My First Year As a Fully-Fledged Graduate (and the lessons I’ve learned)

This time last year, I was balancing freelance writing for multiple publications, a full-time post-graduate course, a couple of internships and the dreaded job search. Terrified of months without work, where my type-A personality could easily lose confidence in finding something, I ploughed through job applications, long train journeys to interviews and every devastating rejection call.

Then, in the middle of April, I clinched a copywriter role at a performance marketing agency in the centre of Edinburgh. In just two weeks, I uprooted my Glasgow life of 6 years and took up a room in a flatshare, glad of the new feeling of financial security but anxious about my now long-distance relationship and the potential loneliness of a new city.

Nearly 12 months has passed, and so much has changed. I flew through my last few weeks at university and then passed on my Masters dissertation to focus on my new job. Completely new to agency life and the foreign concept of SEO, I’m now far more knowledgeable and have taken on more responsibilities than I ever expected from the first career job. Mercifully too, my relationship survived the long-distance period and we now live together.

It’s not been easy though. After those crazy job search months last year, I somehow thought that once I got a role the stress would melt away. Instead, it continued, occasionally becoming so intense that I’d forget to breathe. My personal life has been fractious at times, and I’m constantly down on myself for not managing to keep up with my passion of film reviewing and writing as much as I’d like. A day away from my new website feels ridiculously like a badge of shame.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. I’m proud of my passionate nature, which still means that I really take things to heart and can make me excitable about silly things (Canadian dramas about horse ranches, for example). As I often try to tell my partner (but frequently fail to do so myself), it’s also important to recognise the big changes that can come in just a year, and to feel proud of them.

To combat those harder points in the coming year and to avoid old mistakes, I’ve created my own self care list. I must admit to feeling sceptical about some ‘self care’ instructions, but it’s still important to recognise where there are lessons to be learned and what you can try and fit into your daily routine. Mine runs as follows –

1. Learn to let the small things slide

I find far too much of my day is spent obsessing over minutiae, taking a toll on my perception of the situation and pushing me to make rash decisions that I later regret. What I’ve found inspirational this year is talking to or reading the writing of people who have learned to just take things as they come. This particular expletive-filled post reminded me that it’s important to spend your energies on the issues that really matter (not an easy feat).

2. Reduce extra-curricular work to 3 set days per week

This is a huge thing for me. After multi-tasking so much during my post-graduate university course, I was sure I could just continue once I got a job. That’s not been the case, and understandably the job is often demanding and takes precedence over other work, which means I feel guilty for not writing reviews or working on my website. To combat that, I’m setting aside 3 days a week where I’m allowed to work on those extra demands. The rest are for relaxing after long work days.

3. Take better care of my health

Since working in an office, I’ve become far less active. With recent stresses as well, I’m probably drinking more than I should, which never helps things. My task for the months ahead is to walk more, particularly in good weather, and to reduce drinking to nights out at the pub, avoiding those bottles of beer at home. I’m also going to book regular horse riding lessons, which should get me out in the open air a bit more.

4. Reach out to people for advice

Definitely not good enough at this one. Stupidly, my anxiety tells me that no one wants to hear my problems, which leads to me bottling them up and them getting worse. However, it’s good to get a perspective of a situation that isn’t directly involved, and I’ve learned in the last few weeks just how invaluable that can be.

5. Say ‘no’ a little bit more

Many of us would benefit from being a bit firmer with our time and commitments. Rather than saying ‘yes’ to everything, spreading myself too thinly and adding more stress to my days, I’m going to be stronger in moderating what I sign up to.

With this going out publicly, I’m planning to hold myself accountable to these tasks for the year ahead. Last year has been full of intense changes and trying new things, but it’s time to pare back on the snowball of stress and anxiety for the months ahead, if only to learn to enjoy the little moments.




Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (or ‘The monetary value of millenial nostalgia’)

It was with a lot of trepidation that this writer settled down to watch the recently Disney live action adaptation of yet another animated classic. In the end, the 2016 Beauty and the Beast was a tricky tale, displaying small flashes of strength whilst asking the question – is the trend for exploiting millennial nostalgia actually creating anything fantastic?

Many seem to think so. From Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella to the upcoming Power Rangers and Jumanji movies, nostalgia is relied on to be a big draw to the younger generation. Desperate to escape, us twenty-somethings are keen to relive our best childhood days and in the current climate, who can blame us? The problem is that this trend risks a death of creativity, since studios have very little reason to craft something genuinely original in the face of box office bucks (see also: superhero movies).

This Beauty and the Beast certainly deserves some flack for its inability to stretch. The majority of the dialogue is word-for-word, to the point where I found myself actually mouthing some in advance. In a ham-fisted attempt to pull it off, the writers change out the odd word, but it doesn’t convince, instead sounding odd to trained ears. My favourite appears in the song ‘Belle’, where Le Fou points out that the heroine is so ‘well-read’, instead of the original Gaston interruptions. It’s just unnatural dialogue for the character.

In that same vein, there are large scenes that are shot-for-shot from the original. Most striking in this adaptation was the addition of modern animation that creates a huge amount of the movie, including the surrounding scenery. It’s incredibly detailed but has been filmed in a frenetic fashion, giving the visuals an artificial look that will date badly in just a few years.

Compare that to the 1991 version, which 26 years on still looks as stunning, delicate and revolutionary in its hand-drawn visuals and iconic three-dimensional ballroom scene. It’s not even entirely new designs in this latest iteration either – director Bill Condon appears to have brought in identical wolf designs from his two Twilight movies (don’t think I didn’t spot that, Condon).

The issue of singing is a problem too, as we knew it would be. Emma Watson has been auto-tuned to a shrill neatness, whilst, as promised in press tours, Ewan McGregor does indeed have a very shaky French accent that completely eclipses his wonderful voice.

However, there are a few strengths. Dan Stevens has a surprisingly rich voice, makes an great impression through heavy CGI and finally becomes a very handsome prince. There’s slight bias from this writer though – the human Beast was a Disney hero crush growing up and Stevens looks pretty identical. The Beast has a new song written for him by Alan Menken too, which is surprisingly heartfelt and memorable, definitely in part to Stevens’ performance.

With a longer running time, there’s also a careful choice to give a larger voice to the plight of the characters trapped as household objects. It’s an interesting take, particularly towards the end, although it’s purely a luxurious option due to the spare minutes and A-list ensemble cast – after all, no one was really asking for it.

As is to be expected, Menken’s music is the top highlight. Having composed the music for the 1991 version, his iconic songs still resonate through diminished performances.  That said, is it not a bad sign that the biggest strength of the movie was music that’s already been performed to perfection nearly two decades ago? I’m also sad that the catchiest/most annoying deleted Disney song, ‘Human Again’, didn’t get a chance to haunt audiences’ brains in this one either.

I prefer to stick to my current line of thought – that equally keen to find a youthful escape, I would rather watch something original like the wonderful Moana for lighthearted joy, than I would see a classic rehashed. Having said that, built with our capacity for happy nostalgia, it’s easy to understand why people enjoy these live action remakes. Stubbornly, I’d personally just rather watch the originals for the millionth time to get that nostalgic feeling.