Monday, October 27, 2014

What do you love?

It’s a wonderful experience to discover something you enjoy. A passion so deep and meaningful, that you focus on little else. It could be a childhood talent or a pipe dream, many could love it, or only you it would seem. When you tell your loved ones of this magical pursuit, they may not be convinced by the reasoning behind it. But be sure to remember, this is something YOU adore. So don’t hold back, commit yourself, and get all that you could ask for.

You may like making music, something quirky and unique, or climbing Kilimanjaro until you reach its peak. Maybe you find life’s fulfilment in the written word, or anything but travel may appear totally absurd. All the beauty in the world is vast, it may not last, but until then we can add it to our past, have a blast, and pray that life will make sense fast. 

You may find your love requires talent that you don’t yet possess. You’ll sit and wallow in self-pity, feeling like a total mess. Worry little and pursue it nonetheless. If all you have is passion, you can work on all the rest. If it’s something you want bad enough then you will find success. 

Be it skydive, singing live or learning to jive; there is so much more to living, than just keeping yourself alive. Some dreams may require that much more persistence, but bear in mind that this pursuit will define your very existence. So demand and scream and shout like a petulant child. For without this passion of yours, life will remain rather bland and mild. 

You could find that it pays badly, doing what you love. Performing in the street to a crowd of distant strangers, who seem to soften when they have assessed all of the dangers, realising they won’t be robbed of hard earned cash, they stop and watch the talent that you stash, away, like today is New Year’s day. The majestic brilliance that flows from what you do, money matters little when your passion drives you. A guitar box filled with pennies is the price you pay to pursue, a dream that wraps you up and tells you it’s your cue. 

Sometimes life will knock you back, it could be because of something specific that you lack, or just a cheap attack. It will hurt for a moment; you may struggle to find your feet. But never for one second should you admit defeat. Life will close the door, it will smash you in the face, it’s yelling at you to work harder, try picking up the pace. 

Giving up is not unheard of; many people quit. It may not have been a passion, more a momentary sit, on a hobby you liked a bit, but didn’t want to admit, that you hadn’t found your true calling but just a spur of the moment flit. When you do it will be magical, radical, fanatical. Like a star shooting across the night, the sight of tribal warriors or a caveman finding light.

We can all get what we want, if we stop being so afraid. Rejection, failure, dismay it’s all part of the game. Pretending to be happy while you’re working nine to five may pay off all your debts but only to survive. To live is more than breathing and filling in the gaps, it’s finding love and happiness in everything, perhaps? For me, I need a journey, some travel or a quest. 
Find what you enjoy, pursue it, forget the rest.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Positive vibes

It’s October, which means no more travelling to exotic destinations, no more picnics in the sun, no more lounging by the ocean in a bikini and certainly no more daily ice cream trips without being judged. I expected to feel a certain degree of nostalgia for the summer I just had and for the workload of university life to hit me like a tonne of bricks (similar to this time last year). Strangely enough, I’m still waiting for the anxiety to kick in because so far the only feelings I have acknowledged are ambition, motivation and complete and utter excitement.

I am paying an extortionate amount of rent; I have six essays due and three books that I had to have read by last Monday. I don’t know for sure when I am going to see Jake next and I have absolutely no foundations laid down for when I graduate in nine months time. I should be panicked, but I can’t wait. 

These positive vibes I have woken up to every morning could fade over the next couple of weeks, or even days, but I am embracing them while they last. I can see where I want to be and I know how to get there. I have never been so enthusiastic about learning – which may have something to do with me picking the most incredible courses this year. 

It’s clear now that university is a learning curve; you discover what you like, whom you like and similarly, what you cant stand. I’ve grown up so much, almost without realising and I can’t wait to see where I am come graduation.

Seize the day
H x


Wednesday, October 15, 2014


A small European Island in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a mix of tropical oceans and a traditionally European culture. It is interesting to note the strange mix of typically Eastern European traditions and British influences. They drive on the left side of the road, in right hand drive cars. A large proportion of the population speak perfect English, as well as road signs, supermarket labels and restaurant menus also all presented in our mother tongue. I believe Jake heard a regular visitor say on the airport transfer that ‘everything they do here will confuse you’, and I can understand what he meant.

Jake and myself spent two weeks on the beautiful Island and managed to do a surprising amount of travelling considering our restrictions on both time and money. Added to the fact that both of us wanted to sit back and relax for the final fortnight of summer. 

