I’m very proud of my time at Essex. I wasn’t always the model student, I would often sleep in more often than I should have, but I did find my time at Essex really fulfilling. I worked with Essex Nightline for about three years and I think that’s what kind of inspired me to work in mental health. I would be working with students who weren’t feeling their best, or they’re homesick, or students who may not be finding the experience of uni easy at times, because it isn’t. Some people are very far away from home, struggling with things they may not have thought about or had to deal with before. But that’s something I’m really proud of; I’m very proud of the service Nightline offers and that I could be a part of it.
I heard about Nightline through my friends; most of the things I did at uni were through housemates wanting to do stuff and me just tagging along. There are so many things I tried in my first year; some stuff is really good and you stick with for ages. I did fencing at Essex which was really fun. It wasn’t what I wanted to do originally but I went with a housemate because she didn’t want to go by herself, but it turned out to be a great thing to do.
I now work in a mental health hospital in Chelmsford as an activities coordinator, so I organise activities for in-patients, anything from games and sports, talks about things like healthy eating and sleeping, so it’s interesting and really varied.
I’ve recently written a book which was very fun, but it’s quite an introverted, introspective activity. You’re spending quite a bit of time by yourself in the dark listening to music and just typing away until the late hours, but actually getting out there and marketing the book and yourself is quite a difficult thing to do. It’s something I’ve struggled with a little bit: asserting myself and putting myself out there, demanding and asking for things; I find that quite an uncomfortable place to be in.
I had just finished my degree at Essex and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It can be quite difficult, even with a degree, securing a job in something you’re interested in; I ended up wandering around for a little bit, doing a bit of travelling and doing a few boring jobs before finding something I really wanted to do. But writing a book was something I always wanted to do; I thought it was an important thing for me to do for myself. It’s a great way to deal with personal issues and personal stories, by exploring them through the eyes of a character. I thought ‘well, I’ve got a part-time job and I don’t have a mortgage to deal with at the moment, so I might as well do it now’.
At uni everyone I studied with who came to do a degree they thought would be good for them, business-wise, actually ended up either not enjoying it or dropping out fairly early. They were just doing something they thought would be good for employment, rather than something they wanted to do. The people I studied with, even if they didn’t get the best grades, if they were doing something they were passionate about, they ended up doing wonderful things and putting so much effort in to their studies.
Studying psychology has strangely been helpful in writing my book. You need your characters to be human, you need them to have genuine human struggles otherwise they’re not that interesting really. Bits of mental health do come in to my story a little bit, not overtly, it’s not a story about mental health, it’s more of an adventure story I’d say, but it does affect it a little bit. The more you understand about things in general, the more you study, the more life experiences you have, the more your writing improves.
I read loads of books when I was a kid because I think it was easier than talking to people, I don’t know why really, but I spent ages in the library. I just love the idea of it, the challenge of it, taking work that you’ve done before and getting loads of ideas out and then going back and tinkering with them and refining them. It’s always just been an interesting thing putting up a mirror to reality and exploring it in your own way.
It’s difficult to write if you don’t have the experiences for it. I’ve started like eight or so different projects, but haven’t found a real motivation or anything, like making an interesting world, making interesting characters, but no real story to give it some oomph. I think my experiences now, working in the job I do, meeting a lot of different people and seeing a huge variety of people from all walks of life who are dealing with different problems, I think it’s given me a bit more to think about and I think its expanded my personal character a little bit so I can write more stories now. I’m currently writing a second one, not a sequel, but it’s going well so far. I’m typing away in the small hours of the night so that’s quite fun!
This motto means a lot to me. If you can’t fight and you can’t run, flow. Often you’re fighting to change everything, to achieve something in your life, or you’re so busy trying to run away from things you’ve done or said or regret and things like that, it’s very easy to forget where you are and what you’re doing. You spend so long making goals and making plans that you don’t actually enjoy what you’re doing right now. I think it’s very important to have dreams and goals, but if you’re always just chasing the next deadline, the next qualification, or the next house, or dream, then you never really enjoy where you are, because you’re always thinking about how you want things to be in the future.
People always think ‘I’ll be happy when I get this, or when I get this much money, or when I do that’, but I’ve found that whenever you achieve that thing you just want the next thing, so it’s just enjoying the little moments every day, like enjoying the walk to work and stuff like that.