Life

Why I refuse to say I’m ‘lucky’ to be where I am

Two years ago I received my first big break into the industry I am in now after getting a last-minute internship at a popular women’s magazine. What I didn’t know at the time was what it would lead to and how it would take me to where I am now. It started as a week at the magazine leading to a six-month contract there as well as a freelance position at one of the most widely read newspapers in the UK, then moving onto a social media position and back into journalism as a travel reporter at another national newspaper.

“You’re so lucky,” I get told and I reply “I know, I can barely believe it! I’m so lucky it worked out.”

But then I take a step back and remember that it isn’t luck that got me to where I am. I made it this far due to bloody hard work. 

Before you write it off as a brag, let me take you through the journey.

Getting to where I am right now was not an overnight thing, nor was it handed to me on a plate. It started before I even knew I was laying down the ground work. It goes back to being editor of my school yearbook nearly seven years ago where I discovered my love of writing. It was gaining an English degree alongside writing for the university newspaper, writing my own lifestyle blog, freelance writing for Brighton Fashion Week, and all the while taking on a part time job to fund it all. These small things all wove together to help; little did I know how they would actually help me out five years later.

I then finished university, emerging with an English degree; all this writing experience under my belt I thought would be able to start at the bottom and work my way up. Yet nothing happened. No matter how many positions I applied for and was willing to work for free nothing bar a week at a national lifestyle magazine (which was four days of being ignored as I backed up documents), none came about. I became that graduate who was disillusioned with having no high flying career our schools once promised us. Then the self-doubt kicked it; what hope did I have of writing for a magazine, with such fierce competition? I had no experience, no journalism degree, no qualifications. All I could do was stay at home, feeling like I had failed as a university graduate as I worked an office temp job back in my hometown as my friends went on to do masters and graduate schemes.

I had left university and it wasn’t easy. That was when I first started getting anxiety problems.

If you haven’t ever had an anxiety attack then you can quite easily write it off as being a bit stressed. If you have had one you will instantly understand how debilitating they can be. At my best, I feel a bit jittery. At my worst I am sweating, unable to catch my breath, losing my peripheral vision, getting shooting pains in my chest and not being able to lift my arms without making the stabbing pains worse.

You know they’re irrational but they can hit you when you least expect it, be it lying in bed reading a book or on a busy high street. During those five minutes, all that is going through your head as your heart speeds up and is racing, is “when is this going to end?” It’s horrible and fleeting, but something that I struggle to control. I know I’m not the only one of our generation; hell, it’s probably more common to have them than to not. However, I want people to know that this side effect, the one I don’t really talk about online, is something that happens because of the pressure of getting to where I am now. I still don’t manage them very well; luckily I find that if I exercise regularly and avoid caffeine, I can control them. But when stress builds, I forget to exercise or I need a coffee to stay awake, that’s when I suddenly find myself struggling to breathe on Oxford Street and having to run down a side road drenched in sweat and trying to work out how to get home.

But then it then all started shifting. After returning home from travelling as a last-ditch attempt to do something to better myself with a fraction of the money I had managed to save, I suddenly found myself landing an internship. And then another one. And then another one and then Cosmopolitan happened and somehow it’s two years later and I’m here doing what is damn near close to my dream job.

I don’t know where these last two years have gone or even how they happened. I can only relive moments as I flick back through my iPhone, looking at all the pictures that include press trips to Dubai, meeting Craig David, playing croquet on rooftops, going to event after event to learn about the newest things in the world, getting beauty freebies to play with. And I know I have experienced things that some people never will, being in this little bubble of media that is so hard to get into and so I will never, ever take that for granted.

But I resent being called lucky.

Because those two years also brought times of crying in bed out of stress and overtiredness, stress over having no money to live on and living out of a suitcase. Having to move to a more expensive house because I was constantly late to work due to cancelled trains, then having to move to a smaller room because I couldn’t afford the one I was in. Resorting to beans on toast or miso soup for dinner to save money and frantically selling anything I had on eBay or took from the work freebie table.  And mainly, going to an event every evening at the risk of burning out but knowing it was another free meal.

It hasn’t been easy, and I can barely count how often I nearly gave up. A number of times I’d be out till midnight networking at events in case I met someone, or working fourteen days in a row as I had every kind of writing job going.

Each little thing contributed to where I am now. If I hadn’t written for Brighton Fashion Week, I wouldn’t have got my gig at Cosmopolitan. If I hadn’t busted a gut at my internship to make connections, it wouldn’t have led to a six-month contract at said magazine. Without that contract, I wouldn’t have been offered a permanent social media position. Without that social media role, I wouldn’t have landed my dream job now.

Whilst all this was bubbling away, other little connections neatly joined up. Chatting to one lone woman at a tiny event leading to a contract at MailOnline. Getting anxiety which showed me that travel was the one thing to calm me down, leading to my current dream job now. Writing this little blog for five years which helped me stay motivated and taught me important online knowledge.

This isn’t a sob story or a story to show off. It’s not even really a story. It’s a message to not ever let yourself feel hopeless, or that if you do, to make something of it. On paper, I may look like I have my shit together and some days I even feel like I might. But other days, despite what fancy hotel I’m staying in or travels I’m bragging about online, it isn’t real. I have worked my arse off to get here and sometimes at the expense of my mental health.

I guess what all this boils down to is to look past what social media is telling you. I am very proud and appreciative to where I am right now but only the closest people in my life know what it took to get here. I love what I do, and I have supportive friends and family, a flat that is clean, safe and close to work and enough money coming in that I don’t have to worry too much. But don’t be fooled by thinking everyone has it together. We are all barely holding on and if you want to get that dream role, be prepared to work for it. Because when you do and you get it, no one can take it away from you that you earned it.

Unless you’re some rich heiress who has daddy throwing money at people, you getting to a place where you’re happy in life isn’t lucky, it’s bloody hard work. Luck may have you in the right place at the right time, but it is you putting everything into your skills and connections so you are ready for when that role lands in your lap.

All I can ever think if I ever speak to people who ask me how I got to where I was, is that it was a mixture of sheer determination and good timing.

A quote I live by is one my mother once told me: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. 

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