We spent the first week exploring Mellieha Bay, our choice of location for renting a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean, and experienced everything the town had to offer. Mellieha Bay is one of the few sandy beaches in Malta, which is surprising considering the country’s location. Its white sand and clear ocean however, makes it a very popular destination – particularly on the weekends when it’s rammed with both tourists and locals making the most of the sunshine. At the top of the hill you have Mellieha Church, a beautiful traditional Parish, which lights up when the sun goes down. 

One evening we embarked on a walk to St Agatha’s Tower (The Red Tower) and beyond to a scenic viewpoint, which is located further North of Mellieha, a 5.3km walk from where we were staying – and mostly uphill. The view of Mellieha on one side and the ocean on the other was worth every second of the tortuous walk however, as we sat at the top and watched the sun drop past the horizon. 

More adventures were embarked upon as we visited Popeye Village, a beautiful picturesque village but riddled with small children (not ideal when you don’t have any kids of your own). St Julian’s Bay, which was probably my favourite location on the Island of Malta, was filled with cafes, restaurants and a pathway to walk along the ocean all the way down to the capital city of Valletta. 

Valletta was a slight disappointment, not quite what one would expect from a capital city. It was made the capital after the war and today appears as the tourist centre for revenue and little else. Valletta lacks culture, what doesn’t however, is the old capital of Mdina. The Medieval town is surrounded by a large wall; making it a fortress with beautiful winding streets and horses pulling carriages around every corner. Whilst in Mdina we took the tourist train around the city and the neighbouring towns of Mtarfa and Rabat. For a history fanatic like myself, the train tour wasn’t worth the 4.50euro it cost. Lasting only 30 minutes meant whizzing past the main attractions at full speed and little historical knowledge being shared over the commentary. 

In terms of day drips, there are boats available from the north of Malta that can take you to both the Island of Comino and Gozo for a small fee. Time restrictions meant we were only able to visit Comino, which was tropically gorgeous and meant having a beach to ourselves for a few hours – before a boat brought crowds of tourists over.

Malta is beautiful and certainly worth a visit, we’re hopeful that a return trip will allow us to explore the Island of Gozo and all that it has to offer.

Find out everything else you need to know about the Island over at...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Army life | What it takes to be a soldier

James joined the British Army in June 2012. He endured the torture of basic training, the constant push to be faster, quicker, better, stronger. The separation from his family, friends and everything that was once a huge part of his life. I liked to believe that he was on a quest, a hunt to find some meaning in what was once a fairly average life. For James, it was all just an experience.

His Pass out Parade commenced in September 2012, he was officially a Royal Engineer. The past two years have been spent in Wales, Canada, Jordan and the UK (where he is currently based). As of yet, he has not been sent on tour – much to everyone’s delight, but that’s not to say the current crisis in Iraq won’t come calling at our door. 

When asked about his political awareness, James’ response was limited. You would expect that when someone has a chance of being sent into an armed conflict, they would take a note of everything running up to the event. You would think that they would be asking questions of our involvement, or their role. Army culture does little to encourage this, ‘boss says, I do’, appears to be the simple rhetoric. You see, the prospect of James being sent into a warzone for reasons that make little logical sense to him or myself is something that is, quite frankly, terrifying. 

Despite misconceptions of the Army as being a ‘bad boy boarding school’ for misfits trying to get straight – though I’m sure James would argue that this is quite true for many - it can produce some positive results. If you disregard the looming tour dates, the tabbing exercises until your feet have holes in them where skin once was and the full time job, which controls every aspect of your life; Army living can give as well as take. 

James has grown. Not physically (though he has got a lot fitter) but mentally. He’s become a lot more confident, he makes smarter decisions about his life and he’s learnt to push himself further than ever before. He has learnt the value of respect, granted this respect is not always aimed at his little sister (but then again what are big brothers for if not to wind you up on a daily basis). The stereotypical image of a large mob of squaddies hitting the town drunk and chatting up half naked girls isn’t the whole picture… it’s certainly not far off… but there is more to be told. 

The Army teaches you about limits. It eradicates the fear that stops you from leaving your comfort zone and pushes you until you crumble. It is only when you crumble, that you give value to what you have, and learn not to take it for granted. In this sense, James has been given a new perspective on life, on himself, and certainly on what he is capable of achieving. 

Now I know I am biased but James could achieve anything he put his mind to and as he’s grown over the last two years he has decided now is the time to leave and settle down. He wants stability and to begin thinking about one day starting a family. It is this kind of thinking that makes me realise how much he has changed over the last two years. When he joined he was just a kid - now he's become a man... and I couldn’t be prouder. 


Friday, October 03, 2014

Fake it until you make it

As people we are riddled with self-doubt. Constantly questioning our abilities and worrying over how we are perceived. There are exceptions to this rule, but sadly I am not one of them. I am fully aware of my limitations. I have faults, bad habits and I am far from perfect.

