Saturday, 11 December 2010

My First Day With Conde Nast!

20th September 2010

It is 16:22pm and I have nearly finished my first day as an Editorial Intern at Condé Nast Traveller Magazine in London.
This morning I thought I would die. I was convinced that I was going to be late, as this is the first time in ages that I have had to rely on my own (questionable) directional skills. Navigating London City with only half a contact lens in is not advisable. In the space of about an hour, my demeanour went from the blissful excitement that woke me up this morning, to the sheer panic that I felt when signs for the Victoria Line seemingly vanished.
I woke up at 8:00am in order to meet the lovely Editorial Assistant Alice at 10:30am. I hopped into the bath at my aunt’s house and washed my hair, since it didn’t quite have the right amount of ‘spring’ to it when I rolled out of bed. I painted my ‘special occasion’ Benefit makeup on with military precision, and then began to get dressed. What does one wear to a ‘smart/casual’ office which just happens to share a building with the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Tatler? Definitely NOT the ‘jeans and a t-shirt’ that Alice had confirmed would be ‘fine’ a couple of weeks ago. Oh no. I put on some golden tapered trousers new from Topshop, a brown pair of brogues with cream laces new from Dorothy Perkins, a long-sleeved cream t-shirt old from Abercrombie and Fitch, a luxurious fur gilet new from Topshop and a tan ‘I mean business’ satchel/briefcase, which yes, you’ve guessed it, is new from Topshop. Well, you know they say dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got, so I channelled the ‘Editor-in-Chief of Vogue’ which I know I have in me, and marched out of the front door.
Within seconds my confident attitude had gone. Waiting at an unfamiliar bus stop, not knowing when the bus would arrive, how long it would take to get to my tube station at East Finchely and not knowing when to get off. But before I knew it I was enjoying the ride and waiting for the notification that I had requested from my bus driver as to where my stop was.
I felt like I was running late. By the time I got to East Finchely it was already twenty-five past nine and I hadn’t even topped up my Oyster card yet for London travel. Shoving £10 into the machine and running onto the Southbound platform meant that I got straight onto my train. Success! Now this is where my whining starts. Why are people so rude on the tube? It’s almost as if there is some kind of negative energy force field which compels Londoners to create an impenetrable barrier with their copy of whichever superior book they are currently ‘reading’, or pound their music so loud that their eardrums may burst. Well, whatever, I thought as a kindly looking old lady had blanked the grin I flashed her as I landed on the train just as the doors shut on my back. Fine, you don’t want to be nice, do I care? No I don’t. And so I topped up my makeup after confirming that I would change at Euston and get the Victoria Line for two stops until I reached Oxford Circus.
I became one of the rude Londoners in seconds. I found myself shoving past people on the Underground, asserting myself with a gruff ‘Excuse me’ on the escalator when tourists were loitering up the left side. What had I turned into? A city girl. And I had better get used to it.
At Oxford Circus station one of the stroppy Tube Men told me that I needed Exit 3 to get to where I was going, and I was off again, pushing and jostling and even elbowing one foreign pervert. Luckily the directions were fairly straight forward, and not even a monkey could have gotten lost.
There it was, the grandly-named Vogue House. And what a dump it looked. No offense, but I was expecting a big white chocolate building bathed in sunlight, not dissimilar to the one Oliver Twist stood in whilst chirping ‘Who will buy?’ And yet, the concrete jungle surrounded by a mass of other buildings covered in scaffolding faced me head on, as if to say, ‘What? Are you going to throw away this opportunity because I’m ugly?’ It challenged me to enter, and never being one to turn down a challenge, (after double coating my lipstick) I followed a pretty girl inside, and I was automatically glad that I had.
Even the security reception area was glamorous, with a copy of each magazine Condé Nast create framed onto the wall. After asking for Alice and saying my name, I sank into a plush red leather sofa and thought, ‘Today will be a good day’.
I got directed up to the sixth floor and as the elevator doors opened I saw the great big silver magazine title signs were revealed. I was stood at the point where Condé Nast Traveller and Brides Magazines meet. When Alice opened the door I was in a complete daze which she had to snap me out of by saying, ‘Are you Gabriella?’
Alice is lovely. She looks young enough to be your friend, yet sensible enough to be professional. She has beachy blond hair, one of the most naturally pretty faces you can ever imagine and an effortlessly cool sense of style. Guess what she was wearing? Jeans and a t-shirt.
I blabbered some rubbish about being surprised I didn’t get too lost, and she made me feel at ease immediately, showing me my new desk surrounded by different people involved in the editorial team. She gave me the Work Experience Handbook and told me to give it a quick read before sorting through the weekend newspapers.
