent brainstorming/ writing articles or working on a 28-page concept strategy. If I wasn’t typing away, I would be spending my time planning the corresponding photo shoots before photographing said shoots on the streets/ suburbs of Geordie Land. And if I wasn’t working on either of those tasks, I’d be teaching myself how to use Adobe InDesign and combining both outlets into an actual publication. Lastly, if I wasn’t working on the publication, I would be creating a 32-page promotional strategy, which I’d then put into place. I really did do it all – art-directing, model scouting, styling, photographing the editorials, branding, public design, journalism, website design, marketing, PR, logistics, and sooo much more.

But it was cool because whenever it all got too much, I’d vision myself graduating with that First, and therefore getting a one-way ticket into the marketing department of some cool and swanky fashion brand in London. Quite simply, all of this hard work and social reclusiveness would be worth it once I was living that Shoreditch lifestyle. My discounted, corporate Innocent Smoothies would soon be traded for some organic, kale and avocado concussion I’d pick up from my local juice bar on the way to said swanky job...

 One of my editorial photo shoots

One of my editorial photo shoots

Whilst the first part of this fantasy was true – I did graduate with a First, the second part couldn’t be further away from my vision. Instead, I graduated and found myself struggling to get a graduate job in London. Although I had the First-Class Honours, it didn’t matter as I didn’t have the work experience or placements. But still feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed from my recent graduation, I came to my situation from a new angle. I decided to try and land myself a graduate job in the North East to build the experience where I lacked but after weeks, if not months of looking, I realised that graduate job opportunities (of my interest) in the North East, were very few and far between. Although I was starting to feel deflated, I decided to at least pursue a job promotion with the company I’d been working part-time for. Although this meant pursuing a career in a different direction, I’d at least be developing a new skill set, making a bit of extra money, and I’d feel like my life had a purpose again. But what’s the point of a purpose if your heart’s not in it? I’ve already discussed my mental battle in a previous blog post (here) but I soon realised I had made the wrong decision. I, therefore, decided to demote myself and went back to the same twenty-hour job I’d had since I was 17 years old. A job that was initially supposed to be a side hustle of funding overpriced brunch, the odd statement coat, and hostel based getaway, was now my main income. But, do you know what? I ain’t mad.  Although my post-graduate year hasn’t run as smoothly as I initially (unrealistically) hoped, it’s been a year of character building.

So instead of focusing on what didn’t go well, I’m making a conscious effort to focus on what did go well – my ‘tah dah’ moments if you will. These 2017 moments range from things I’m proud of or things that have felt like a weight off my shoulder, or simply what has felt like an accomplishment, nor big nor small:

 The book that really helped kickstart my freelance career.

The book that really helped kickstart my freelance career.

Realising What I Do Want to Do

As previously mentioned, I may have spent a couple of months on the wrong career path but instead of seeing it as a waste of time, I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity. Not only has it ridden that “what if I did that?” anxiety from my mind but it’s put a strikethrough that job. I tried it and it wasn’t for me but hey, at least I now know. I’ve still got that skill-set I built up, and I still use it on a day-to-day basis.

Risking It All

I often find that distinctiveness has become a fundamental part of our identity, especially for us millennials. Black is the opposite of white. High is the opposite of low. Old is the opposite of new, etc. When I demoted myself, I knew who I was because I didn’t want to do the role. But rightly so, a career cannot be built entirely around what I didn’t want to do. I had to shift from a sense of what I did not want to do, to a positive one, of what I wanted to do.

Although losing a big fraction of my paycheck took courage, it meant my focus was realigned. I worked enough hours to pay my bills but left enough spare time to think about what I wanted to do and after deciding, I actually had the spare time to pursue this through freelancing, and client building. And I love it which means I’ve managed to build that experience I was told I needed but without working for any of the blasé companies I found whilst job hunting. I didn’t settle and now I know that I’m finally heading in the right career direction.

Going on Micro-adventures

I briefly discussed this ambition in a previous post (here) and to be honest, I think it’s one of the best decisions I made last year. Whilst working the Monday – Friday job I wasn’t enjoying, I made a promise to myself that I’d try and make at least my weekends, as exciting as possible. I regularly went on micro-adventures with my friends and travelled all over the country. I visited beaches, farms, coastlines, National Trusts, and even managed to persuade my good pal, Cole, to take me to Edinburgh for the day to see one of my favourite comediennes at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Exploring gave me purpose and was full of dozens of ‘tah dah’ moments with some of my favourite people.

 YSL Museum, Marrakesh.

YSL Museum, Marrakesh.

Unleashing my Travel Bug (again)

With my initial vision of post-graduate life becoming more realistic, I’ve realised I never actually wanted to move to London. I’m too much of a Northerner who loves living in a city with five Greggs within walking distance, having a chin-wag with anyone and everyone, and being able to say, “thank you” to a bus driver, without being shunned.

With moving to London no longer on the cards, this has meant that any spare income has been spent pursuing other outlets, such as travelling. Last year I ticked two new countries off my bucket list, Portugal (Lisbon) and Morocco (Marrakesh). I slept under the stars in the Sahara Desert before getting a camel ride back in the morning, I learnt how to use my digital SLR in Lisbon, and I fell back in love with exploring. I also booked up an extremely spontaneous trip to Copenhagen for January, which I’ve just got back from, and I’ve also booked up a two-week trip around Vietnam in March. I'm a big believer in 'pay now, consume later.' By buying an experience for the future, you have something to look forward to and all of your future work will have an underlying purpose.

Graduating with a First

I briefly mentioned this earlier but this was definitely a massive ‘tah dah’ moment not only of 2017 but of my life. Although having a degree has nothing to do with success, as a working-class person, I was determined to be the first member of my family to go to university. And what better way to blow this goal out of the water, than to graduate with the best possible grade? Picking up that £40 k piece of paper in front of my family on graduation, and seeing my step-dad well up, was definitely a pat on the back moment.

 The boyf in Copenhagen's Botanical Gardens.

The boyf in Copenhagen's Botanical Gardens.

Falling in Love

An unexpected emotion but definitely one of, if not, the highlight of 2017. Who’d that thought that swiping right on a dating app would lead to meeting someone who is incredible both on the inside and out? This past couple of months have been full of lots of individual ‘tah dah’ moments, such as leaving a restaurant on our second date and him putting his coat on me in the rain, and me realising that this one might be a little different. Or me showing up to a date the morning after my Christmas party, still paralytic, and wearing flares with Air Max, only for him to tell me I looked “beautiful” (which means his flaw is that he clearly is a liar). Or even, me having a bad day so us both spontaneously booking up to go to Copenhagen the following week. They say that life changes when you fall in love, and well I’ve never heard something so true: Being in love makes me excited for the future, filler chapters or not.

After all, Filler Chapters don’t necessarily mean bad chapters. In fact, if there’s anything 2017 has taught me, it’s that life not going to plan means that you get to question your priorities. If you see the situation for what it is – a Filler Chapter – you can still appreciate the ‘tah dah’ moments, and all whilst the universe is out there gathering energy and assembling the resources, which will eventually lead to the Big Chapters of your life.

And as cliché, as it sounds, I know my 2018 is going to be my year full of Big Chapters full of career progression, micro-adventures and full price Innocent Smoothies. I’ve worked hard to get myself to this stage so 2018, bring it! I’m ready for you!

What were your 'tah dah' moments of 2017?
I'd love to hear all about them below!