Did My GCSE Choices Matter?

Recently I was talking to my younger cousin about what he’s taking at school for his GCSE’s. He rattled off, Geography, Resistant Materials, Business Studies…and one more I’ve forgotten, whoops. Anyway, it got me thinking about my own GCSEs, this summer it will have been 7 years since I left school (which makes me feel a little sick because, um, when did I get old?!) and I’ve never been asked for a job what I did at GCSE.

For the record, I didn’t pick the most academic subjects and by that I mean I didn’t pick any academic subjects. My choice GCSEs were Music, Drama, Art and Textiles, see not one on that list they were all creative and looking back on my emotional, misunderstood self, that makes a lot of sense. Also to me as a very creative adult that makes a lot of sense. Anyway, I’m rambling and getting away from the point. So, I’ve been wondering if what you choose at GCSE makes any difference to your life at all. I don’t think it did to mine.

Now, I know some people will be thinking about jobs like Doctors or Vets in which university admissions basically want you to know that’s what you want to do when you come out of the womb (which is total bullshit, but that’s another post entirely). I get that BUT for the majority of jobs what you choose when you’re full of hormones and spots doesn’t make a huge impact on your adult choices, you can retrain later, you can change your mind. Hell, the job I do now didn’t exist when I was making my choices.

 

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The day I picked up my GCSE results

I got good results, I went on to study at college (enough to add an extra course later on) and then got into university but do you know what? I’ve only been asked once to provide a certificate for my grades, I didn’t get to the interview but that’s one time. I’ve never been asked what I studied at GCSE, it’s never had an impact on my future.

So, did it matter? No, I don’t think it did and I don’t think it does for most people. I don’t think we should put pressure on these kids who make a decision at 14 years old about what they like. Introduce me to one person who still agrees and believes everything they did at that age. I’ve changed since that age, I’ve changed since last year!

What did you take for your GCSEs, do you think it impacted your life? Let me know in the comments!

 

Feminist Friday: Every Day Feminism

If you’ve read Laura Bate’s wonderful book Every Day Sexism, you’ll agree that while it’s a brilliant read, it can also be quite overwhelming. I sat for quite a while thinking about what I wanted to write about this week, before putting it to a vote. After last weeks incredible guest post by Jess, I was struggling. The whole point of Feminist Friday and the guest posts within it is to share stories, experiences and unite feminists which lead me to question if we are grateful enough each day for the small battles won and recognise our privilege?

 

Although here in the UK, where I’m writing, we still have a long way to go, we have a lot of privileges that other women around the world don’t have. I get up in the morning, choose my clothes and get in my own car before driving to work to earn my own money. All of those steps are things that most of us will take for granted on a daily basis. While we may encounter misogyny and sexism in regards to what we wear or in the work place, generally we do have laws to protect us, which isn’t the case for many women.

While it’s important to call out sexism, to write blog posts, go on marches it’s also important to stop and be grateful for small things that we have that others might not. I don’t know about you, but stopping once a day to just be grateful for an aspect of my life that I can thank the feminists before me for, isn’t something I do often. We focus on what we still need to do, which is great. At the same time, there have been some AMAZING women before us who have paved the way for us to be able to continue fighting. In realising this we can combat the idea of superficial feminism, we can be grateful for what we have, while also working so that all women around the world can have the same.

So, I thought I’d share my own list of things I’m grateful to be able to do/have thanks to the brilliant women who came before me.

I am educated, other girls were not able to enjoy an education.

I am free to love who I like, other women cannot.

I can earn my own money, other women are tied to men.

I can speak up and make my voice heard, while others are threatened with death for doing so.

I have access to women’s health services, while many are not.

I am grateful.

 

What are you grateful for? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Feminist Friday: Support a woman in STEM!

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To me, women supporting women is a huge part of feminism and today I’m enlisting your help. I met Chloe while we were both students at Kingston as a friend of a friend. She’s done amazingly well and now she’s in a competition to win a £5000 scholarship towards her Master’s degree. So, let’s get to know Chloe.

What is it that you study? 

Undergrad: Forensic Science

Masters: Will be doing Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology

What do you love about studying?