Here at Traveller (I love saying that) we keep all the past week’s newspapers. Each time a new paper comes out, we replace the old one and so on and so forth. With it just being the weekend I had to sort through Saturday, Sunday and Monday’s papers, taking out all of the supplements (especially the Travel Supplements) and putting them into their relevant slots. After sorting through all of these, it was post time! I sorted the post into the separate piles necessary for a smooth distribution. This was a great way of learning everyone’s names. Everyone was really nice as I was giving out the post, asking how long I will be here, what I will be up to etc. After doing the post, I had a little mini-tour of our floor, saw where all the old magazines are stored, visited the travel library and learnt how to operate my new best friend; The Photocopier.
Alice had some work to be getting on with so she went to do that at her desk near mine, whilst I had a more thorough look at the Work Experience Handbook. It’s quite good really, and with the assistance of this I began sorting through the mass of emails which come into Condé Nast Traveller daily. There were so many competition entries that I had to divide into winners and losers, tons of press releases that I needed to forward to the correct editors, and a mass of work experience, writing, photography and illustration enquiries. It made me think, ‘You want to work here, and I’m actually here!’ A little like a celebrity I guess!
Before I knew it, it was already 12:30pm, so I had to run some post down to the mailroom (where the men cannot speak English and are so mean I bet they wouldn’t even if they could!) Also, I met an absolute bitch in the elevator on the way back up. She pressed number five whilst I pressed six, and feeling a little more confident than earlier I asked, ‘What is on the fifth floor?’ This is how the conversation went;
‘Vogue. And the fifth?’
‘And you work there?’ (This was asked with a disbelieving look on her face.
‘I am interning for the next three weeks.’
‘Oh me too. Iloveitit’samazinglikejustthismorningeveryoneinmyofficewastalkingaboutLondon fashionweekandiwaslikeohmygodi’mreallyhere.’ And then she got out of the elevator. Yes, I’m really enjoying my placement so far too, thanks for asking. Cow.
Anyway, I sorted through a couple more emails and then jogged off for my lunch at around one-ish.
There is a lovely little sushi bar right next to Vogue House, so I popped into there, even though I am on the Special K diet until the end of October. I treated myself to some Edamame beans with a sweet chilli dressing, called my mom and boyfriend to let them know that Condé Nast is nowhere near as grim as my first impression had led me to believe, wandered around the leafy square before going straight back to work. An hour long lunch break is too long when you love your job! And you know, as I walked back the sun was shining and there were tons of fashionable London people bustling around, and for some reason, Vogue House looked so much more glamorous.
I went back ten minutes early, and got back to work, looking through, forwarding, responding to and deleting emails as necessary. I looked over the old Work Experience Handbook to see if there were any tips or tricks that hadn’t been mentioned in the new one, and a piece of advice for what to do if you are bored occupied my next hour or so. Not that I was bored, I just felt like I had completed one task and wanted to move onto another, so I began going through the piles of magazines which have been popped onto the ‘recent areas of interest’-type pile. I removed anything older than a couple of months and filed them with their even older counterparts (or ‘back-issues’ as we call it in the magazine world), and then organised the remaining magazines into piles according to their general topic, such as food, travel, fashion, politics, economics etc.
I bet Alice must have thought me an idiot, as this took so long. Alice is the editors PA, also known as the Editorial Assistant. I think that basically makes her the second most important person at the whole magazine, as she seems to be the only one who the editor (Sarah Miller) ever talks to. Plus, her name is second in the list of names in the magazine masthead, so that has to count for something, right? Considering she looks so young, she seems to have gone far already. She is my idol. Haha.
And here I am now. Just about to pop the last bits of mail for today into the mailroom before having a mooch over the magazine. I have emailed Matt Buck from the photography team already to compliment his work on the Gothenburg Sweden feature in next month’s edition, and he has offered to let me shadow him a little; no I don’t want to be a photographer, but there is much more to his job than that as he told me in his response email so I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him on Thursday when I return to London. No experience is a bad experience. Or is that supposed to be publicity . . .
Well, whatever.
The only thing that I’m not too keen on is the fact that the office is so quiet! It’s that quiet that you can hear other people holding their breath, just so they don’t break the streak of hush. Matt even joked when I mentioned it and said that our office is known as the Silent Witness. At least I think he was joking.
Just before the end of the day I will print off the last few ‘Where are you now?’ competition entries, and put them into the correct boxes, giving each reader an equal chance at winning a holiday in Thailand. Lucky them!
Anyway, it is off to Birmingham for two days now, so as I flick my computer off and clean my desk, I kind of marvel at the way that the day has turned out, and I hope that every day will be as dream-worthy.

