Over the past five years, I’ve gone from sixth form, to Loughborough University, to starting my career. The journey has tested and grown me, and along the way, I have felt nearly every emotion. One moment I’ve felt proud, smiling at what I’ve achieved, the next I’ve felt lost, insignificant and lonely, crying in the corner of my bedroom. But that makes me human. And to be human means day after the day I get the chance to learn to be slightly less imperfect. In fact, I find it surreal looking back at how I’ve overcome each seemingly insurmountable obstacle and often smile while reading my diary at the things which once worried me.
Today, I live in London and while I still can feel shy, sensitive and even lost, I’ve learnt to embrace change, uncertainty and myself. In fact, I’m on Heathrow’s Future Leaders Programme and in the coming month will rotate onto my fifth placement. To the fifteen-year-old me who could not imagine life after graduating, especially work, I can say I am very much still alive. I feel proud to be part of the team and amazed at the trust and investment I get. While it takes time, don’t underestimate the value of helping others and building a network which wants you to succeed.
At times it is easy to forget, but as I look back each step had a purpose. I rose up the Air Cadets and got my Gold DofE award. The Air Cadets pushed me, it taught me confidence, leadership but more importantly that to be successful you need to help others. The next jump was getting a place at Loughborough University. University is such an amazing opportunity and I honestly put my heart into it. By the end I graduated, got awarded an LEA, an LSU Media Lifetime Achievement Award and even hear some of the photos I took are on the wall of the LSU. Loughborough will always hold a special place in my heart.
I should say however that it is not always easy, you see at times over the past five years I’ve struggled. Even in the past year, there have been moments where it all felt too much. At university, I would phone my parents and tell them all the reasons I would fail my dissertation (which I didn’t). The point is not every day will be perfect, and sometimes you need to push yourself to grow. I just try to make the most of each opportunity and appreciate those around me.
Transitioning to working life is both exciting and challenging, as fundamentally they are very different. While university at times became my life, today I’m learning I am ultimately responsible for my life, and finding the balance. The criteria for success changes, while I am still working out my aims, you will need to consider what your definition of success is, whether that is happiness, career possession or even meaningful work. Nonetheless, relationships, behaviours and networks are some of the things which have replaced exams.
University was one of the most amazing of opportunities for me and critical to getting to where I am. I use the skills I learnt in ways I would never have imagined. Though I feel the value gained from extracurricular activities should not be underestimated. They allow you to learn social skills, emotional intelligence and most importantly about yourself. From my sexuality, to my identity, drivers and ways I view and interpret the world. In fact, I asked my friends to describe me; they said curious, ambitious, creative, thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic. How would you like your friends to describe you after three years?
Last week I returned to Loughborough for the LSU Media Awards. If you haven’t been in touch with Loughborough for a while, there are always opportunities to get involved and to reconnect through the Alumni Association.