Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Subtle Derailment of Leading a Double Life

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all.”

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

It has recently become apparent to me that I have become jammed in a very exhausting and frustrating position, which I'd be a liar to say didn't carry some beauty to it. 

I find myself torn, stuck between two incredibly crucial points of my life, neither of which I can embrace without consequence upon the other. As I am stood, my left arm is being tugged forth, yearning to dive headlong into the dream-like ethereal future I know I can embrace, but my right arm remains shackled, bound to my earthly commitments and responsibilities which I have accumulated on my path. 

In short, I lead a double life.

And I just do not seem to able to pull this off as seamlessly as Hannah Montana or Agent Cody Banks, because I'm screwing shit up left, right and center.

And this past week has become a shining example of what I mean, and how difficult the next year is going to be for me. 

So these are the two lives I lead.

1) I am a 22 year-old broke University student, living off mac'n'cheese ready meals in a pitiful excuse for a town in Southern Hertfordshire, working in a coffee shop inside a cinema during my final year studying a Mass Communications degree.

2) I am a 22 year-old blogger and upcoming writer of a blog with over one million hits, and a brand ambassador and face of a major fashion retailer. I'm the singer of a band recently picked up by BBC Introducing, in the process of writing a novel, and a freelance journalist off to report at the MTV EMA's next month. 

Now please believe me that this is not a thinly disguised humblebrag. I have always been very vocal about my unfathomable levels of gratitude for everything I have been able to do and the opportunities which have come my way. But the truth is, one of these lives cannot exist without the other, and by god, they do not sit nicely as siblings.

The irony is the only time these two lives do intersect is in my weekly sessions with a therapist because I've straight up had a nervous breakdown trying to find the balance between these two.

Because the moment I spend a little too much time indulging in one, I pay for it big time in the other.

For the week I spent in London around my birthday this year, I was able to do some incredible things with some incredible people, attend the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards and even film my own documentary. When I return, not only have I missed the start of term at Uni, but I also come home to a £100 parking fine because my permit had expired whilst I was away.

The week after that, I take some time off from blogging and that side of my life and I focus on schoolwork, trying to catch up on all the lectures and seminars I'd missed from being away, only to have VICE barking at me because I'd accidentally missed a deadline for H&M and had jeopardised the whole campaign for them.

I then get called into my module leaders office for a conference and he tells me that I have to choose, and if I want to finish university than I have to stop blogging. I have to put my Uni work first if I have any chance of getting out of here. That's when my eye begins to twitch.

This week I got to attend the incredible Gleam & Daily Mix Halloween party with the biggest youtubers in the world, and my god, it was honestly one of the greatest nights of my entire life. But then I had to frantically board an 8am train back to Herts to make it to work on time, only to stand in silence behind a counter for 8 hours with a rate of about 4 customers per hour, while my manager is harping on about how we all need to go through special 'cheese training' because we've been giving out the average scoop of 1g over the brand standard and we could really save the company money if we were more stingy with our servings.


To which he'd only respond:

"They're not 'customers' Katie, they're guests."

And I just can't do that. I have to stand there and nod and pretend I'm going to really implement this into my professional routine, because I need the job to fund my year at Uni and train journeys to London for my other life.

I am so torn between my past and my future, that my present is an exhausting mess of soaring heights and plummeting lows on both sides. It's either fucking incredible or fucking debilitating, and it's come to the point where the therapy doesn't really do much either. Even she's starting to annoy me.

Please again I feel the need to stress that I am by no means ungrateful - the me of 5 years ago would have broken down in tears of joy to know that I am able to do these things... but that's arguably the worst part. This whole dilemma completely takes the sheen off these amazing opportunities and leaves me with my head in hands groaning 'Oh god, how the hell am I going to fit this in now?'

I wish to god I could just be free.

I wish I didn't have to live the uni/work life - not because I think I deserve a life full of glory or I should just be allowed to do what I want and not have to work for it like everyone else, just because it is killing me, and each day I spend torn between my reality and my future, that future becomes less and less probable an eventuality.

Yesterday I had to turn down a photoshoot and a paid music video shoot, because I had work and Uni. Not only was that PAINFUL to have to decline, I'm also really not in the position to be turning stuff like this down.

How many no's before they just stop asking?

University and work fill me with such hatred, such sadness. I feel a genuine sickness swilling in my stomach when I look at my assignments list glistening menacingly in my diary surrounded by wonderful things I'm looking forward to.  

I go in to work and I see the inhumanity behind the corporate, profit-turning agenda, to the point where we're not even allowed to drink water on the shop floor, the most fundamental human need to survive, because it's deemed 'unprofessional'.

