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Correct?

Decisions.  I have never been good at making them.  And blaming it on my starsign (‘I’m a Pisces, we swim both ways!’) just doesn’t seem to cut it when the decisions that I am now making are potentially life changing.

But the thing with decisions is that there will always be a gut instinct that tells you what your body thinks is the right answer.  I have had a lot of these pit-of-your-stomach feelings over the past few days.  My impatience and desperation to find graduate employment has led to me signing up to a hundred and one things, thinking that it is the right thing to do and then realising that it just doesn’t feel right – usually when I have successfully got the place.

But should we be able to make these decisions?  Or with newspapers falling around us, jobs generally far-and-few and redundancy figures higher than Murdoch’s weekly wage, should we take whatever we can and hold on to it?  Should we agree to working for a company that we don’t want to, or a job that has never appealed to us, thinking that ‘we can hack it for a year and make some money for the next thing’?  Or should we be picky with what we want to do with the rest of our lives, optimistic that we will be one of the lucky ones who finds a dream job and certainly not one of those graduates who has been searching for over a year, like your mum’s colleague Eileen’s son’s girlfriend.

What I have come to realise is, that making decisions is hard.  And unfortunately our parents can’t (and won’t) be there to tell us what to do anymore.  When I asked my mother to ‘guide meeeeee’ in an overtly whiney, ridiculous and annoying voice she said that I need to do what I want to do.  Not what she does, or my father does, or what her colleague Eileen does.  Decisions are about a day or two of long, hard thinking.  The sort of long, hard thinking that pondering Pooh bear does with Piglet, or Carrie does with her Apple Mac.

Patience truly is a virtue and when our decisions now may change the paths of our lives for the next few years, we really do need to make the right ones.  So when I received a call that I had been waiting for today, on the day before I was about to accept a different offer that I don’t think I truly wanted, then I realised.  You realise what the right decision is and when you’ve reached it – believe me, it feels good.  Good luck to those making decisions over the next few weeks.  Do what is right for you.

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Student solidarity.

Although last year saw a small eruption in student activism as a result of Cameron’s cuts to Higher Education, withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a stark increase in tuition fees, students of today are typically thought of as apathetic to the student cause. Where our predecessors of the 1960s sparked student activism off with protests surrounding issues from the Vietnam war to Racism and Student Representation to canteen prices, the sit-ins and national student rallies which would attract hundreds of thousands of students then rarely interfere with our student days today.

But are we all just disinterested with a useless cause? Or are we showing activism in another way, a way which keeps up-to-date with our time?

In the past few days alone, it would seem that Birmingham students are coming together in matters close to home. Rumours of a suicide at Selly Oak rail station saw students tweeting condolences and passing the awful news onto peers via twitter on Friday. Although not on par with protests against the Vietnam War, this solidarity at a time of sadness is enlightening for our modern yet lethargic student body. The Selly Oak fire at a local tyre yard yesterday saw hundreds of students take to the streets. Again, no protests here but a clear coming together of hundreds of students with high regard for what was going on in their local community.

These matters are not proving the students of today to be excited about student affairs. A minimal amount of us turned up to the flash mob against raising Tuition Fees and protest against the Browne Review held on campus last year; a minimal amount when accounting for the 28,000 of us registered at this University. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear sense of comradeship here at Birmingham.

Although small in the grand scheme of things, our ability to collect together at events that affect us close to home – like those of the alleged suicide and tyre fire – surely prove that a sense of student solidarity still exists today, away from the visible rallies and sit-ins of the sixties. Even the unspoken recognition of stressed and hard-working students in the library at exam time proves the unique ability for students to share compassion for each other and understand the most important things in our life at the moment, these exams. Although laughable, even the appreciation of the ‘Drinks to Go’ man who has become a Facebook favourite, show mutual understanding between thousands of very different people. When graduating from this University in July, I certainly won’t walk away feeling like I’ve graduated from a dismantled and broken University. Although few, the students who do participate in keeping-up-to-date with affairs that affect students allow for our student community to exist, grow and flourish. You just need to tweet to see it.

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Adele.

Back in January, I read a review of Adele’s second album, 21, that told me this was ‘a record I should own.  Not download – own.’  The big voice and emotive lyrics that caught my attention in the debut album, 19, along with the spell-binding live gig that I was lucky enough to see in 2008 had already cemented Adele as one of my all-time favourite artists. 

