Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Intelligence Is Not Just a Number

Recently, it's become increasingly apparent that people around me want some serious answers.

"Katie, what are you going to do after you graduate?"

"Katie, have you been looking into graduate schemes and paid internships yet?"

"Katie,what exactly are you hoping to achieve with this blog of yours?"

And in place of raising my hands, grabbing the person by the shoulders and whispering frantically I DON'T HAVE A BLOODY CLUE WHAT I'M DOING, I just kind of fumble a half-hearted response to quieten the incessant questions and placate the worrisome frowns of my parents.

Because being in my third of four years at University, I've had an unfortunately ill-timed epiphany. 

I am just shit at school. 

After 16 straight years of education, the latter of which I've learnt nothing except how to rearrange and re-write other people's words and get credited for it, my dwindling pit of what little enthusiasm I had left has finally dried up.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing in the world that I love more than to learn new things - it is the very thing which fuels my passion - but this now, to me, is not learning. 

I thrive on passionate creativity, making things, establishing connections and making changes in the world - innovative, thought-provoking stuff which really gets you excited. 

For me, it seems like Uni only teaches you how to become really good at repeating stuff. 

And unfortunately my mind is a very stubborn mistress, and as a result I end up failing, just because I can't find the heart to repeat things convincingly.

But if there's one thing I resent more than anything, perhaps the only thing about Uni that impassions me at all, is when people assume that intelligence and test scores go hand in hand. 

Last year, after discovering that I'd failed a module and had to retake it, I received an email from my lecturer.

"It's such a shame," 

He'd said,

"I thought you were a smart girl."

Adrenaline flooded my body as I read those last six words over and over.

I frantically typed out a response with shaking fingers.

"Forgive me for sounding brash Sir, but I very much resent you inferring that just because I did not pass the class, that I am not intelligent. In my eyes, academia is a solid tightly-constricted box with permanent dimensions, whereas 'intelligence' is more like this glittering mist with no real mass. Sometimes that mist happens to settle perfectly inside the dimensions of academia, but have you ever tried to stuff a cloud into a box?"

That certainly shut him up.

And since that moment, whilst forcing myself to put in effort at school, I decided to take future into my own hands.

My passions have always lay in writing and creating, so for my writing, I made Scarphelia, and for creating, I carried out a load of whacky new ventures.

I sent out cupcakes to Cosmopolitan to show why they should hire me, I created a website which was noticed by Vice Magazine and they offered me an internship and I spent my summer days working in a fashion office in London to try and get as much experience as possible.

It all sounds great, and indeed it was, but, as with being one of the luckiest people ever, misfortune is never far behind to restore the balance.

Cosmopolitan accepted me for an internship (due to start summer 2014) only to email me a week ago and explain that unfortunately this would be the last month they were taking on interns, and I was no longer going to be working with them.

Vice, despite coming directly to me and asking me to work for them, explained that they could only be taking on full-time interns, so whilst I was still at University I wouldn't be able to work with them.

And my fashion internship? After slaving away for 4 months working 11 hour days without a penny in compensation, they turned round at the end and stabbed me in the back in the worst way possible. But, I shall take the high ground here and elect to omit the finer details.

And so despite making (what appeared to be) such amazing career progressions, I still happen to find myself right back to square one. A girl with a blog not really knowing what the heck she's doing or where she's going.

I find myself thinking that perhaps I should just chuck it all in and go back to paying more attention at Uni.

But then I think, am I really back to square one?

Yes I might not have a better clue about what I want to be when I grow up, or have places lined up wanting to hire me straight out of Uni, but... Perhaps I haven't gone back to square one. Maybe I've come full circle.

And to go full circle, you have to go pretty far in the first place I think.

And it's an indisputable fact that all of the things I did achieve came as a direct result of blogging.

And so I realised.

It's okay to not really know what you're doing.

It's okay to still not know what you want to be when you grow up.

It's okay if you try and end up failing.

It's okay if you screw up every now and again.

As long as you're doing something.