I have found a subject that interests me and I truly enjoy learning about. I love studying it and finding more out about the subject because I am passionate about it and would like continue studying to specialise and hopefully work in the area of science that I love so much.

Did you always know you wanted to go into Forensic Science?

Forensic Science was definitely not something I always thought about. After finishing my GCSE’s I was actually a bit lost with what I wanted to do. I was stuck between going into Art or Science, but at the time was never really told enough about careers in science to really want to do anything. After a year of mixed AS levels, I found my college offered the Forensic Science BTEC. It sounded so interesting to me and I was still so unsure of what I wanted to do that I just decided to go for it. Since then I never looked back and have wanted to continue studying it after all that time.

Do you think we can do more to help get women into STEM?

As I said before, when I was in school trying to decide what to do as a career, I don’t feel I was ever really told about the different options and amount of jobs in STEM. Therefore the subjects didn’t really interest me because I didn’t know where they could take me. It was pretty much by accident that I ended up in a science subject. I think women need to be shown early on what they could do and the jobs out there in STEM. We also need to lose the idea that men do better than women in these areas and stop women feeling like computer sciences or engineering are men’s jobs. So I guess awareness is the main thing, to show more women there’s plenty of room for them in these fields. As for Forensic Science, I am happy to say, at least from my experience, there are plenty of women in this area, and at university level I have been encouraged by all my lecturers, both men and women, to go further with my studies.

So, how can you help? All you need to do is click here, click vote and that’s that!

Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget I’m looking for guest bloggers to write about what feminism means to them! To put yourself forward email me at chloefmetzger@gmail.com!

Feminist Fridays: What Makes Me Feel Empowered?

What Makes Me Feel Empowered

Empowerment ‘the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights’. We hear a lot about women’s empowerment when talking about Feminism but, I wonder how many of us think about that it means to us. I feel that this will be different for each and every woman based on their lives and choices. Because feminism is about choice, even if you don’t agree with that choice personally.

So what makes me feel empowered?

Earning my own money

Being able to support myself makes me feel empowered and greatful for the women who came before me and fought for it. I don’t have to rely on anyone if I want to buy something or live somewhere, it’s all me!

Having control over my body

I’m lucky enough to have access to contraception in the UK for free. This means I can choose if and when I become a mother. I can make those decisions. Similarly, I can dress how I like and it’s not subject to anyone else’s orders.

Gaining an education 

I could my education as one of the greatest things in my life. I’m as smart as any male and earned my degree and awards. No one can ever take that away from me.

Having an opinion 

This blog is full of my opinions and how I wish to express them. Being able to share my thoughts and feelings gives me empowerment.

What makes you feel empowered? Let me know in the comments below or give me a tweet on @chloemetzger

 

Is Uni Right For You? Pros and Cons of Going To Uni

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Going to university is a big decision. With tuition costs as high as they are a lot of people are wondering if university is right for them. I was the first person in my family to go to university and, for a long time, I wasn’t going to apply. I thought university was for rich kids, I didn’t think I’d fit. I thought that all universities were like Oxford and Cambridge (the only universities I knew) but I was wrong. Through the persistence of a great teacher and my boyfriend I realised I could go to uni. That said I know uni isn’t for everyone! So, I thought I’d put together the pros and cons of going to university.

Living

Pro: You have the opportunity to move if you wish – I was terrified to move to a place I didn’t know but it was the right thing to do looking back on it. It made me be independent, it made me know that I can look after myself and gave me space to work out who I was on my own.

Con: Moving back after uni is tough. I see a lot of people who didn’t go to uni who are starting to get on the housing ladder because they’ve been working and earning while I’d been studying.

Pro: Being able to run your own schedule and your own life. You can eat when you want, sleep when you want and come and go as you please.

Con: Remembering to look after yourself. I really struggled in my first year with loneliness, I wasn’t close with my flatmates. I’d lock myself away for days on end sometimes, which was really tough.

Work

Pro: Some degrees are needed to get into careers, that’s a fact. Likewise, there are some jobs where graduates are preferred.

Con: It can be difficult to work and study. Everyone knows that student loans are difficult to live on and so if you live in a city it can mean long hours.

Pro: Student jobs can pay a good wage.

Con: Student jobs can have very crappy hours.