Top Ten Ways to Get Over 'The One'

So the worst thing that could probably ever have happened in the world EVER has just happened; you must change your Facebook status to ‘Single’. For whatever reason, your relationship is over. Perhaps you made the decision, or maybe you were the one who has been ‘dumped’, or better still it may have been what they refer to as ‘mutual’. Well, no matter what the terms of this hairy situation were, it is likely that you are feeling a little fragile, doubtful and maybe even *gasp* desperate! Well, don’t grab for the pills just yet. Give this a quick read and follow my top ten ways to get over ‘The One’.
1) Go cold turkey
This is the biggie, the one that no-one wants to hear, but trust you’re Auntie Gabbi; it’s for the best. Your time is precious, and the way you handle the next few days may be critical. The last thing you need it to be trying to juggle through the absolute mind-blag that is two people’s feelings. Being the first to get in touch after a break up when you really aren’t over it yet shows weakness. The guilt caused by your hyperventilation over the phone at four AM almost invites the other to ‘dangle the carrot’ and screw with your vulnerable mind; a danger which you need to avoid at all costs in your fragile state. What’s a relationship built on guilt anyway? Plus, even if you got back together, you would be constantly at the mercy of the other, which isn’t the way ‘love’ is supposed to be. It is difficult, but it will be worth it once the whole nightmare is over. You know I’m right. So turn off your cell phone already!
2) Organise your thoughts and just feel
So it sounds really sad and eighties to sit and write about how them coming back to you ‘is against the odds’ and that’s what you’ve ‘got to face’. However, I reckon Phil Collins had it right, because this really helps! Sit and type a letter. Just let the words flow without you really thinking about it, until you can’t think of anything more to say. Write down everything you want to other to know. Then save it. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT send them a copy of this letter for at least a week, by which point you will have had time to add to it, take away from it and in some cases, realise how pathetic it is. The great thing about doing all this is that no matter how messed up you have become during the ordeal, you will be able to make sense of your thoughts and learn some home truths. Nothing is going to change over-night, but perseverance is so worth it.
3) If you need to cry, cry
If you have to cry out loud and have mucus pouring all down your face with your make-up looking more smudged than one of those creepy clowns . . . then you have to go for it. Keeping it in is never going to help, although you must remember that your eyes aren’t like a bottle of vodka where once it is empty there’s none left. Fresh tears will creep up on your when you least expect it. They will come from your eyes, your heart, your head, your lungs, your stomach, everywhere. And this is why you need to embrace this and learn to control it after a while. There is one condition to this; set aside time to be upset, like you would with revision or exercise and don’t let it over-run. You have to take care of yourself and be practical. Don’t ‘let yourself go’.
4) Don’t alienate people who are trying their best
Why can’t your mom come up with anything more comforting that fish-related metaphors? What makes your work colleague think that ‘slutting it up’ is going to make the pain go away? And why doesn’t your best friend realise that the love you had is nothing like what she shared with an ugly chav when she was sixteen years old? Well, it’s hard to believe but they really are trying. Be patient, gracious and strong. Tell them that you will take their advice on board, and you’ll get in touch soon; keep conversations like this brief and to the point, in order to prevent the use of aggressive four letter words. When you are ready to talk to them, they will be there to listen, but for now, you need to learn to comfort yourself.
5) If you don’t want to eat or sleep, then don’t . . . for no longer than three days
This may sound like horrific advice, but I think it is genius. Something has epically changed in your life and you need to acknowledge this. Now, let me make this clear; if you are hungry, eat and if you fall asleep from the exhaustion of crying for the past 29 hours, then don’t beat yourself up over it. However, your body may feel so full of tears that you can’t physically stomach your breakfast cereal, and your mind might work on overdrive for so long that it’s time for work at 9am before you know it. You actually might not want to sleep because you are scared to wake up in the morning and realise that it wasn’t all a nightmare . . . and that is fine for a short period of time. Just make sure you are drinking a lot of fluids, and that you aren’t consciously denying yourself what you need. You’re body will usually automatically go into survival mode, explaining why you might not be hungry or sleepy. But this will not last forever, and even if after three days your appetite and sleep pattern have not returned to normal, you MUST force it. Slowly at first, drink soup and eat toast and close your eyes for a couple of hours at night. You have to take care of yourself; people will just think you are pathetic if you become an insomniac anorexic because of a break-up.
6) Remember that you are still as awesome as you were before
This is vital to your recovery! Remember that everything that was great about you when you were still ‘us’ still stands. Perhaps you have a great sense of humour, or you are intelligent or a great artist. Remind yourself that your ex didn’t give you these talents; you were born with them, so they cannot be taken away by mere heartbreak (although they may temporarily become invisible). So make a funny video by yourself, launch yourself into your studies or paint a pretty picture. Which leads me to my next point . . .
7) Have a new project
Find something which excites you! Try that pole-dancing class you’ve always wanted to go to, boost your CV with amazing work experience and volunteering, take up a new instrument, make yourself a reading list or even plan a holiday. The world is quite literally your oyster. We are young and fresh enough to be able to have dreams and achieve them, especially when you don’t have some un-ambitious loser dragging you down. Realise your potential, make goals and shoot for the stars. This will keep you busy, and hopefully give you a new skill and teach you some new lessons which you wouldn’t have learnt before.
8) Pamper your mind, body and spirit
So for the first few days, it is totally OK to think ‘I’m a fat, ugly pig, it’s no wonder my ex doesn’t want me . . . no-one else ever will’ and then begin with a fresh bout of tears all over again . . . But then . . . GET OVER IT! Remember a time when you have felt really beautiful, or when you’ve received a lovely compliment. Embrace how you felt when you got that and aim for it again. If you’re memory is feeling mellow and comfortable then try a yoga class. What if you felt your sexiest after a massage? Treat yourself; it’s only a one-off after all. Give yourself a facial, get some fresh air, dance around the room, spend an hour on your make-up and a million on a dress and just be! The best thing I can say, is an old cliché. Write a list of as many things as you can think of that you love about the way you look, love and think. You can write as long a list as you want, but it must have at least three items on it. Pin it up and repeat the items over and over to yourself whenever you are feeling sad or lonely. And learn to cuddle yourself!
9) Learn who you are and who you can be without your IN-significant other
You are your own person. If you want to move to New York and pursue a career as an artist, then do it. If you’ve always fancied charity work in Honduras, plan it and go. What if you’ve been dying to work in Disney World since you were twelve years old? Follow in my footsteps and freaking apply! You’ve quite literally got nothing to lose, and now is a time to realise your dreams before you get to an age where you have to support your own family in achieving theirs. I know that my readers have more potential than they could even imagine, and I love them for that humbleness. But now is the only time in your life when it is totally excusable to feel over-confident, unrealistic and reckless. Just take care of yourself, and learn who you can be without your ex. You will grow!
10) Take your time
This is the big one. You don’t want to go clubbing with your mates or on the pull with your colleagues and you can’t imagine being with anyone else. So don’t! No-one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do. This experience is all about you, and you are going to work through this in your own time at your own pace. So take it easy. Don’t rush into anything that you might later regret and be true to yourself.
And if all else fails . . .
Realise that you were sedouched once again, and make a list of all the things you hate about the other. Not as healthy as my previous options, but this is the alcohol of the break-up-recovery world. You’re heart will fix. I promise!
Until next time

