Stress and the Single Girl: Looking back at 2012

As those of you who have already unsubscribed from my facebook updates will know, it’s been a really busy year! I’m not sure anybody is naturally brilliant at time management, but it should definitely be a skill and not a hobby. Getting your personal kicks from time management places you firmly in the Type A personality group, with people who probably have ‘down-time’ hours scheduled into their diaries just above where they’ve pre-planned what will be tonight’s dinner.

This year, I learned to time-manage because I literally had no choice but to do exactly that. At one point I was balancing a little bit of academia with a whole lot of US election coverage, whilst still overseeing my section of the newspaper and choreographing a Korean pop video based on the moves of a fabulous male YouTube sensation whose hips put mine to shame.

Work-wise, I have never been more challenged or productive. I learned to thrive on being busy and, from that, have taken away the importance of filling your schedule – then organising the hell out of it. When you only have two hours of your day to dedicate to a deadline that’s not getting any more distant, you have no choice but to get things done. And you do them properly first time around. These were valuable lessons.

But the other side of time-management proved just as crucial. Ok, so I had not a moment to properly food-shop in almost a month and the election may have subsequently prompted me to gain an unfortunate few / MANY pounds, but – unlike when I first wandered blindly into the world of balancing an ever-growing agenda in 2011 – I remembered the basics. These, for those of you inexplicably still reading my life-story, are:

1)   Nobody else’s schedule revolves around yours. Make time for them, share when you are stressed (a good few cuppas saved my sanity this term) but otherwise don’t bang on about your self-inflicted deadlines.

2)   Running yourself into the ground achieves nothing. Stress, I genuinely believe, is largely optional. Sleep. Eat properly. Exercise. Prioritise. Get some fresh air. But don’t forget…

3)   Youth is probably the best time for burning the candle at both ends. All work and no play is, frankly, boring and unnecessary.

As 2012 comes to a close with graduation very much in sight, I really feel the most secure in my professional self than I ever have before (this is excellent progress – I was basically crying at the thought of being considered a journalist when the hacking scandal broke in my first year). Almost all of this confidence I owe to the extra-curricular experiences that I was able to get involved with at uni.

There were two other goals I got to tick off my list this year. One – journalistic – was getting commissioned, which happened over the summer, and the other – personal – was to get back onstage and sing. If you can do something you love with nothing to lose, do it. Seriously, why not?! This was also the year I turned 21, the age I’d really quite like to stay forever…

Reflecting on the past twelve months, it took me a while to notice the absence of a boyfriend. Having been dating or in a relationship at some point in every year since 2006, this year is the first time I have been properly single, as in by choice and not by circumstance.

Let me tell you, single’s great!

When you’re shitty-single , like I was in-between previous boyfriends, you’re constantly on the look-out for the next Mr Potential. You hang on the every average word of the ordinary stranger convinced that he’s the hand which fate has dealt you to make up for the shortfalls of boyfriends past.

Then suddenly, you’re not so sparkly-eyed. You’re a little bored of the predictability, the misplaced assumptions of being single, and the out-dated promise of locking eyes across a room (because let’s face it, we don’t dance in civilised places anymore, and I’m not convinced that any great romance has ever started in a room where drunkards regularly redecorate the floor).

Shortly after this revelation, the fun starts. You’re not worried about what they think of you, you’re challenging what you think of them. When you actually concentrate on a guy’s words instead of wondering when he’ll ask for your number, you hear a whole lot more of what he has to say for himself. At this point, unless it’s ground-breaking, you’re pretty much fine to carry on as you were. Sooner or later one may come along that will stop you in these tracks, but until then, it’s a yellow brick road of calling all your own shots (and it just ain’t big enough for two).

On the topic of Single Girl epiphanies, earlier this year I read a quote of iconic Cosmopolitan Magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown’s. It was one largely drawn upon by journalists documenting her death in August:

“I think marriage is insurance for the worst years of your life” she once said – not something I instantly warmed to, being lucky enough to come from a happy home built around a marriage of 30+ years. But, I thought, she did have a point in what followed:

“During your best years, you don’t need a husband.”

Now I think it’s a great – but, personally, unsustainable – empowerment for another half to be seen as only an added bonus.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer as to whether your best years are technically those that you thrive in alone or share with someone else, although the wedding and rom-com industries would definitely have us believe the latter. But I can vouch for the nice-ness (sorry Year 10 English teacher) of not noticing a man-shaped absence when your confidence and fulfillment is coming from elsewhere… as well as for the truth universally acknowledged that adopting this somewhat self-righteous attitude is usually all it takes for the universe to deliver someone frustratingly able to test it.

So, for me, 2013 will be about rolling with the punches. Clearly, you can’t call every shot.

But if 2012 has proven anything, it’s proven that a lot of good can come from being taken out of your comfort zone. I didn’t know I could care about politics or that I would lip-sync my way (in KOREAN) to nearly 14,000 hits on YouTube. I guess I’ve learned not to rule anything out! More importantly, though, because of the terrifying and inevitable test of my academic mettle which lies ahead, I couldn’t be more grateful that 2012 has taught me to really embrace a challenge.

Wish me luck…

Happy New Year x

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