Friendships

Pro: Making friends from all over the world is a great perk of going to university. I learnt a lot about other cultures

Con: When friendships go wrong it can be hard. When you’re away from home and friendships go wrong it can knock your confidence and make you feel lonely.

Pro: Meeting new people. Meeting new people was great for me, I needed a change and I needed to rebuild myself, which was a huge positive for me.

Con: Moving back after graduation. When all of your friends are all over the country or world it can be really hard to adjust and you do miss the.

Money

Pro: Getting a Student Loan to help while you study was great (although depending on what your parents earn and your circumstances will depend on how much help you get).

Con: Going to uni means you’re not on a full time wage. This really depends on how much you want to study because I know a lot of brilliant people who didn’t go to uni, went straight to work and have built up a good career for themselves.

Pro: Over their lifetime, on average, a graduate will earn more.

Con: If you’re not studying full time you can get a lot of knowledge and experience in your industry, all of my family did it this way!

Learning  

Pro: If you love studying then of course uni makes sense! I loved reading and learning theory and debating, it was the best part of my degree!

Con: Uni can be really tiring and taxing. In third year I didn’t really sleep much, I was very stressed towards the end and got sick because of it.

Pro: You can create your own education. There’s so much choice in terms of courses and modules.

Con: If you’re not interested in studying, writing and sitting in lecture halls uni might not be you and that’s not a bad thing! There are so many ways to progress, further your career and learn!

There’s so much more I could come up with so by no means is this exhaustive. Whether you go to uni or not doesn’t determine if you’re successful. What are your plans? I’d love to know in the comments below!

What Dark Clouds Can Do

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If you live in the UK you can’t have failed to notice that our summer time isn’t doing so great at the moment. As I’m writing we’ve endured battering winds and almost constant rain all day, and it doesn’t look like tomorrow is going to be any better. Why am I giving you a weather update? Because for me, and for many others out there the weather can have a huge impact on their mental health. I know that for years now I’ve always found everything a little harder when the weather is bleak and miserable.

My depression is something I’ve lived and worked through since I was in my teens. I’ve written about it a lot and I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to reach out and help others get through the tough times. When I talk about the weather it doesn’t mean that when it’s warm and sunny I don’t get depressed, but there’s the choice to try and take a little walk and go outside, or even just open a window if that’s too much. Also, it’s known that sunshine is incredibly good for people with depression and the chemicals in your brain.

When it’s raining, windy and cold it’s easy to let the darkness overcome you. When you are struggling to get out of bed in the morning, it’s dark and howling a person who isn’t depressed isn’t that keen on getting up, when you have depression it can feel impossible. With the changes in weather it can be exhausting for someone with a mental illness, I know it is for me.

While it doesn’t mean that this weekend I’ll be on a huge low (because they come and go depending on a lot of things) it does mean that if someone you love is a little off or struggling a little more it might not be you, it might be as simple as a change in the weather making things a little more difficult. Having a mental illness isn’t easy, but educating people and having them understand makes it a lot more bearable.

 

5 things I wish I’d known before going into Third Year

With third year coming to an end and my graduation looming I sat and thought about what I wish I’d known before I’d gone into third year. I won’t lie, this has been a tough year not just because the pressure was kicked up a gear at uni, but also because of stuff going on in my personal life. Either way here are 5 things I wish I’d known, that might just help future third years out!

1. You have a LOT of reading to do, get it done.

Trying to read all of my primary weekly texts, the additional theory, 30 secondary sources for dissertation, 15 secondary sources for my special study, and oh yeah MORE secondary sources for the other two modules. There’s a lot of reading to be done this year. Do as much of it in advance as you can and thank yourself later. Also, get used to the library, it’s going to be your second home.

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2. You will want to take naps like you’ve never wanted naps before.

I never used to be able to sleep in the day, at all unless I hadn’t slept at night (ahem, party animals in the flat next door). Now I feel like naps are the only way to keep me awake at night long enough to work on my assignments.