Whether it be writing, blogging, making youtube videos, interning, making music, organising events, photography - as long as you find something you are passionate about and you stick at it, you're never going to be nowhere.

Doing what I love has helped me achieve so many wonderful things, and just because now is a bit of a slump, there's nothing to say that more wonderful things aren't peeking just over the horizon.

There will be ups and downs, failures and triumphs, days when you think you should just chuck it all in, but hey. If you're doing something you love, you can't go far wrong, right?



  1. Last month my doctor told me that my arm/wrist is fucked up, and that i have to look for another job. Something that i can do without my hand (I was OMG are u serious? ) I'm 25 and i have no idea what to do, or what to learn for…

    But everything will be okay in the end :)

  2. I studied English at University, which everyone in the US universally agrees is a pointless degree unless you're going to be a professor. I didn't care because I LOVED it. I wrote a blog for no money, and I did three different internships for no money, and although one did hire me, they went out of business within three months of me starting work.

    The point of my life that I wanted everyone to understand isn't to get someone to hire me (what a small way to live), it's just to create shit that I care about and enjoy my little moments. Since graduating, I've worked as a freelance writer and consistently gotten new clients without having to seek them out or blatantly advertise my services (through the little just-for-fun blog of mine) and continued to have enough time to live a life that has nothing to do with work. The best advice I've ever gotten was "Don't wait for anyone to pick you. Pick yourself" and I want to pass it along to you! You can create SO many things just through trying and don't let anyone else's fear limit you. They're all terrified.

  3. I loved your reply to that professor!
    It sounds like you've come very far despite the negatives. Sometimes the negatives are really positives in disguise. It'll all work out. You seem to have a good grasp on it even though you don't have a grasp on it<---if that even makes sense. My point is, you may not know exactly where you're going but you are full aware of the fact and are willing to work with that.

  4. 'A girl with a blog not really knowing what the heck she's doing or where she's going' - this is me, too! I've been out of university almost three years and I still don't have a clue, but being a bit lost doesn't mean you can't be happy :) it's definitely not always a bad thing!

  5. I'm in the same boat, third year of uni and no idea at all. People keep saying "well don't worry, you have the whole of next year to decide" but I know that won't be enough time so I have a horrid feeling it's going to be a few years of job hopping or should I say 'building a portfolio career'.
    That is an absolute shitter about Cosmopolitan, my heart literally sank for you when I saw that. What bastards! I guess if you at least got far enough to be accepted, you know you're good enough and whilst you don't have the experience, you at least have the potential.
    Perhaps you do still love Learning because Learning is a beautiful thing that happens through new experiences every day. It is studying that absolutely murders the mind (I study Psychology which everyone else thinks is really interesting. It is definitely not. Anyone who doesn't believe me can go pick up Eysenck's Cognitive Handbook or whatever its' called and read it cover to cover and then we can have an intelligent conversation.)
    Keep trying, I wish I had your creativity and initiative to job hunt like that. You're good at what you do so you will find a way and we're still young enough to make mistakes and hunt around.
    Good luck!
    Lucy xxx
    P.s your cloud in a box metaphor was beautiful.
    La Lingua : Food, Life & Travel in Italy

  6. I think you've just uttered the questions that go through every graduates head and what a well rounded (full-circle) feature about how you and millions of other people feel. Cosmpolitan... that's a shame and Vice... WHAT! Idiots. But you're completely right in that you have learned, you have been successful in gaining these opportunities and it all adds up to what a wonderful person you will once you have achieved the things you want (because you worked for them).

    Keep tryin' girl because you have something very special.