It's like I can see this incredible life and have this tantalising taste of my own future, but I can never actually get to it. I feel almost like a caged animal standing before a wide open door to the jungle, except I'm tied down inside the box, so I can see my freedom, taste it, but I can't have it. It genuinely drains my life and on those rare moments I do have a day off, I don't want to be writing more content or working on new stuff, I just want to sink into my bed for endless hours, only rising to get food before disappearing beneath the covers again.

I find myself loathe to start writing a new post, procrastinating from stuff I usually love doing to the point in which I stop and say 'is this even what I want in life? Is this all my life will end up being if I do 'get what I want'?' 

And christttttttttt that only leads to more exhaustion.

In my perfect world, I'd just chuck all this shit in, go find a cabin in the woods in Canada or Iceland or something and spend my days among nature writing novels.

But that's not only entirely impractical, I'm sure knowing me I'll also have a crisis after about three days bellowing 'WHY DID I THINK THIS IS WHAT I WANTED?' into the mountain tops and evergreens.

And so here I am, sitting silently with a half-convincing smile on my face as my past and my future collide on either sides of me.


If I stop and think, removing myself from the anxiety, the stress, the worry and the overwhelm, 

it is quite beautiful.

The plight of the youth and the dramatic woes of coming of age and growing up into an adult human being is such a beautiful thing, really.

And despite not knowing really what the fuck to do with my life right now, the most important thing I know, is what I want in the bigger picture, the future I can envision for myself, and why.

I want to make a career out of what I do because I don't want to have to waste crucial moments of my fleeting life doing something so tediously, repetitively menial, to be able to do the important stuff.

I want to be a positive exemplary, an influencer, a thinker regarded as someone who has the power to make a difference.

I want to create multimedia projects and write words and books to excite and inspire, to make people want to do beautiful things with their little pockets of gifted existence.

I want to travel across the globe, discovering different cultures and beliefs and wisdom and I want to listen. I want to understand.

I want to live in different cities and try everything new so I can gain the variety of experience and emotional intelligence to become a great writer.

I want to push and explore the boundaries of what it means to be a human being, and chronologise this to make other people wonder too.

I want to drag a sharp stick through the monotony and unsympathetic corporate, societal and educational norm which has long since settled, stubborn and putrid, and I want to show young people that they are more than just a name on a register, a grade on a spectrum, a tick in a box.

I do not know what gives me the right, I do not know what gives me the authority to do this, all I know is I feel this desire seeping from my very bones and veins and THIS is what I feel in micro format is the substance of the cells in my body, and the matter of my brain. It feels like an explosive symphony of understanding, like an energy force transmutes from the earth and the trees and the wind and runs through me in the same manner so I just know that I was always meant to do this.

And that is why when I'm sat there at Uni with a professor telling me this is 'just a hobby I should quit if I want to do well', or stood behind a counter as a customer barks at me to hurry up with their drink... I just can't take it.

But it's just one more year.

If I can make it one more year, then I'm free.

I can turn my back on those naysayers and people who don't believe I can do anything with my life without a solid degree behind me, and boy oh boy

I can prove them wrong.

*takes deep breath*

Just. One. More. Year.


  1. Why don't you take a year out of uni and see where your blog and writing takes you? You can always go back and complete your final year at uni if you decide that's what you want to do. Believe me I got my degree as a mature student, almost made myself ill to get a 1st and now I don't even use it ... You don't need a degree to get somewhere necessarily. And those that tell you to quit blogging clearly don't understand either the creative outlet this is for you nor how successful your blog has become. You can't be wonder woman though and you don't want to burnout as then you will be too ill to take advantage if any opportunities. Good luck & I hope you sort something out that you can manage and feel happy with xxx

  2. In a way I can relate to this. I'm not at uni but I do work a customer service job & it pays my bills & my mortgage etc. But I can't help but feel I am wasting those hours of my day because all it is is money to me. Its completely meaningless. I havn't yet figured out how to turn the things I love doing into a job for myself & I feel completely lost. Not as extreme as your circumstances obviously but its as you said. My hobbies would not exist without my meaningless job yet I can't find time to advance these hobbies whilst I have my job. Its a vicious cycle. I think they call it life. I hope you figure it all out, at least you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. I can totally relate (as usual I'm pretty sure you read my mind sometimes), with the exception of my blog actually going anywhere :P I work in a cafe in the town next to Brighton and at the moment I'm being bullied by a co-worker. He's incredibly rude to me all the time and bitches about me behind my back to other colleagues and my boss but it's all too subtle to say anything. I stand there and just think I deserve so much more than this. I shouldn't be crying over work and uni, I should be out being a full-time blogger and visiting fancy restaurants. This, unfortunately, isn't going to happen any time soon. But YOU are so special, Katie. You are one of the most talented people I have ever seen and I KNOW that you are going to go far, no matter what the time. I'm afraid I can't give loads of advice for fear of leading you in the wrong direction, but I know you'll make the right choices. xxx

  4. "I wish I didn't have to live the uni/work life - not because I think I deserve a life full of glory or I should just be allowed to do what I want and not have to work for it like everyone else..."