3. You’re allowed to struggle.

I spent most of my third year pretending to myself and my lecturers that uni was a breeze, that I had my shit together and of course I was ok. Fast forward to a month before my dissertation was due, I’m in tears in my supervisor’s office feeling like I couldn’t possibly get a good mark on this bit of work. For some reason I felt like I had to just project this air of confidence this year, maybe it was to make myself feel better? Either way if you’re struggling go and talk to your lecturers. Don’t make my mistake and wait until it all gets too much, it’s a stressful time and lecturers understand that.

4. Sleep is a wonderful thing, and during the final few weeks you will feel like you have never had enough. 

Yes I’m mentioning sleep again. Right now I have no sleep schedule. Some days I’ll be fine to be wide awake bright and early, go to the gym, work on my assignments and eat a healthy amount of food. Other days I’m writing until 2am, wake up a lot in the night or just don’t sleep at all. No matter how much sleep I do or don’t get I’m always exhausted. The brain is doing a lot of hard work right now people!

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5. You’re going to feel confused and excited and sad and have ALL OF THE FEELS, because this is a weird point of your life. 

I didn’t realise how all over the place emotionally I’d feel. On one hand I want to dig my nails in and never let go of uni ever because it’s the one place I’ve been happy to be in education. On the other hand I want to get all of my assignments done and out of the way and never spend another evening writing up references. I find myself getting emotional at the strangest times and other times I just shrug and get on with things. It’s a very weird time but I’m hoping, come July 27th when I officially have a degree it will have all been worth it.

Harper Lee

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The literature world was shocked and saddened to hear the the great writer Harper Lee passed away today. We have truly lost a great talent, she’s a writer that had an idea and ran with it, the end result was educating millions about being a good person and created a literary legend in the character of Atticus Finch.

I first time I picked up the Pulitzer prize winner I was 15 and about to start the final year of my GCSEs. It had been around for a year before as my boyfriend studied for his, but I hadn’t read it because I had no idea what it was about. As soon as I opened that first page though, I was hooked. The book had such a profound effect on me, I truly believe it was what started my love for academics. I went on to pass my GCSE and went on to study a whole project on the African American woman, inspired by the mother figure of Calpurnia and the mistreatment of the African American community in To Kill a Mockingbird.

When Go Set a Watchman was released last year, I preordered, managed to leave work a little early and started as soon as I got home. While there were a lot of reviewers who hated it, I loved it. I loved the fact that it showed how people change and the people who you thought were heroes growing up were just ordinary people.

She rarely gave interviews and had only released those two books, but they were enough. Enough for us to see her wisdom and intelligence and continue to  Even though she kept to herself, she was an icon in literature.

Rest in Peace Harper Lee.

Maybe life’s not fair..

When we’re young we get told life isn’t fair and as we grow older we realise this. there are things that we can’t control that we wish we could, illness is one of those things. You can help with some to prevent it or sooth symptoms but there are others you can’t, and mental illness is the same. I’ve learnt a lot in the last few years about myself and the illness that I have. I’ve thrown myself into research to learn more about the science behind it, recent research and theories to try and have a handle on something that I didn’t choose to have.

Ask a group of people with a mental illness and none of them would have asked to have it. It interrupts life and sometimes for some of our friends it takes theirs. I’ve thought a lot recently about this, about health. As much as I try and treat my body right with certain foods and getting fit and healthy I can’t do much for my mind. Sure I can surround myself with positive people and listed to my mind and my body but other than that if I’m having a low there are a lot of times where I have to wait it out, live with my depression or the anxiety attacks I sometimes have.

That said, ask that same group of people if they could flick a switch and it would have never happened and it will never happen again, it would be a much harder decision. Don’t get me wrong, in the last 6-7 years my illness has made my life hell and has taken things away from me, but it’s also given me things too. I’ve had depression since I was a teenager, so I don’t know what it’s like being an adult without it so sometimes I wonder, would I be as empathetic if I’d never had it, would I be as passionate and would I be so grateful for the little things in life. I don’t know. But I do know, because of my illness, that I have the best possible people in my life who pick me up and who know when I need the day or when I need a kick up the ass. Through lows and highs I’ve got great writing ideas or lyrics I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of, I’ve connected with amazing people and can be blissfully happy by the tiniest of things like waking up in the morning and feeling ok and other things too.