    Ashleigh // Tan-talk.blogspot.co.uk x

  7. This is such a good post katie! I feel the same, like everyone wants to know what I'm doing! University has not been the 'best years of my life' and possibly the worst but I'm getting through it and I honestly don't care what grade I get at the end of it (okay, I do...) as finishing it is going to be an achievement in itself! What annoys me is that most of the reasons university hasn't been for me I don't want to shout from the rooftops and people just automatically assume I'm lazy and that's why my marks aren't great. I don't think marks should define someone and having a blog shows that there is something else to you. You've done amazing things so far (i'm beyond jealous of your determination- i'm taking notes) and you should remind yourself of that, hopefully you'll get a break asap! xo

  8. If anything, I was always the opposite! Since the age of 4 I 'knew' that I wanted to be a primary teacher, so everything I've done since the age of 14 has been towards that. I've spent countless hours volunteering in too many primary schools to count. I've wasted hours and hours incessantly revising information that has no relevance to my life, but which helped me to get good grades. I've given myself an anxiety disorder and lost all sense of priority and well-being, all ion my quest to meet one of my goals. It wasn't until this January that I realised that after completing two-and-a-half years of my three year teaching degree that I can't stand it!
    You'd imagine that my situation now is quite stressful; if I'm honest it's more of a relief. No, I don't know what I'm going to do next, but in some ways that's quite freeing.

  9. I get this all the time and it's so annoying!! The ever important question of what you are doing next with your life. But I've realised, like you have, that's it's perfectly ok to not know the answer! :)

  10. This reminds me of the Wear Sunscreen line 'Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.'.

    I was lucky, I chose a career at the age of 12 and so always worked towards that. It helped to steer me and my choices but I sometimes wonder if I'd have had more interesting experiences in life if I hadn't been that way.

    Even if you feel like you aren't moving forward, you're getting some amazing experiences in life and to put on a CV at some point when you do work out what you want.

  11. I think this is my favourite post I've read in a while :) I'm only in year 11, but already I feel like I'll desperately need a gap year just to have a break from relentless fact absorbing and writing to fulfil exam criteria. Education pretty much just teaches how to use the right language to pass an exam, the actual knowledge of which you could forget instantly anyway. I love your response to that lecturer, you go girl! I wanna write sassy things like that when I grow up :D The way those companies treated you does sound disgusting; the fashion industry does seem like a pretty bitchy back stabbing place though I guess.
    On another note, I've included your blog on my 'bloggers of the month' type post, and included a screenshot and a link so I hope that's ok!
    lily x

  12. Amazing post Katie :) When I was at uni I felt the same way, especially coz I was doing Communication and Media studies and writing essays was my main engagement. To be honest, thanks god our lecturers wanted us to come up with our own conclusions about life and society (especially when writing our dis)... Then I found out that the information that I have been gulping for two year have finally transferred into knowledge that I could finally apply when drafting my dis, which in fact was on Breakfast and Tiffany's and Gossip Girl. The fact that I could draw conclusions for society from analysing two films, taking interviews etc. made me really passionate about continuing reading and reading about gender and society and now starting a blog. So yeh, I kinda understand why universities function the way they do, but at the same time - creativity, intelligence - no you cannot learn those from books. :)


  13. This is really great! I often feel the same about the incessant and constant pressure of just repeating the words of other people and calling it learning (especially with a literature degree!). I've been trying really hard lately to make my papers more original and to think through ideas and concepts myself, after all sources and quoting are often just ways of jumping through the hoops right? A great lecturer of mine said once, "why do we use secondary research? - to show the examiners we know how to read and to play to the egos of academics who think they know their shit!" It made me so cross to hear what your professor said to you, I can't believe an academic could have the nerve to say that to a student, then at the same time, I often feel some live in their own bubbles, lose sight of the 'real world' and sometimes have snobby perceptions of what is intelligent and what is not (of course this is generally -and bitterly- speaking and of course not all academics are like that!). I loved your response though! Thank you for sharing this, you're not alone! :) Ailish Goes

  14. I love the topics you write about, it's so interesting to be able to read something a little more thought provoking than your traditional beauty review. Completely agree with you that education isn't necessarily for everyone and there are better choices for some people if not most people! I'm doing a degree at the moment but I can't help think that my time would be better spent doing something more practical like interning. The job market at the moment is all about who you know and where you've been, not what qualification you have. Really enjoyed reading this, thanks!

    Jade | skinsweet

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