    You ARE working for it! You're already doing so much for yourself and for what you want. You are DEFINITELY working for it, and you deserve whatever comes your way.

    I think you're in the middle, sort of. In the middle of future and in the middle of now, so either side seems both difficult to obtain and complete. I remember I was quite stressed out from uni work + a horrible job, and I was truly trapped, but looking back I see now how none of my professors, student friends even, quite understood what my dreams were and why they were important to me. People who call your passions a 'hobby' is not even worth being mad at; they simply don't understand. They are from another time in space, almost, where the only way for a person making it in life is through studies and student loans and then a job that will last for 20 years to pay that loan off.

    But so many people in this world live a different lifestyle. They do different things, they work their asses off in order to pursue what they really love, and they are proof that status quo isn't anything solid or valid at all. It takes real guts to follow your own mind and heart - but you're doing You could postpone uni because you can catch up on that last year later on - I know it seems highly important to complete it now, but again, you're in the middle of things so it may be hard to gain an overall perspective.

    Then again; getting that degree will maybe make you feel a bit more safe? If so; complete the final year. It's all up to you. All I'm really saying is that many people have gone off the beaten track and the reality that only existed in their minds became more and more graspable and real until the point where they were completely in it. That's just what happens when you impress on something long enough, you WILL make it because with determination and goals and talents there's no other way for this to go about. Some people dream and some people do. You have so much talent, you're so brave, and you work hard for it - so I don't even mean it as a compliment when I say that you'll definitely achieve whatever you'll ever want.

    Often one has to lose some to win some... and if you feel strongly that uni is strangling you and taking away incredible opportunities, then it's no 'shame' in taking that final year at another point in time.


  5. Trust me, you're not the only one going through this crisis.
    I'm doing Petroleum Geology, which I have wanted to do since I was 7. But, as my blog has taken off, my novel is on the way and my plays under development, I also feel a bit trapped ans pissed off that I have to decline so much stuff to CLIMB A BLOODY MOUNTAIN!
    But things will sort themselves out for us both, Katie.
    We both have one more year - and I think it's worth completing it just to have a safety net if our other dreams don't work out the way we wanted them to.
    But, I know for sure that whatever, you decide to do, you'll be a total success!


  6. Katie, believe me I know where you are coming from! I completed uni last year. So I know how hard it is to balance. Until recently, I felt the strain to with balancing a job I was unhappy with, and blogging and subsequently FBL bloggers two things I am passionate about. In the end something had to give! So I left my job, got a be one and I'm excited to start my new venture which will allow me to balance blogging and work. You feel trapped and it shows that you do not enjoy uni, so take a break? Or could you find another source of income which makes you happy? Possibly your blog. Yes young adulthood is a struggle and interesting... But please please please do what makes you happy, now. Feeling overwhelmed and trapped at work/uni is awful.. I know!

  7. Could you go part-time for the last year of your degree or even complete it at a later date? Who knows if you would get all these amazing opportunities again?

    Amy at Amy & More

  8. I know I'm seeing this from the outside - and I completely understand that things are NEVER as they appear on the surface, but I think you're coping brilliantly, even though you probably don't think so. I probably would have given up ages ago, sadly. I myself am an academic so would never let anything get in the way of my studes because, at the time, thats what I felt passionate about. Hance why I only started my little blog after I graduated. I know a lot of pople, regardless of their goals in life, finding themselves ready to leave student life at the end of second year.

    I really, really admire your passion. I wish to god I have what you have - utter determination. I still don't know what I'm doing - my blog is one year old but is still nowhere near blogs that are only 6 months old. I want tow rite, dream, inspire, educate, create, travel...but I am so, so unlikely to be able to do these. Find comfort in thinking that you've already achieved more than many of us could hope for and you should be so proud to still be at uni, with the determination to at least finish your course (which in itsel i soften the biggest challenge). You're no quitter, and that's so admirable.

    You'll get there - as you say, one more year. Try and find passion somewhere about your course. Maybe try and incorporate the two, somewhere along the line. It's ok to say no sometimes; but it's hard to find a balance. Be kind to yourself.

    You'll be ok, and you have thousands of readers who are willing to hear you rant and cry and seek advice. Just make sure you put yourself first.

    Jo xx

    She Wears Burgundy

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