Why am I writing this? For a few reasons, one because I didn’t feel so great in my mentoring session today and we talked for a long time about depression, how I feel about it and the fears I have. There is fear, fear that I might go back to a dark place like I was at school but my mentor pointed something out to me. At 15/16 I had no experience, I hadn’t been diagnosed and I didn’t have a good medical team. I didn’t have a lot of information or ways to recognise my feelings and try and combat them before they got too bad, I had unhealthy ways of dealing with my feelings. In the last 3 years especially I’ve done well to get as far as I have and while the fear won’t go away, if I take note I’m in a better position than I was when I was 15/16. I have a voice and I have you guys too, who can cheer me up on Twitter to no end.

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Taken on my 15th birthday, I was happy here and hadn’t really experienced bad depression yet. 

People may call me names like a nut job, loon, or make snide remarks about being unstable and therefore unable. I’m getting to the point where I’m starting not to care and their hate makes me more driven. This illness may never go away but that doesn’t mean people will always be ignorant, which is why I write things like this to educate, to explain. I’ve written before about my story (the short version, maybe one day I’ll write it in detail) before and I’ve always been open on here about my highs and lows. I think it’s important to remember, for anyone who has an illness, that this is just a part of you, it does not define you. 

So no, life might not be fair and there are thousands of people in the world who live with my illness every day, but we aren’t alone. We might feel like it when depression grabs us and drags us under for a few days but at the end of the day there are so many others out there who are at all different stages of their illness and recovery. Don’t be scared of being you.

Book Review: This Book is Gay – James (now Juno) Dawson

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‘This is a manual for everyone – no matter your gender or sexaul preference’

When I saw this book at a YA lit fair I was intrigued. The bright and beautiful cover attracted me and then I read the cover. I thought this would be a novel about someone who is gay but this is something much better. I would even go as far to say this is one of the best books of a generation. This Book is Gay is a book which covers a lot of ground that the author thought was missing after teaching PSHE (health class for my American readers) but not just from one opinion, there are stories from so many different people all with different experiences.

When this was published, James Dawson was a gay man, in the time since James has announced that his real self is Juno, a transgender woman and I celebrated along with the rest of twitter. None of that matters because the writing is funny, interesting and highly educational btu in a way you feel like you’re chatting to a friend. I only mention this incase people are confused when trying to find ‘James’ on Twitter later.

I don’t believe in someone being 100% gay or 100% straight. It seems to me, even more so after reading this, that there are so many different parts of the spectrum that slapping an either/or label on everyone is just stupid. I’ve never had a girlfriend but I feel that I’m the person who falls in love with someone because of who they are, not because of what’s in their pants. I fell in love with a male, I’m going to marry him at some point but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good looking female. If people want to label me after that, then so be it.

The book has both serious and funny chapters throughout as well as some brilliant illustrations. Some of the chapters include; Stereotypes are poo, Where to meet people like you, Nesting, Hats, The ins and outs of gay sex and Welcome to the members club. There is even a bit for parents and carers, lists of charities and organisations and notable gay and LGBTQ celebs and allies (named: A guide to recognising your gay saints). There is so much in here and I learnt so much I will just shout my love for it from the rooftops!

I 100% feel that this book should be given out at all schools as an important tool for learning and accepting LGBTQ youth. Dawson is right, there isn’t enough sex education for young  LGBTQ people. I thought long and hard after reading and we didn’t cover safe sex for anyone who wasn’t straight which, frankly, is just ridiculous. How can you just ignore the needs of people just because they’re not ‘the norm?’, they can still get STI’s like anyone else? They still have questions and worries like anyone else. If I was in charge of a school I’d make sure everyone was given a copy and there were copies in the library too. This is superbly written and has a lot of great info from a variety of people, not just Juno herself.

There have been arguments that there isn’t as much information for the Lesbian community. I can see the points people have made but I do feel there is a good amount of content in here, after all there are only so many pages here. The part about lesbian sex is a little thin, and maybe that’s what people are upset about and I can understand that. Other than that though, I feel like this is a good and inclusive guide.

Of course I’m going to give this book 5 stars *****. I was truly inspired by Dawson, her writing, her style and the way that the book itself was put together. I think everyone should read this, because everyone will learn something from it. A truly phonomenal book, not one to be missed.