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Why We Should All Make the Most of the Time we Have with Our Grandparents . . .

What are the first few words you think of when you imagine your grandparents? Cute? Old? Generous even? Or how about some of the less forgiving titles we give to the old folk . . . Tight? Boring? Perhaps you might call them record breaking - not least because you come across as a broken record each time you tut and insist, 'You just can't take them anywhere.' But is this all they are?

You know, everything which we go through today, they went through years ago. And most of them came out at the other end. This fact in itself advocates just how much we shouldn't take them for granted. Can you imagine the amount of insight which can be drawn from the elderly? You may be broken-hearted, or struggling at school, or hating your job, thinking that it can't get any worse. Well, guess what. Our grandparents managed to solve these problems in their own ways WHILST dealing with the aftermath of a World War!

Basically, this Blog is here to remind everybody just how valuable our grandparents are.

I hate to hear people refer to pensioners as 'old biddies' or 'bags'. I mean, everyone can make a joke right? But when a genuine dislike for someone or something which they do manifests itself in a discrimination of age unfairly, I get really annoyed.

People should be judged on their personalities. The old cliché of 'it's what's on the inside that counts' was probably taught to us by our grandparents. Somewhat of an old-wives-tale, it is quite true. Somewhere out there, there is a grandfather who invented something amazing, a grandmother who was an amazing pianist, or both who co-wrote some Earth-shattering novel. It may seem to some that I am only referring to every one in a million, but I really am not. In the same way as we are destined for great things, each one of our grandparents will have achieved at least one inspirational thing in their long lives.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have at least one grandparent around should hear this message, and go out of our ways to give our grandparents the time of day.

And what if your grandparents are no longer around? What if they did something you weren't proud of? What if they died? Well, that's OK. The memories that us and others have of them and their lives can live on if we are tenacious enough not to forget, to consider their lives as we shape our own. From their mistakes and their successes to their lessons learned and their risks taken; each offers an opportunity to put new risks into practise, to make our own mistakes having learned how not to make theirs, to appreciate our successes and to deeper explore what they had interest enough in to sit and learn.

It has been proposed since my grandfathers death last month, that a hospital ward will be named after him since he was one of the leading consultants in his prime. Despite his absence now, I know that I will always remember with pride his conscientiousness, pro-activity and selflessness in his better moments, because the short times that I spent with him and my beautiful Abuela were made the most of. The times I spent sitting around his feet, listening to his stories, asking him questions, learning Spanish songs with my Abuela and bonding over the return of fashions from her day feature some of the most consciously present in my mind. I wont make the same mistakes they made, I will use the solutions which they arrived to after problematic situations in my own life and each time I will know why this is best.

We will ALL be old one day. Unless of course we are unfortunate enough to die a young death. So next time you are driving behind an old lady and she is going a little slower than you would like, have a little patience. She probably knows more, has seen more and has experienced more than you will until you are her age. Have respect.

Send my love to your grandparents if they are still around. If not, then say a prayer. I'm sure that if they can hear it, they will appreciate it. They wont be around for ever you know, and when they eventually pass it will be a lot easier to deal with if you know enough about them to allow them to live on in the choices you make, the decisions you take and ultimately, your heart.

Don't allow yourself to get dragged into the trap of regret when it is too late. For a final old-wives-tale, you really don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Much Love

Sunday, 4 April 2010

What is beautiful?