She is an artist close to my heart, not only for her similar adoration of Nancy from Oliver Twist, but also for her modest beauty and effortless talent.  Melt my Heart to Stone is my favourite track on the debut album, with its slow, sensitive melody and lyrics that any eighteen-year-old girl with a crush can relate to.  Her cover of Bob Dylan’s Make you Feel my Love was a close second, with an epic love ballad quality and stunningly poetic lyrics.  Alongside these poignant and perfect offerings are the seemingly random Cold Shoulder, produced by Mark Ronson, and Tired, both backed by heavy drumbeats and something of an intergalactic quality; but brilliant nonetheless.  At the time, I thought of Adele’s first offering as wonderful, but the true perfection has surfaced in her second album, which lacks the disjointed quality of 19 and demonstrates Adele’s stunning vocal qualities and sets her as a young woman who has found her place and grown up a lot since she was a young girl still searching in 19.

 

I admit that after her first album, Adele – or any of the reviews – didn’t need to persuade me to buy her second and I was sold when I heard her first release, Rolling in the Deep.  Although this isn’t my favourite track off the album, I think it was a congratulatory lead single, with heavy drum beats and strong chords that literally say ‘I’m back!’ 

Widely understood as a ‘break up album’, this record contains a mature view to growing up and, as the title highlights, reinforces the difference between the artist aged 19 and now, a few years on.  The sound of the record is more succinct and the slow and mid-tempo ballads flow effortlessly.  This is not to say that the album holds no surprises; Rumour Has It, with its beats and backing vocals, definitely stands out and her cover of The Clash’s Lovesong is catchy and smooth, proving Adele’s ability to be versatile not random.  My favourite song on the album is another of her slow and stripped down ones, Don’t You Remember; truly showcasing her emotion and outstanding voice, this song is simple yet extraordinary.  Its credentials as a ballad are clear, but Adele also proves herself as more than capable in One and Only and Someone Like You; other obvious ballads that are different in their concept, and thus produce a very different sound.

 

At a time when record labels search for the next Gaga – an artist at the opposite spectrum of Adele – her modesty and humanity prove Adele as genuine talent, who lets her voice speak for itself.  She smashed Madonna’s record for the longest spell at the top of the album charts (for a female artist), with neatly coiffed red hair and a cockney charm, no cone-shaped bras or leotards.  Although after three and a half months at the top you expected nothing less of Adele, initially her success was unexpected in nature.  Surely she is too humble to take over the world?  Surely her plain performances won’t catch on?  It is this endearing quality and ability to comfort in such a time of societal turbulence that has, perhaps, strengthened her success.  And it is this endearing beauty and flawless talent that will maintain Adele as one of the most spectacular artist’s of our generation.

 

 

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Who do you think you are?

The anticipation is killing me.  In just a few more days, the nation will join together in force to laugh, joke, sing, dance and be merry.  There will be ladies, gentlemen, children, cats and dogs, Nannys and Grandpas all preparing for that big event that will be screened to the masses.  Some are for it, some against but we will all have heard about it.

Britain’s Got Talent. Of course!  Back on our screens and better than ever, BGT provides the platform for Brits –  young and old – to grace the stage, perform their ‘talent’ and be judged through to Boot Camp or back to reality.  Every year we are surprised, shocked, impressed and miffed by some of the acts.  The tear-jerking stories of a one-eyed, three-legged dog dancing whilst holding an umbrella tend to steal the show, somewhat, but through the gimmick and dramatisation, a small amount of humbleness can be felt for our Great Britannia and its people. 

My favourite from last week’s show was a young guy who sang Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, dressed in his ‘sherbert lounge wear’ and looking as if we was about to go on a long haul flight ‘on Easy Jet’ – as one judge so eloquently put it.  But after the preconceptions and first impressions had settled, he opened his mouth to reveal true talent and unassuming modesty.    

The boom of judging and panel shows that appears on television now is phenomenal.  X-Factor, BGT, America/Britain’s Next Top Model, So You Think You Can Dance are just a few.  And then there are the mocumentary style shows, TOWIE and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, further examples of spectacle that allow us, the British nobody, to judge and stereotype to the high-heavens. 

I went for a job interview this morning for a temporary admin role at University and was confronted with a panel of three ladies with clip-boards judging every word I said, what I was wearing, how I spoke, how long I paused after hearing the question… Although I got good feedback from the interview, the concern over how one is judged still affects performance and confidence. 

I’m procrastinating hugely from Nineteenth Century working class fiction and a dissertation that needs writing but I thought I’d leave you with one thing.  Steven Hall is a 53 year old Telecommunications Engineer and in the build-up to his act, I think you’ll agree that we all judge him wrong.  The grey suit might, but those hips of Steven Hall’s do not lie.

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Abode.

