Gap Year Diaries One: Planning and Manifesting

I am now three weeks into summer, which I find both stressful and enjoyable. I adore summer, especially being able to travel, but equally waiting upon exam results is terrifying, especially when I no longer know what I want to do with my life.

However, the inevitable fear aside, I am feeling excited about my life again. There is something truly liberating about having a blank slate for the foreseeable future and being able to create my own plan based upon goals that I have had on my list for years.

Therefore, I have decided that I want to begin a series of 'Gap Year Diaries', not only so that I can document my year for myself, but also share ideas and inspiration with all of you. I can feel that this is going to be a formative year of immense self-growth, a year which I really believe is going to shape the way that the next few years of my life develop.

For this first post, I thought that I would share some of my ideas and methods for planning. The process of planning a gap year is very much one of consequence, in the sense that often getting or organising one thing can affect whether I can do another. Frankly, this is probably the most stressful part, having to leave most things up to fate. However, there are numerous things which I would like to do which I'll talk through now.

My initial brainstorming consisted of writing everything that I wanted to do down and then categorising them based upon the type of activity, which I then researched and costed. As such, this now means that I have a bank of goals for the year, which I can pick and choose for a time that fits:

1) Internships and Work Experience
I'm really lucky that I have parents with connections to different institutions whereby I have access to internships. My first tip would be to really make the most of any connections that you or your family may have because that can often be your way in. I've secured an internship for September, which is based in London and I'm really excited about. However, I'll speak more about these once I've done them. Of course, internships and work experience are going to be different for everyone, in terms of what interests them or what is accessible. Therefore, my biggest tip would be to get in early, and if you have the benefit of a gap year, try to avoid University or School holidays when students will be fighting for internships! Lastly, don't be afraid of emailing companies directly, offering work experience is great for a company so it is worth their time to cooperate!

2) Part Time or Temporary Paid Work
I would say that one of the main reasons that people tend to take a year out is to work, either to fund University or to travel. During my six months off last year, I held a Christmas job working at Debenhams, and whilst at the time I found it exhausting and quite difficult, due to the fact that it interfered with festivities, I would actually really consider looking for another Christmas job. For me, this worked really well, because although I'm a hard worker, I struggle to work for or at something which I find boring- even if it pays! Therefore, I found it really helpful that I knew that it was only for two months, which meant that I could take lots of over-time and not feel like all I was doing was working. As such, I would really recommend looking at Christmas jobs if you're wanting to work, because it is perfect if all you need is an injection of cash to get your plans off the ground, and having full-flexibility will place you above students.

3) Language Learning
I have been desperate to seriously learn a language for years. I 'learnt' French throughout school, even achieving a GCSE qualification. However, frankly, the British education system simply isn't set up for serious language learning. Once I joined college, I met people who were taking language A-Levels, and after hearing the content of the course, I realised that I'd missed it and that it would have been something which I'd have enjoyed. Therefore, since then, I knew that if I ever took a prolonged period of time out of education, that I would try my best to learn a language (even just to a basic conversational level). As such, I've been looking at two different options, private language tuition where I live, and a language immersion course in France. It would be my absolute dream to be able to sit one of the beginner levels of the DELF exam next summer, but I'll have to see how and if this works out- I'll keep you posted on this one!

4) Travel
Alongside working, I would say that travelling is one of the main reasons that people tend to take a year out, and I'm no different. I completely thrive off of travelling, and I think that if you're that way inclined, then you naturally reach a point in life where you need to travel, it's like a hunger in your soul, and that's how I feel. I'm really fortunate to be pretty well travelled within Europe, however, I've never visited anywhere outside of Europe (unless Western Russia counts?). Yet, I actually have family who lives in Canada, my parents visited numerous times before I was born, but we've never been together as a family. Therefore, my main plan (so far) for next year is to go to Canada for a month or so, and travel around. My Aunt lives in Vancouver, so I'll be based from there, and I'll see where the world takes me. Other than Canada, I'm actually heading to Barcelona tomorrow (as this blog post is published) and there are many other places that I would like to visit next year within Europe- so we'll see what happens.

5) International Voluntary Work
Since the age of sixteen, I've loved volunteering and have done so within numerous charities and organisations. As I've grown, I've become increasingly passionate about human rights and humanitarian aid, therefore, I would love to volunteer and help out at a refugee camp. My mum is an academic within this sphere, so I'm really hoping that she can help me find a charity to volunteer within. I think that the key with volunteering abroad is to find an ethical organisation that actually helps ordinary people, rather than for a company which you have to pay for, which unfortunately often only perpetuates social issues. If you're interested in spending most of your gap year volunteering, then a really great way to do this is through a government-led scheme, in the UK that is the International Citizen Service.