Something which has changed so much over the years, beauty is something which virtually every girl in the world in the history of the world has striven for. The ideal 16th Century woman would have had a pear shape; flat chest, tiny waste, larger lower half emphasised further by enormous hooped skirts and what has since been referred to as a 'bum roll'. The Victorians adored a full-figure on a woman, denoting good health and more importantly, the ability to bear healthy boys. The rest of the 19th Century saw women faint regularly after being poured into whale-bone corsets in order to achieve the standard 'beautiful' wasp shaped waist and hips at the same time as a generous looking bosom. In the twenties, girls would sport bound material around their breasts and drop waisted dresses with high hopes of appearing androgynous and being considered an attractive 'flapper'. Bras didn't really become popular until around the 1940's, and when they did the main idea was for them to lift and enhance the breasts, as opposed to the support and hiding-place for which bras are more frequently used today. The 1950's saw what some still refer to as the sexiest woman in history; Marilyn Monroe. She was not peach, but quite the contrary. With a healthy BMI of 20, today Good Ol' Marilyn would have been considered a 'big girl'. And then we retreated again to the waif-like skinny malinky body sported by the likes of Twiggy in the 60's, Kate Moss in the 90's and most models today.

But what is beautiful? What is the 'perfect body'?

There are those who will insist (because they are uncomfortable in their own skin, or quite simply, fat) that a thin girl is unattractive, child-like or just plain gross. They might say, 'Urgh, she's just skin and bones' about a gorgeous girl who would still feature in the healthy BMI group.
There are those who will look at a size 16 and say 'Oh thank God I'm not there yet'.

How about those who are healthy AND happy? They are few and far between.

But ideally, this is how we should all be. BMI stands for Body Mass Index; a calculation which determined whether a person has a healthy weight measurement for their height. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9 and I have a BMI of around 23. A little too far into the 'healthy' category, but healthy none the less. Am I happy? In general, yes. With my body, no.

And I'm not the only one.

Why might this be? They say it's the fault of the media, you know, the eating disorder epidemic which appears to have overtaken the young female population. But I think we need to be more specific. Can the fashion industry be fairly blamed for the fact that teenage girls are eating nothing but two pots of baby-food a day? Or for the eleven-year-old swallowing one too many laxatives? Perhaps not, however, the fashion industry as it stood before questions of body image arose did not help the situation.

Whether or not 'clothes look better on a skinnier model' is true, the fact of the matter remains that if these companies limited their products solely to tiny sizes, then the majority of their profits would vanish, because the majority of women AREN'T a size zero. In fact, the most common dress size in the UK is a well-rounded 14. Surely these companies owe us, the majority, enough respect to allow a fair representation on the runway. We don't want to hear that the clothes we are buying would hang better on us if we were size zeros!!!

Don't get me wrong, I know that some people are naturally thin. Fast metabolisms and what not. And if this applies to you, then congratulations; you have what thousands of women would die for. And do. And that is what I am against.

What with all the pressures of teenage life today, school, friends, parents, the last thing we need are health conditions. From depression to fertility problems later in life plus everything in between, those who fall prey to such a condition, such an addiction should have nothing more than their homework and getting out of that dinner with your parents uncool friends.
Healthy should be key. And following much media attention various fashion houses and magazines are beginning to consider what are now referred to as 'full-figured' or 'plus-sized' thanks especially in my honest opinion to the appearance of the confident and inspirational 'big, black, beautiful and LOVING IT' Toccara Jones on prime-time television show popular amongst most young ladies, America's Next Top Model.

Obviously this is a great step, however, it does lead me to wonder, what about the in-betweenies? Those of us who wouldn't be considered waif-like, or plus-sized. Our strong presence is yet to be seen in the fashion industry, but it is on its way.

So can I suggest that everyone who hates their body as much as I do, goes and finds their BMI? Most of you will fall into the 'healthy' BMI category as did I. And if you do, then that is great! If not, then don't worry. We are all different right? Don't go about dieting in order to get down to a size. Do it healthily to get down to a healthy BMI. Small changes in the life of those with a BMI of '24.9 plus' such as cutting out fizzy drinks and walking for twenty minutes a day present a great start.

We all know that we shouldn't eat burgers, or pizzas, or ice-cream. We shouldn't drink alcohol and coffee and fizzy drinks. We shouldn't spend hours sitting in front of the TV, playing video games or ahem, blogging. But you know what my mom always told me when I was shoving my face with Easter eggs earlier on today, 'Everything in moderation, Sweet'.

So, what is the point of this Blog post? The point is, that I think that your healthy body is beautiful. It is natural and it is you and honestly, you are never going to be able to change it that drastically, especially not over a short amount of time. So kiss your skin! It keeps everything that makes you quintessentially you inside.

And I promise I'll kiss mine too.


How It Feels the First Time You Experience an Unanticipated Disappointment . . . and why this is good.

You know how it feels when you want something bad, but deep down you know that there is a slim chance? Then you don't get it but it's OK because you knew how unlikely it was. You go on to choose another dream and forget the last. Perhaps a feeling most associated with the thousands who queue up at an X Factor audition each year.

Well. This is different. What I am blogging about today is almost identical to the situation described above. The only alteration? There is not a slim chance. In fact, there is all the chance in the world. You are made for the opportunity and there is nothing to suggest that the perfection with which you and this opportunity are soul-mates can be combated. And then it all goes wrong. Just when you think that you are finally going to get what you deserve it gets torn from your hands, and torn from your heart. You are expected to crawl back into your shell and choose something else to believe in. But the shock, pain and lack of faith in yourself, the opportunity and others will never fade.

