Conversations & Second Chances

We all know by now that a life lived online, or in the public eye, is one vulnerable to a lot of criticism. There are a lot of good things that have come from the globalised world we all live in now, and a lot of things to be grateful for with the rise of the media, but I think sometimes it does all go a bit too far.

I’m sure I could spend many a blog post discussing the nuances of various issues prevalent in the news and media today, but what I want to talk about in this post is the idea of conversation and second chances.

We all remember the infamous Kardashian-Swift feud when it came to its climax in 2016. I’d be surprised if many people hadn’t yet heard of the Logan Paul debacle from the beginning of this year. A few other incidents that come to mind include when Selena Gomez released ‘Good For You’ and received a significant amount of backlash for being “un-feminist”, the time Alfie Deyes released that “living on £1 for a day” video, when Matt Damon went on defence for all the men who don’t sexually harass women, James Gunn being fired by Disney for years-old tweets, and every other time a celebrity was ‘cancelled’ in the last couple of years for something they said.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some people simply don’t deserve to have a public platform. I don’t believe Logan Paul is anywhere near responsible enough for the platform he has. I’m still not entirely sure what the appeal is of the Kardashians, but if you support them, then that’s your choice.

Yet something does strike me about the way we treat mistakes – especially mistakes made public – in today’s climate. I believe there is a difference between doing/saying something intentionally harmful, doing/saying something which is inadvertently harmful, and having done/said something harmful in the past out of ignorance. But, somehow, they all seem to be judged the same online.

It’s a tricky situation, because a lot of the time these are very sensitive issues – matters of whether celebrities/public figures abused their power sexually, for example – and the implications of these situations can be immense. If, like in the case of Harvey Weinstein, there are dozens of accusers, and little to no doubt about his wrongdoings, then of course we should be taking action to take their platform away. That should go without saying.

If, however, someone is caught out for having a few tweets from many years ago which say something we don’t approve of today? I’m not so sure. I’m going to use the James Gunn example here, and absolutely feel free to disagree with me – but please bear with me and read to the end.

James Gunn’s tweets were, without a doubt, extremely distasteful – apparently intended as jokes by somebody trying a bit too hard to be edgy and outspoken. But he’s admitted off his own back that he used to be a pretty dislikeable person, apologised willingly, and made no effort to excuse himself. And I’m not sure that the outpouring of outrage at his firing would have happened if his colleagues, people who’ve worked very closely with him, didn’t genuinely believe he’d changed since posting those tweets.

Maybe some people will view me as overly optimistic to believe that people are capable of significant, material change. I think it’s overly pessimistic to believe the opposite. However, what I am certain of is that all humans are human – and therefore susceptible to all the flaws that are trademarks of humanity: ignorance, naivety, and making mistakes.

When Jack Maynard left I’m a Celeb (a show I don’t watch but hear about nonetheless) because a bunch of his tweets had resurfaced, I felt that there was an element of injustice going on. Yes, homophobia ought to no longer exist because those views are outdated and borne of prejudice, but can anybody between the age of 15 and 40, probably even older than that, honestly tell me that while they were in secondary education, the words ‘gay’, ‘faggot’ and more weren’t bandied about as insults? or at least teasingly? I am by no means defending the usage of these words in this way, but the fact is, teenagers hold a great propensity to be idiots. Anyone who’s been one knows that. You don’t have to lack intelligence to be an idiot, and it’s very easy to say things without due consideration. Again, I’m not encouraging this behaviour, but merely pointing out that Jack Maynard was hardly on his own there – and it’s been several years since their posting, during which time, he grew out of that behaviour.

I think the key point is that when we see celebrities saying or doing something that correlates to a society-pervasive issue, it’s taken as an opportunity to really shine a light on that issue, and for people to voice their opinions left, right and centre. This is simultaneously a beautiful and scary thing. I love that we are open to having the difficult discussions these days, probably more so than ever before. I love that much-needed change is being wrought because of this.

And yet… we can’t completely eliminate second chances. We shouldn’t be disregarding people’s ability to change or grow over time, and to genuinely realise their mistakes. I dislike the way that, nowadays, people will just #cancel somebody for something that may well have been  – and frequently has been – taken completely out of context. Society is going through changes extremely fast in our hyped-up, interconnected, New York minute world, and it is going to take a while for the whole of humanity to catch up.

In the meantime, I think we should keep in mind the difference between someone making an inexcusable mistake in the present and needing to face the consequences for it, and those whose past ignorance is dug up by someone searching for a good story.

This isn’t aimed at anybody in particular, more just an observation of things I’ve seen and read about recently. But I’m interested to hear other opinions on the matter – do you agree with me? or do you agree with the one-chance world? Or do you have another opinion on the matter?

My Big Flaw

If I had to identify one thing as one of my biggest flaws, it’d be impatience. And it’s not like I’m going to go off on one about being in traffic for twenty minutes, or because a salesperson is taking a while to find a pair of shoes in the right size – it’s more a sort of long-term impatience.

You see, I have a habit of setting myself very long-term goals. Writing books, for one. Learning things. Completing a degree. That sort of stuff. And my issue is that, all too often, I get frustrated by the length of time it takes for me to complete that goal. That’s not to say I’m not willing to put in the work – I am – just, I always feel like I ought to be able to do things sooner. I can focus too much on the end goal and not what you learn on the way there.