As a part of this series, I'm going to list my definite plans at the time of publication, this will be a really interesting way to see how my gap year maps out and changes, needless to say, I'm excited!

Current Plans:

Barcelona, Spain
Driving Theory Test
Family Holiday in the UK

A-Level Results Day (agh)
Bank Holiday Weekend in London with Family

Two-Week Long Internship in London


One Year On

I'm feeling strange today, pensive and changeable. I'm conscious of the fact that one chapter is finally ending, yet I don't have a clue as to what the next one is. My last A-Level exam is tomorrow, and I've finally reached the conclusion to this chapter of my life, however, it's anti-climatic and unsatisfying, and I feel far more unsettled than I do content.

It's funny that how, when we have a traumatic experience in our life (especially one which sets in motion a chain of life-altering events as a consequence) how our sense of time pivots to where everything revolves around that experience, almost like time never quite moves past it.
That is how my life has felt this last year, and although the memories of that time itself are now merely faint flickers of painful memories, I still find that I am struggling to pick up the consequences and move on.

There was my life before, and there is my life now, and I feel as though there is a distinct line between the two. I feel like an entirely different person, to the extent where my old hopes, dreams and ambitions now feel as though they once belonged to a different person.

Despite it being a year on, I have far from moved on, and I think that this is worsened by the fact that I have had to re-live many of the same experiences. Whilst many of my old friends have settled into entirely new lives and made entirely new friends, I've had to return to a place which I once loved, without any of those people or classes which made it so great in the first place.

It's been like returning to a ghost town, plagued with memories of a life which no longer exists.

I had a few, select friends in college, friends that I considered my closest friends. Yet, we're barely in touch anymore, and I completely understand that they've moved on, they're a year into a new life, and you know what, I'm really happy that they're happy.

However, for me, it really stings, because I haven't had the opportunity to build a new life yet. It reached a point when I realised that I was always the one making the effort to get in contact, and even then, maintaining a conversation would be difficult, it often just felt like they weren't interested.

I've reached a point now where I struggle to go on my personal Instagram, because when I do, and I see all of these pictures of people I once considered my closest friends, in entirely new lives, with entirely new people, looking happy, and like they're living the sort of life that a nineteen-year-old should be, and it really hurts, because it makes me feel so alone.

All of the excitement, colour and vitality that the world used to hold for me, it doesn't anymore. The world seems grey, miserable and uninviting, and I have reached a point where I prefer solitude, I've been hardened.

I don't have a clue what's coming next.

I'm taking a proper year out, a 'gap year'. I need it, I need to reset my life and figure out what the next steps should be. I want a degree, more than anything, but I genuinely fear that my exam results will not be as good as they should be, due to how unpredictable my mental state has been. I don't know what interests me, or whether I even want to move away from home for University anymore.

I feel as though I need to rediscover myself, and I really hope that taking a year to remember that the world has so much to offer, beyond academics and careers, will be crucial and healthy for me.

However, that is not to say that I am comfortable with this decision, in fact, it's terrifying. I am aware that I may end up at a University I wouldn't have been entirely happy with, purely because I don't have a grade safety net to rely on anymore, this is it, the grades that I receive in August are the final, real deal. I will also, by September 2020, be completely detached from my own year group, and I will no longer have any sense of that shared, collective goal of getting to University.

I really hope that this won't disadvantage me.

I'm sure that everything will work out in the end, I know that I'm resilient, and I am proud of myself, I think that it is important to acknowledge this for myself. Although there have been many wobbles, I have got through the last year, I have sat most of my exams (the last one is tomorrow) and no matter what grades I get, I have developed something even more important, tenacity.

As I figure out what the next year will consist of, I'll be sure to write about it on here, as I love sharing my story with you, no matter how tangled and complicated it has been and will continue to be.

However, the one thing that I know for sure, and the one thing that I remind myself of, is that the places that I've ended up have always been the right ones, and I need to trust in that, trust in fate, trust in the fact that everything, always, works itself out eventually.


Coping with Change

I have always known when I am approaching a crossroads in my life.

I think that many people are unaware that vast change is about to occur in their lives, and I believe that this often actually makes it easier to deal with, however, I've always been so in tune with my myself, that I can sense it in the waters, I can feel it in my gut, and I find it terrifying.

It's peculiar how I find it so empowering to embrace some forms of change. I'm naturally a very restless person, I always want more and I'm never satisfied with what I do have, which is both a blessing and a curse. If you gave me a few months rent and told me to pack my bags and move to Paris for a year, I would be on a flight quicker than you could tell me to go. I can completely and entirely embrace short bursts of change, but I need the stability of my everyday life to fall back on.