This blog is about dealing with that disappointment, growing from it and preventing such a thing from happening again in all ways possible.

So why am I so bitter? What happened to me?

Sierra Leone.

Please, allow me to explain.

Throughout high school I went on a journey, like all teenagers should. I arrived in year seven, fresh, bushy tailed, and excited to get stuck in. By year eight I was every teacher and parents nightmare. My two friends and I organised a homework copying operation, I was spending hours on the internet each night away from my parents and swearing at our Deputy Headmistress. This went on until around the end of year nine and it got so bad that the mother of this weird cult girl from my year actually approached my parents and told them that she was PRAYING for me. They were flattered. Not.

But then I had my epiphany. I don't know what did it, but all of a sudden I just . . . cared about things. I cared about my future, my family, the world, everything. And that's when it began I guess. If any of my teachers needed someone to do them a favour, I volunteered. I was polite to everyone, performing regularly in my schools choirs and orchestras (even playing the tambourine for a whole concert), and doing anything I could for charity. I wanted to be an 'all rounder' and I know that it wasn't going to be easy, but so what? I'm gutsy, I have passion about what I want to do and I'm definitely not afraid to work for it. I wanted to be the ultimate Little Miss Perfect.

The day it was announced in assembly that a group of teachers were going out to Sierra Leone to assess whether or not it would be safe, productive and enjoyable for a group of sixth formers to visit a year later, I got a fire in my belly. I wanted to be on that trip. I want to help people, touch people, change their lives for the better. Luckily, my two best friends felt the same way. Following our vigorous campaigning the year before to keep our school open (a ridiculous governmental scheme suggested physically merging our high achieving school with a lesser school in the area, in order to 'share' our 'success') which involved doing interviews for newspapers, keeping the school in the public eye and most importantly rallying the school to fight, we knew some of the steps which we could take in order to raise funds for the trip!

For two weeks we continuously spent every waking moment presenting assemblies, reminding everyone to bring in at least one old mobile phone and liaising with a company who promised us a lot of money in exchange for them. Handing over a cheque for £1500 felt amazing, I mean, imagine how much that can help people! For weeks and weeks afterwards, all the way up until the interviews for the trip, me and my two friends did virtually everything we could for the cause bake sales, talent shows, own clothes days. You name it, we did it.

Interview week rolled round and the obstacle presented itself. Despite becoming more popular amongst teachers over the past couple of years, there was one which I was never going to win over. The head of Religious Studies, my old best friends aunt had never liked me, by association with my friend. Family politics which I will never truly understand, but these politics resulted in the emotional instability (as I liked to refer to it) which consumed this teacher. She hated me. Seriously. And with no good reason; she had never even taught me. Sure, we had had a run in a couple of months earlier when she insisted during the battle to save the school that we would not give our annual rendition of the school song at our Christmas Carol Service, because she said that Christmas was a time to put aside the campaign. Because she is such a good Catholic. Despite the fact that she cheated on her husband with another teacher at the school. Just saying.

Unsurprisingly, it was organised that her and two other teachers would be conducting my interview, which naturally unnerved me, but didn't concern me. I figured, there is no way that they couldn't send me on the trip . . . I have worked so hard for it . . . it is my passion to alleviate the poverty, the war, the sadness which the people of Sierra Leone endure each day . . . I just have to prove it.

My interview went well. Honestly it did.

We all know that we should never be arrogant, and take anything for granted. We shouldn't expect things but accept them with a smile when they happen. Whilst trying my hardest to remember this, I still felt that there was no way I could be turned down. I thought that they couldn't possibly refuse me, because if they did, they would have to give a bloody good reason for it. A reason which I was convinced (and secretly still am) they didn't have.

And yet they got away with it. Despite the promise that they would take a larger group than they eventually chose, they still didn't choose me. Talk about a kick in the teeth. 'We did have more places, but we just didn't think you are good enough' is basically what they were saying to me. They took my two friends. But they eventually got a taste of my disappointment later on the same year, when one was not selected as a senior prefect and the other, who was an unquestionable shoo in for Head Boy was overlooked. That's the really sad thing. Parents send their children into schools which promise to nurture their children's talent, provide a 'family' or a 'god-like' love for all students and ensure their well-being, and yet the pathetic politics which go on each day crush the souls of those gullible enough to believe that anything can be so perfect.
I cried like my heart was breaking. How could this be happening? I did everything right. It was all so unfair.

I actually left school that day and spent the rest of the day at home. I felt like nobody could understand how I felt. I couldn't share it with my friends because they were both so happy. How bad is that? I was so gutted, that I couldn't even be happy for them. That is me being honest.

Completely and utterly.

However. It wasn't all doom and gloom.

From this disappointment, I learnt one of the best lessons which will stick with me for life. It's true what they say; the best friends are those who are with you in both your highs AND your lows.

My true friends all came through that week; my parents nursed me, my boyfriend brought me flowers and chocolates and let my cry until my tear ducts had dried up. The best thing was that when I went to school the next day, each of my teachers could not seem to find the words to express their sadness in my sadness, and their shock. They were there for me and made it a thousand times easier for me to wander the corridors which I had once danced down in excitement at the prospect of making a positive change in the world.