So when asked to walk into an office full of experienced editors and prove myself, to attend a one on one meeting with a Dame or sell myself in an interview – I find that I am overcome with panic.

PART 1: Walking like Beyonce

I spent two weeks of my summer working alongside the editorial team for a marketing and communications company in London. I was introduced to both the marketing and publishing side of the business in order to gain as much experience as I could. Being the new kid will always be daunting, having to introduce yourself to everyone at once, trying your hardest, and failing, to remember everybody’s name. Being actively engaged without pestering and finding the right balance between being helpful without getting in the way. 

On my first day I did what I am usually guilty of and built the whole scenario up in my head. I worried about trivial things like sweaty hands, a croaky voice and inappropriate clothing. I played out every situation from nobody speaking to me, to not being intelligent enough to understand the task I’ve been asked to complete. The elevator ride to the third floor felt like an hour and when it came time to walk into my new office for the first time, I could feel my legs about to give way. 

Within seconds my posture was upright, my face beamed a smile and I shook my first hand with firm confidence. “Hi, I’m Hollie” I echoed, “It’s nice to meet you”. Nobody would have guessed that seconds before I was having a nervous break down in the elevator. 

PART 2: Talking like Beyonce

I faced further challenges throughout my placement. One of my tasks was to phone a number of architectural companies and ask them if they had work to send us - it was free exposure so an easy sell. I spent all afternoon researching the companies I would be calling and the people I would be speaking to and saved the phone calls for the next day. 

The following morning however, I found myself continuously putting it off – the longer I waited the worse it got. I have spoken on the phone to many people before and even have the phrase ‘excellent telephone manner’ on my CV, but ringing companies I knew nothing about and a subject I had no knowledge of was unnerving. Eventually I wrote a brief script outlining exactly what I wanted to get across and bit the bullet. After one small dilemma of forgetting my own name, the whole task became much easier and I rang the rest of my contacts without hesitation – and mostly without my script. 

PART 3: Acting like Beyonce

My meeting with Dame Helen was arranged prior to me starting my placement. As my mother’s old boss (by old I mean over thirty years ago), I wrote her a letter with no expectation that it would progress further. Helen not only agreed to meet with me, she also asked around to find me a placement. The day before our meeting I began writing questions. I wanted to know everything – from what she studied at university to what life was like at the Economist. Her career is certainly one to be admired and during my journey up to the 8th floor, I was feeling slightly anxious. I kept reminding myself that Dame’s were people too, they sang along to the radio out of tune, they danced around their office when nobody was looking and got food stuck in their teeth. Strangely, these thoughts calmed me somehow. I still worried that I would say something silly or speak in another language (even though I am nowhere near to becoming bilingual). 

As I walked into her beautiful, immensely neat and well-arranged office with an incredible view over the city of London, I saw a smartly dressed woman beam a warm and welcoming smile in my direction. Within seconds, I was completely at ease. I breathed a sigh of relief and comfortably introduced myself (this time remembering my name). Helen broke the ice by chatting about my family and university before giving me the opportunity to bombard her with questions like a hungry journalist. 

It was an incredible opportunity to meet such an inspirational woman and has motivated me beyond belief to work toward my aspirations. 

PART 4: Believing you’re Beyonce

My final day was spent with two incredible ladies, who kindly agreed to help ‘fake interview’ me. I planned some answers to typical interview questions, which we went through together, before they asked me other questions they’ve been asked previously. They gave me many tips and told me how interviews are structured and what interviewers are generally looking for. This afternoon was certainly more informative than all the hours spent in the careers office. 

I myself have never been for an interview before so this was indeed an eye opener of what the process entailed. My biggest challenge was selling myself. Among friends, family and even strangers, we are taught modesty and composure. Most people have experienced being present when your mother is bragging about your achievements to a family friend – the overwhelming sense of embarrassment as you momentarily lose your cool. Interviews thus are a very strange concept. Modesty is thrust out of the window and you are beckoned to do your own bragging. You must sell yourself as well as the guy at the fruit market selling packs of bananas. This takes an enormous amount of confidence and if, like me, you are sometimes lacking that quality, then you are left with one alternative… fake it. 

Write a list of reasons why you excel, in the circumstance of an interview it would be reasons why you would be great for the job. If you are not yet ready to head to the interview room, then post-it notes around your mirror stating achievements you are proud of and qualities about yourself that you admire would be a good place to start. 

Confidence comes with practice and experience; the better you are at something the more likely you are to tell other people about it. Until that day arrives however, I guess we will just have to pretend.

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