When I Grow Up

Monday 23 November 2015

I was basically born with a notebook and pen in my hand. Ever since I can remember, my favourite thing to do was colour, or read, or write a story. When I was five, I was bought a PlayStation One (retro) for Christmas, but my brother played on it far more than I did. (Unless the game was Harry Potter, then the arguments would start.) I was happier with a pretty notebook and colourful set of pens.

At school, I was giddy when the teacher would tell us that we'd be writing stories in lesson. At Parents' Evening, they told my mum that my writing skills were way above where they should be.

By the time I turned six, after I'd got over the whole "I want to be a princess" thing, I knew I wanted to write when I grew up. And that was it. I'd go to university, and spend my life writing books. That was my plan.

At fourteen, having done a bit more research, I decided that writing books was probably a lonely occupation. I wanted to write, but I also wanted to work around other people, getting out there, talking to the public and making a difference. I looked into journalism and it was the perfect fit. So, new plan. But the hard work had to begin. After my GCSEs, I picked out my dream university, spent hours on my UCAS application and worked so hard to get the grades I needed.

Fast-forward three years, and I'm sitting in on an inquest, part of my module on court reporting. The course was harder than I'd anticipated, but I was determined to get through it. Including finishing this assignment of six stories.

This was story number four. It was a straightforward, open and close inquest. 24 year old man, long history of mental health problems. After an argument with his girlfriend, he went for a walk to clear his head. They didn't find him until the following evening. He had taken his own life.

The whole inquest lasted under an hour. After scribbling down as many notes as I could, I gathered up my things and made my way towards the door. I was worrying about whether such a straightforward case would make a compelling enough story, and considering coming back the next day to try and get something else. I couldn't afford to not do well in this module.

I happened to glance up from my notebook and caught sight of the parents. They were holding each other, the mother was in floods of tears, and the father had a look of anguish on his face that I'll never forget. They'd lost their son, who wasn't much older than I was, and there was nothing that they could have done to save him from himself. And there I was, stressing about whether or not my tutor would deem his death newsworthy. I couldn't have felt more ashamed of myself.

I went home and thought everything over. We'd talked in seminars so many times about the need to be objective and not letting your emotion get in the way of reporting, but it hadn't been put into perspective until that moment.

How could I report on such heartbreaking stories, death, crime, the anguish of a family, and be completely emotionless about it? How could I go into a courtroom or an interview, get what I need and leave without doing anything to help those who have been hurt? I didn't want to end up like that. I'd seen the ugly side of my dream job and I didn't know if I could deal with it.

There is a point I'm getting at. Since the age of five, I'd always had a plan. I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then all of a sudden, I was 21, almost a grown up, and my plan had been completely thrown into question. Since then, I've felt so lost and unsure of myself. My whole life has revolved around becoming a journalist and now, I just don't know what I'm aiming for.

But what I'm starting to realise is that not knowing is okay. Maybe I'm not supposed to have my shit completely together by 21 years old. Or even 22, 23, 24 or 25 years old. I don't need to have my life mapped out. Now is the time to enjoy the rest of my degree (despite the stress), go on a million work placements, make mistakes, change my mind or just go back to the drawing board. As long as I work hard and keep an open mind, I'm pretty confident that the rest will fall into place.

For now, my aim is to get through to graduation. After that, who knows. But I'm trying not to worry too much about that yet. And if you're in a similar position to me, you shouldn't worry either. You've got this. You'll be okay.

Sian Kathrine xo


  1. You really don't need to worry. Nobody is supposed to have their life figured out and taking it one step at a time is great. My Mum went to Uni in her 30's to become a nurse, before that she had been a travel agent, a school cook and a receptionist. You might change your mind a few times but just keep learning and find something you enjoy doing - life is too short not to be happy!x

    1. Wow, that's amazing! Yeah I keep having to remind myself that people change career all the time, it's just I've always had a plan and now that I don't, it's a little bit scary haha! xo

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