They say that home is where the heart is.  Third year Easter vacation allowed me one week at home, which I enjoyed last week in the sun and safety of Surrey.  Whilst absent from my beloved student ghetto, Selly Oak, I came to realise what home means to me.  As a soon-to-be graduate, I will be moving back into my childhood house again in June, a return-to-the-nest that I share with the majority of my student friends and a dent in my independence that I wasn’t sure I was ready to take.

Moving back home will mark the end of my University career and the beginning of my life after education, essays and extreme emotion.  I will be moving from a wonky, mismatched house that has been seemingly put together – without an instruction manual – back to a beautiful detached house which my Dad has pretty much built from nothing.  I will move away from my friends with whom I’ve spent the best hangover days to my oldest friends, who I’ve come to realise, cause the worst hangovers as a result of their favourite line ‘I’ll get the next round in’.

The imminence of this ‘big move’ had been worrying me until this weekend just gone, when, for the first time, I didn’t feel complete dread about leaving my beloved University life behind and moving back to my old one.  I was sat in the pub with my best girl friends around me and three bottles of wine on the table.  We were at the local, we were surrounded by people that we’d known for years and we were in a familiar place.  We bumped into friends who we used to know from school and when we got chucked out of the pub after last orders, we wandered over to the snooker hall, our old high school haunt and talked about the mischeif we had got up to and what we were all doing now.  For the first time in ages, I felt ok about moving back to this life.  I haven’t sold it as glamorous there at all, but I’m lucky to have a home that I can go back to and that I can slot in to as if I’ve never been away.

So when they say that home is where the heart is, I agree with them.  Whoever ‘them’ or ‘they’ are.  Along with the heart, my home is also where tea, arguments with my sister are and a father who complains about most things (in a jovial way).  It’s where a mum who makes me 17 cups of tea a day and a brother who has the most annoying friends is.  It’s where I’m meant to be and it’s where I will be, after this final push is finished with.  So, here’s to home.

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Social Reality to suffer under Social Media?

With it being mid-way through the Easter vacation and in a bid to concentrate on anything but my dissertation, I tuned into Alan Titchmarsh’s creatively titled new show, The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV this afternoon. One of his discussions centred on Social Media and the idea that through its continued implementation and use in our society, human contact and ‘real’ relationships will diminish. To join his discussion, he called upon Janet Street-Porter, Gloria Hunniford and a Technology journalist, whose name I can’t remember at the moment…

Titchmarsh – and the whole panel – are obviously from an older generation with an average age of around 50. He immediately seemed against social media, throwing his ignorant view around when I’m not sure he had justification to. He sarcastically began by shaking the technology journalist’s hand, as if this man – who enjoyed and understood the relevance and usefulness of technology and social media – was now so far into cyber space that he’d forgotten how to shake a man’s hand. Hunniford seemed to dismiss social media as a time-wasting tool for this ominous ‘youth of today’, whom represent… well, I don’t really know who this stereotypical ‘youth’ represent. She said that she had no time for social media and technology and similarly, Street-Porter said that she doesn’t know where people fit in hours and hours of virtual social interaction.

I understand that the adverse views presented by Titchmarch, Hunniford and Street-Porter are generational; my mother agrees that virtual interaction is alien to her and she doesn’t fathom my high regard for social networking. I also understand that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging are premiere tools for procrastination and I agree that we, as a young society, do waste time on these sites (especially around essay hand-in time).

But as well as enabling us to keep up with everyone else’s virtual lives, these versions of social interaction are integral to our modern society. I have only recently been persuaded, but tweeting, commenting, blogging and connecting should all be valued, significantly. As a graduate looking to work within the media, there are job roles dedicated to being responsible for the Social Media of companies. Most television shows encourage us to ‘join the discussion’ by @ing and #ing throughout programmes and GuardianJobs has even go so far as to execute a #twitterjobchallenge which sees job-seekers using Twitter to discover and secure new jobs.

The point that social media and networking will steer society away from ‘real’ interaction is understandable. Titchmarsh’s argument agreed with Scientists, who have said that we will no longer have regard for human emotion because our computer screens enable us to hide behind a virtual and artificial persona. But is this just another excuse? Television apparently stopped families from talking to eachother in the same way that email stopped people from making phone calls and the telephone stopped people from writing letters.

Social media isn’t just another instrument to avoid the real world, but should be seen and used as apparatus to get us all back into the real world. It allows us to stay up to date with news, laws, employment, politics and influential people. It allows us to comment on news, laws, employment, politics and influential people. It allows us to question news, laws, employment, politics and influential people…   Like anything, if used correctly, this social media overhaul has the potential to be effective in every part of our ‘real world’ and embracing and understanding it would do us all a lot better than to dismiss.

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