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Honestly, I’ve been like that my entire life. I was always ahead of the game when it came to learning to handwrite and spell as a small child, because I was fascinated by it all, but I have anecdotes from my parents of two- or three-year-old me, however old I was at the time, getting frustrated and teary at not being able to hold a pencil properly, or not being able to write a certain word correctly.

Later, at age six, I saw an advert on TV for the Keane album Hopes and Fears, and decided I wanted to learn to play the piano. I started lessons shortly after my seventh birthday, and sure enough, I would get really frustrated when I didn’t pick something up immediately. Even still, 13 years later, I find myself getting irritated with myself if I can’t figure out how to play something almost immediately.

And it’s the same with things where the length of time a task takes to complete isn’t up to me. GCSEs, A Levels, and my degree, for example. I don’t know what it is – I guess I’m just always looking to the next thing, and that makes me slightly impatient for the current thing to end. Which makes zero sense, by the way, because I actually enjoy my degree. I like working for it, I like the topics, I love learning what I’m learning – but I still find myself, from time to time, getting a little impatient at the length of time it takes.

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It’s something I’ve been aware of about myself for a long time. I should be able to concentrate more on what’s now, and focus on being able to enjoy the time things take. I’d say I’m definitely better at coping with my impatience now than I was when I was, say, ten (though if I wasn’t, that would probably be cause for concern), but I’ve probably still got a way to go.

Do you find yourself getting impatient the way I do? What do you do to combat it?

Quarter Life Crisis

It counts as quarter-life when you’re twenty, right? 

If you are, like me, a student about to enter your final year of study at university (although, to be honest, even sixth form would do), then there’s a good chance you’ll be familiar with the feeling I’m struggling with right now: the ‘wtf am I doing with my life’ feeling.

If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like a heart-squeezing, stomach sinking, brain numbing type of stress that probably has many different facets all feeding into it at once. And no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’ll all work out in the end, it persists. I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist. I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.

It’s also not helped by the fact that, at this point in your life – or in mine, certainly – other people are taking a particularly keen interest in what’s next. Parents, other relatives, friends, friends’ parents, parents’ friends – you name it. For some reason, they all start showing sudden interest in you.

Personally, I’ve always had a sort of plan. I’ve had it since I was about five or six years old, and it hasn’t really changed since, aside from gaining a bit more detail in the interim. But this plan has a drop-off point where it goes from specificity right into the vague grey area. That drop-off point? That’s going to be next year. In May, specifically. Five-year-old-me’s plan went like this: primary school, secondary school, GCSEs, A Levels, English degree, be an author.

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I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist.

In actuality, I did do basically all of that – I obviously completed primary and secondary school, I did my A Levels (in English, History, and Geography), and I’m doing my degree in English and History. I’ve written a manuscript and am working on a second, hoping to get them published at some point.

But that’s not exactly enough, is it? Authors don’t get paid much even when they’re successful, so I’ve always had it in my mind that I’d have to find something else to do alongside my writing. I didn’t know what that something else was going to be for a long time – I’d have daydreams of various paths: editor of a magazine, or working in a publishing house, or something.

More recently, I’ve expanded my horizons. In the last couple of years I’ve gained an interest in not only writing manuscripts, but also screenplays. And with that came a shift from simply considering magazines or publishing houses, to daydreams of working on film sets. After all, journalism has never been something I’ve particularly wanted to do – I’ve done it in various voluntary roles, and I know I could make a career of it if I put my mind to it, but it’s not where my heart lies, and it never has been.

So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me? I finish my degree in less than a year, and I’ll need to support myself both financially and creatively thereafter. I don’t like relying on my parents, and goodness knows they’re ready for me to stop needing to. And I could go into a bazillion rants about how difficult it is to start out doing anything in terms of paid employment these days – I’ve never managed anything more than temporary retail and marketing positions, and even those were hard to get. Things are made especially difficult by the fact that the area I live in when I’m not at university has extremely little in terms of any opportunities whatsoever. Even finding a simple retail job here is a nightmare. But ranting about that won’t help. I’m not always successful at it, but I try not to dwell on things I can’t change.

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So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me?

In pursuit of that, then, I’m trying to figure out what my next steps are. I’ve signed up to a couple of websites that are, for lack of a better term, film-orientated, and the (admittedly somewhat bleak) hope is that I can find something like work experience over the summer. And in case that never materialises, I’m also signed up to a website called Skillshare, in the hopes that I can learn something from it and build my knowledge of the film-making process.

As it is, I’m sadly inexperienced in anything film, partly because I never really thought of myself as a person who could work on a film set until more recently, and partly because I have honestly never had the opportunity to do such things. I was forever taking up whatever exciting opportunities came my way back in secondary & sixth form – I went on an app-making course, I went to Microsoft’s Think Computer Science events, I volunteered on the Youth Council, I wrote for a website, I got published in a science journal… but filmmaking never crossed my path. And I seem to be at the one university in the country without any student film society.

Aside from that, I’m still working on my manuscript. I’ve started making a list of places and positions I’m going to start applying for in early 2019 for when I graduate. I have a couple of possibilities for post-graduation in my head, but they’re far from certainties.

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I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.

But I do know some things for certain. I know I’m going to work my arse off in my third year. I know I’m going to throw everything I have at it and hope to all that’s good in the world that it pays off. I’m know I’m going to continue working on my manuscripts, and I’m going to figure out how to write a screenplay. I know I’m going to keep searching for every opportunity I could take.

And I know I’m going to stay determined.