Yet, I find permanent change much more difficult to stomach. I am nearly nineteen years old, and the thought of not living under the same roof as my parents absolutely terrifies me. This isn't because I'm not independent, I've always been fiercely independent, but because they're like my best friends. Their existence is completely parallel to mine, and I know that once this change occurs, I will never live in the same way again, and then one day they will no longer be around anymore.

I suppose I find it hard to let go. I've always joked with my mama that my childhood has been far too idyllic, and that's why I find change difficult, but in reality, it's because the future petrifies me. I crave the quietude and comfort of my childhood, and I want to feel that way for as long as I possibly can, even if that makes me unconventional. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I am probably going to have my bedroom in my childhood home for as long as they let me.

However, I think it is even harder to let go and move forward when we have no idea what we're letting go and moving forward to.

Everything that I always planned for, and thought I wanted has changed. I've changed. I look back on my life, the dreams and aspirations, that I had a year ago, and I don't recognise myself. It is like I am staring straight into the soul of another human being, not myself, therefore I know that this past year has been one of incredible growth, but also incredible disruption. My entire sense of identity has been disrupted, and when I try to explain this to people I can almost see their eyes roll, and this is partly why I think that I am simply more in tune with myself than most, but the fact that most people don't seem to understand how I feel simply makes me feel that I am slowly going crazy.

It is ironic how this intrinsic change is inevitable, as our experiences shape us, yet changing our environment and how our life moves is a difficult, conscious decision.

I crave answers. My entire being wants some omnipotent force to tell me what I need to do, what is going to get me where I want to be. I can see the end result, but I can't see the path. I know that this isn't the way that life works, I know that we only get clarity when we look backwards, but this doesn't help me in making these huge life decisions.

All I know is that I don't want people to look back at my life as it being conventional and the same as everyone else's, I want my journey to be different, I want my life to matter. I need the disruption and I need the change, I just don't yet know how to embrace it, but I need to learn quickly.


How To Shop More Consciously and Sustainably

The Background

I have to admit, during my mid-teens, my buying habits were excessive and wasteful. I went through a phase that I'd imagine that many image-conscious young people go through, whereby my style changed weekly and my favourite shops monthly. I'd reached a point where my entire bedroom was built around the excessive amount of clothes that I owned, in fact, I couldn't even fit all of the clothes in my wardrobe hanging up, instead I had two huge boxes stuffed with seasonal pieces at the bottom of my wardrobe, alongside hanging items and six overfilled drawers. In reality, however, I probably only wore 10% of the clothing that I owned.

Last year, it reached a point where I decided that enough was enough, I was sick of having so much clothing that was poor quality and was talking up all of my space. I also did some further research into the effects of fast fashion, both on those who make the garments and the environment, and needless to say, I was absolutely disgusted and couldn't believe that I had participated in essentially, slavery.

It would be my dream to able to only buy ethically made clothes, and where this is possible I do try to do so, but in reality, this is really difficult on both a student's budget. I have also found it really difficult to figure out exactly which brands are ethical, as the information tends to be well hidden and the information on the internet tends to be contradictory.

Therefore, I decided that, for the phase of my life that I am in now, I would instead purchase clothing consciously, being completely aware of where it was from and how it was made, I try to avoid brands that I know purchase clothes from factories with terrible worker's conditions, although sometimes I have found that I have done so unknowingly, as I said, much of the information online is contradictory. To ease my conscience, I, therefore, began donating some money to the charity 'Labour Behind the Label' who campaign for garment workers' rights, which I urge you all to research. I think that it is important to be aware of where your clothes come from and do small acts to try and make it better for these workers.

From an environmental standpoint, however, buying less is so much better for our planet. In 2015 there were 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions produced by the global fashion industry, and in the UK 235 million items of clothing were sent to the landfill last year. Therefore, it is true that the addictive means of fast fashion are detrimentally damaging the environment, and unlike clothing, we can't buy a new planet once it is worn out.

I do think that the high street is not completely avoidable, as unfortunately, the system will need to change first. However, I do believe that by shopping more consciously and ultimately buying less, we are able to begin to play our part in this movement.

Reasons for Shopping Consciously

1. Helping the environment.

2. Decreasing patronage to brands that purchase from factories with poor labour conditions.

3. Saving money- yes! I have found that by buying less, even though I'm spending more money when I do purchase a piece, I'm actually saving money in the long run.

4. Having beautiful, timeless, perfectly fitting pieces that will last you years, and never feeling like you don't have anything to wear again.

5. Bringing the meaning back into shopping, it is much more satisfying to buy one item that you absolutely love and know that you will wear forever than to buy the whole of Primark and discard it a few months later. 

What is conscious shopping?