I felt betrayed by the headmistress. I think I always will really, because she virtually promised me and my friends the trip. I guess that only breaking one out of three promises was fine in her mind.

Numerous excuses were made as to why I hadn't got on the trip. Each of which was an insult to my intelligence. 'You are too passionate and we felt that you wouldn't follow instructions regarding your safety' was just one of many. Ah yes, because it is much better for them to have sent at least four people who had previously shown virtually no interest.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that to actually experience something like that trip is life-changing and each of the lucky people who got the opportunity came back to England as better people than they were when they left. They put smiles on the faces of numerous people, sharing hope and love with them, letting them know that there are people halfway across the world who care.

I just wish that I'd had that opportunity.

Selfish right? I mean, the job got done, I just didn't get to do it. If I was so interested in the cause, it wouldn't have mattered whether it was me or my friend or someone undeserving who got to provide the comfort which the people of Sierra Leone so need. So maybe I'm a bad person.

But let's save that for another blog.

The point of this little 'care-and-share' session right here is for me to let everybody know that there will be disappointments in life. It is full of them. You will work had one day and a reward will seem like a sure thing. And then you wont get it.

But we shouldn't let this knowledge impair our enjoyment of completing the favours which we used to complete, or wearing our hearts on our sleeves, or even going for our passions. Before the trip, I went about everything all wrong. I did some things, some favours because I wanted to. Because I enjoyed doing them. But I did others because I wanted people to give me what I so deserved; basically, because I had a motive.

I want to share the little insight that I got from this disappointment with my readers; you should have enough faith in your value to not need to go completely out of your way, brown-nosing.
Following this big mess I got into a new routine. I called it the 'Do what YOU want to do' routine. It involved me helping the teachers that I loved, and sacking off the teachers which I didn't. I saw my new goals and I went for them. Each of these goals relied on myself, and only myself. From A Levels to solo performances, I had the power to choose whether or not it would work for me.

I chose that it WOULD work for me.

And so it has ever since. I have my causes which I support, I check in with my old teachers, I work hard. And I do it all because I want to.

So what do you want? Whatever it is, go after it, and be in control. The disappointments will be less frequent and when they do occur, they will feel more justified if they were self-inflicted rather than disasters enforced by petty hypocrites who just adore throwing their weight around.

Take control. And let me know how it goes.

Love as always


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Why Every 16 Year Old Should Go Out and Get A Job that they HATE. . .

My first boss was an absolute beast. And I mean beast. I was only sixteen and it was the end of the summer before I went to Sixth Form. About a ten minute walk from my place there is a garden centre which has three food service locations; a lovely Italian restaurant, a panini-serving cafe and a canteen style counter-service joint. Since I was about 13 I had waited for the end of GCSE's so that I could go and apply to become a waitress at the Italian and when the time finally came I handed in a CV with high hopes of how great it would be when I was earning my own money, waiting on lovely (hopefully tipping) customers and having more responsibility. Little did I know that I was volunteering to spend 9 months of my life being treated like a slave by my evil boss-to-be.
Despite applying for the Italian restaurant the boss (or Nazi) decided to put me forward for the canteen with the promise that, 'When a position comes available, you'll be the first person that I'll call'. Yeah right. Each Saturday and Sunday for the following seven months of my life were spent working from 9 until 5 with NO break, being bossed around by the bosses daughter who was almost as vile as she was, working with people who had no prospects in life, being barked at and pressured down the phone to go to work when I had a terrible bout of tonsillitis and patiently waiting for my dream job.
It may sound like I put the Italian restaurant on a pedestal, but seriously, it was so classy! Despite having the same boss, the staff seemed much happier and more valued than anybody working in our hell hole. They were even granted regular breaks! So when I found that a friend of mine had just been hired there, I decided to take a stand. You know what they say, if you don't ask then you don't get.
So during my next shift I went to the boss and asked her politely if she had 'forgotten' that I wanted to work in the Italian. I eloquently stated that I had proven that I could work hard, and be committed, and had what it took to wait on tables and then I said, 'I really want to be moved since that is what you promised me when I started here.' Still to this day I don't know where those guts came from, because the woman terrified me. However, I considered myself blessed when she smiled sweetly and said, 'No problem, of course I can move you. All I want you to do is to go home tonight . . .' and then she dropped the bomb '. . . and memorise this menu. If you pass the quiz that I'll give you tomorrow then the job is yours.'
I think that deep down I knew then and there that I needed to get out of this job. She knew that it was the Easter holidays before my GCSE's and that I needed to revise, yet she still put that pressure on me. I guess it was her way of seeing where my loyalties lay.
To cut a long story short, I passed her little quiz the next day. And she still didn't move me to the Italian restaurant. She explained, 'When a position comes available of course we will move you' and when I tried to argue my point she dismissed me and walked off. That was the lowest point. I just wanted to cry.
So what did I do? I sat my GCSE's and spent my study leave and a month afterwards earning and saving hard. Despite hating the place, once my GCSE's were over I worked five days a week whilst organising myself another job - I knew at least that way even if I couldn't find something else that I would have savings that would keep my summer fun.
Luckily, my dad decided to open a milkshake bar, The Hippy Hippy Shake Company, in which he gave me, my boyfriend and a couple of my friends a job, and it was in that part-time job that I worked for the next two years, whilst also doing a Christmas stint at The Disney Store and doing casual work for a catering company.
Even now, three years later, I have yet to experience a job which I hated as much a my first. But I have also yet to experience a job from which I have learned so many life lessons. The life lessons to which I refer are as follows . . .

1) How to prioritise my life. I believe that I was treated so badly there because I had prospects in life. Because I only worked two days a weeks I would always hear snidey comments, from both the boss and her daughter about how I was a 'smarty-pants' or a 'performer' solely because I worked hard at school and made the mistake of singing solo in a concert when my boss was in the audience. When she found out that I had Wednesdays afternoons off from Sixth Form she insisted that I should be working and not revising; a suggestion which even I could see was ridiculous.
2) How to work hard. For nine months I only had about five days off from Sixth Form or work. Nine months worth of working solidly, in a job that I hated, for a woman who I despised. If that isn't what they call 'character building' then I don't know what is. At least now, most things that I do aren't anywhere near as bad as the hell of working there.
3) How to put things into perspective. If I was so depressed working in a middle-class garden centre, serving classy people deli style food, being paid around £5.20 an hour, I realised in how much worse conditions others in this world work in and I felt lucky.
4) How to know when enough is enough. For nine months I stuck it out primarily because I didn't want to be a quitter. And I definitely didn't want to be sacked. I remember that one week I asked if two weeks later I could work only on the Saturday because I had a wedding to attend on the Sunday and I was told that it would be no problem. That Saturday, I showed up at work at the usual time having checked the rota the week before to confirm that my request had been fulfilled. When I went to sign in I noticed that they had for some reason switched my day to the Sunday. The fear that I felt when I knew that I had to make the boss aware of her 'error' struck through me life a bolt of lightening. I was convinced that she would sack me. Fortunately all she did that day was send me home (which did mean that I earned NO money that weekend) and I considered myself lucky. However, after all nine months I didn't care what people thought. I knew my parents wouldn't be let down because they knew how upset I was, my friends would congratulate me and my teachers, the people who I really wanted to respect me and take me seriously, wouldn't even know. So I ended it.
5) How to confront a fear. This is the best lesson I learned from my first job. The day that I went in to quit I knew exactly how I was going to do it. This was the day that I had practised for weeks, months even. I did not go to my boss. Oh no. I went to her boss. In person. And when I stated, 'I just wanted to let you know that I wont be working here any more,' he asked 'Oh, Gabriella! But why? You are one of our most committed members of staff!' It took me mere seconds to justify what was going on. 'My boss is a bully and I have too much self respect to work beneath her any longer.'

And it is for this reason that I got three A's at A Level, am now reading English Language and Literature at the University of Birmingham and are destined for great things, whilst she is still doing a Saturday job for a living.
So if even I can come out of such a terrible experience with so many positive life lessons then I can only imagine what my readers can learn! The things we do right now will shape our lives forever, create our CV's and mould us into the movers and shakers of the world. So no matter where you want to go or what you want to do, remember that almost every doctor, actress, accountant and recording artist out there started as a fast-food server, bar-maid or car-washer. So get out there and learn some of what they DON'T teach you in school!

See you in your successful future!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Letter from the Blogger . . .

When I was around seven years old I was convinced that I would have five different jobs and this is the way I would organise them; on a Monday I would be a policewoman, challenging criminals all over the world; Tuesday I would work with NASA occasionally going on space missions when my other jobs allowed me a week or two off; each Wednesday I would perform in a Cirque du Soleil show as a trapeze artist and ballerina on alternate weeks; I always thought of Thursday as a day to get things done, so naturally I would be a event co-ordinator - weddings, parties and corporate dinners all would be in my repertoire of planned occasions; and finally, Fridays would be the days when I would edit my magazine.

All of this I would do whilst having three children who play a sport and instrument each (at least) and a husband who would have a career as equally fulfilling as my own.

Naturally, since then my wishes have become slightly more realistic however, the same amount of ambition which I possessed when I was a mere seven years old has prevailed until now.

I have a firm belief in numerous clichés - if you don't ask you don't get, you have to watch your back because no-one will watch it for you and what goes around comes around. These are the three sayings which I attempt to remember each day.

Success is what most people are after. Of course no-one got anywhere good without taking a couple of tumbles along the way as it is from these tumbles that we learn how to get it right. This is what Haute Future and I strive for. Getting the tumbles out of the way, and becoming successful enough to keep a family, contribute regularly to charities and allow oneself a couple of luxuries here and there by the time I am ready for such responsibilities.

It is my belief that it is the whole person and not only one factor which makes this possible. A person should be well informed on everything from famous historical dates to pop-culture. They should dress well and read the newspapers. They should find an opportunity in everyday life to learn, but they should also be prepared to pass on the knowledge which they acquire.

In four words; I want it all. And I want it for all my readers also.

Watch this space,