By conscious shopping, I mean being emotionally present for everything that you purchase, and really putting the thought and energy into any piece that you buy. I began this by cutting down on the amount of online shopping that I was doing- which was just excessive and unneeded. Instead, I'll order or purchase one item, I'll make sure that it fits like a dream (as the amount of ill-fitting clothing that I'd purchased and kept was insane) and that it is amazing quality, the style is classic and it is something that I know I will treasure.

My Favourite Brands

1) People Tree
2) & Other Stories
3) Mango
4) Free People
5) Selected Femme

How to Begin

In true Marie Kondo style, you need to begin by decluttering the clothing that you already own. The most important part is to be ruthless- if you don't like it, it doesn't fit or you don't wear it, then get rid of it! It's also vital not to dispose of anything in the rubbish bin- because that's when it ends up in a landfill! Instead, donate everything to a charity shop, you would be shocked at how much they actually keep, and if something is beyond wear, they will generally dispose of it through the correct means of recycling.

You may need to do this multiple times to really cut down on your clothing, and generally, the more regularly that you go through your items, the more ruthless you will be- don't keep things "just in case".
Then, you need to decrease how often you shop. If you tend to buy new things every week, then try and make it every two weeks, if it every month then try and make it every other month. Ideally, you will be able to get to a point whereby you are able to simply buy a piece to either replace something that has worn out or at the beginning of a new season. I really do believe that minimalism is key for timeless fashion.

When you do buy a new piece, really think in depth about it.
You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want it? (if it is just because you want to buy something, then do not purchase- you shouldn't shop to fill a void!)
  • Is it good quality and does it fit as I would like it to?
  • Is it a staple or is the style timeless? 
  • Where was it made and is there a more sustainable alternative?
  • Do I really need it?

If you're unsure, then walk away, if you're still thinking about it a week later, then go back and buy it, but the chances are that you won't be, it was most likely just a momentary thing. Remember, the focus is on quality, not quantity.

Lastly, here is my list of timeless pieces that will help to shape your wardrobe into a capsule wardrobe for the years to come.

Timeless Classics and Staple Pieces for Winter

1. Blazer
2. (Faux) Leather Jacket
3. (Formal) Wool Coat
4. Loafers
5. Chelsea Boots
6. Straight Leg Jeans
7. Denim Skirt
8. Turtle Neck Jumper
9. Plain T-Shirts
10. High Neck Long-Sleeved T-Shirts

Note: I would purchase most of these items in black, as that truly is a timeless colour and goes with everything, but equally any neutral is perfect, and it is good to have a variety of neutrals in one outfit.

I hope that you have found this blog post helpful, and I truly do believe that if we all begin to shop more consciously, we can help to shape a fashion industry which cares more about other people and our planet, as it is all of our responsibility.


Another New Year

I have to admit, I've been intending on writing this post for the last two weeks, but a general lack of motivation and inspiration has plagued me for some time. I absolutely adore this blog, I find writing extremely cathartic. However, I am at a point in my life where I am struggling with creativity. I don't live in London or Paris, I don't have a fancy camera or even the opportunity for beautiful photographs, and despite the fact that I have plenty of ideas, I don't have the ability or knowledge to execute them in the way that I want.

I have felt as though I am in a nonchalant phase of life, and I've been this way for some time, where I am quite simply floating. My day to day life lacks excitement, I'm in the process of learning to drive, which is frustrating in itself as I crave the independence of being able to easily get places without having to plan hours in advance to use the dire public transport of my area. All of my friends and my boyfriend now live away at University, and despite the fact that I seem them during holiday time, during term time I feel myself drowning in melancholic loneliness that I don't seem able to pull myself out of.

Put plainly, I'm stuck in a rut.

It feels frustrating as I'm young, I should be in the prime of my life, having fun and making memories, whereas in reality I spend most days, sat at home on my own, trying to revise A-Level content that I am frankly done with.
Having to resit the year seemed like quite a fun proposition back in September, when I had months to do other things, but now that January has come around and I have to get back to reality it is incredibly difficult and heartwrenching to face.

I wish that I was able to come to you with some incredibly motivating post about the new year, my goals, a fresh start, but the reality is that my life has stalled, and as of yet I haven't learnt how to get the engine back running again.

If any of you are feeling this way too, then please know that you're not alone. Social media can be incredible and inspiring, but it can also be toxic and draining when your life doesn't resemble that that society makes you feel as though it should.

The truth is that we're all on our own journeys, and we need to learn to embrace that rather than take any slowing as a fault or failure on our part.

I hope that all of you make 2019 your year, but if it ends up not being as you expected, I also hope that you don't feel guilty, life isn't perfectly mapped out, it is a rollercoaster of experience and emotion, and all that any of us can do is try.
Amelia Hope © . Design by FCD.