When life gives you lemons – keep making lemonade

The statement ‘everything happens for a reason’ – we’ve probably all heard it, perhaps all said it – do we really mean it?

I’m not about to make a decision about the origins of the universe, the existence of soul mates or the reason for disease and death – those questions are unanswered as yet and I don’t intend to turn Philosopher, Scientist or Religious Official and try to determine the Truth.

However, ‘everything happens for a reason’ is a statement that, if followed too religiously, could be a dangerous step in the direction of complacency. I’d rather replace the phrase with ‘you make your own luck’, or, to put a zesty spin in it: ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.

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I’m going to try to write my reasoning without sounding too smug about the fact that right now, my work life is pretty much exactly how I want it to be.

I realise that I’ve been pretty lucky in general, I’ve not had any really sour lemons. And I know that when life isn’t where you want it to be, it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook, but actually it is doing exactly that which helped me get to the point where I can say: “I am here.”

When I was seven I realised we can’t all be ‘authors’ – and decided I wanted to be a journalist. At 16 or so, I toyed with copywriting, but at 21 (I think?) I was on track with the original path and taking an NCTJ course at Brighton Journalist Works (highly, highly recommend).

I wanted to work in magazine journalism. That was The Goal. In Life. Full Stop. Ideally, sports magazine journalism. Hopefully about cycling, or swimming, cycling and running.

I did work experience at Triathlete’s World, spending 3 weeks in the NatMag Rodale office that hosted Runner’s World and Men’s Health. I hated the commute (Brighton > London), but everything else? Perfection. Writing, about sport, what better?

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Once the hell fires of NCTJ exams were over, I was offered an internship/work experience at a local newspaper. They gave me a job and I stayed there a year. It was the quickest learning curve of my life thus far – where I lacked confidence, I grew a thick skin. I learnt that you can’t be liked by everyone all the time, and that there is genuinely no point in trying to be everyone’s best friend. I learned that it’s usually quicker to pick up the phone than send 20 emails. Ultimately, though – it wasn’t for me.

I love people – I love to find out what makes them tick, I like reading what they write, and trying to determine what they actually mean when their eyes flicker and hands cover their mouths. But there were some stories I didn’t want to write, and if I wanted a career in newspaper journalism I’d only have to do more of those stories, on a bigger level.

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I left. I applied for a job at a triathlon magazine, and another at on online cycling site – I got down to the semi finals for one but I didn’t get either because I didn’t have online writing experience. *Sad face.* Few tears – especially since I got the let down on Christmas Eve eve! (That was actually an act of kindness on the interviewers part, I didn’t want to spend Christmas waiting).

So, I applied for a job in marketing with a cycling retailer – where I’d be ordering point of sale, writing ONLINE blogs, writing catalogue and ad copy.

I was writing about cycling – it was a fantastic experience, and a wonderful place to learn more about cycling, cycling culture, and the industry. However, I didn’t want to be there forever, so I updated this here blog. I gave it a new name, a new template, and a new lease of life.

After a couple of month’s blogging on my new platform, I was approached by Andreas at the London Cyclist, asking if I’d write for him. I said yes, and soon after that, Urban Limits got in touch, asking for some articles. I had the confidence to approach Total Women’s Cycling with ideas, too, and they became a regular outlet for my words. A miniature freelance empire was born. I spent all week at work, then on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings, I wrote more words about cycling. Every. Weekend. Except when I got married, and obviously over our honeymoon.

I enjoyed it a bit, and the extra cash was nice (though I really paid for it with the hassle of self-assessment – not cool) but it was really all about getting closer to The Goal In Life.

Eventually, the dream job came up, and I pounced on it like a small child grabbing a forbidden chocolate bar. I wanted it so much that I completely screwed up the interview and didn’t get it. *Sad Face.*

I could have gone home, cried, sunk a bottle of wine and given up. It was mighty tempting, and I did cry – then I had a glass of wine, and spent £20 on an even better WordPress template for my blog, recatagorised every post so that the whole thing was neater, and chucked myself into making sure there were posts every week. Effectively, the blog was not a hobby, it was a living, breathing, HIRE ME PLEASE CV.

And eventually, I got there. So now, I write for Total Women’s Cycling, and I spend Sunday nights actually looking forward to work on Monday morning. And I get to work from home three days  a week because I’ve already proved I can be productive in my home-office.

I was at a gig in Brighton on Thursday night – in a venue I used to go to when I was 19. It occurred to me that though the last few years haven’t been exactly as planned, if I told my 19 year old self what she’ll be doing in 6 years time, I reckon she would be very, very happy.

That’s it really. I don’t want to pretend I’ve got life sorted and nailed on the head – I’m 25 – there’s a lot more to learn. You can’t count your chickens too early, either – you never know what’s round the corner, and I’m aware I might not always be in the lucky, happy position I am in now. But there is one approach I’ve uncovered:

Know yourself, know what you want. When life doesn’t go as planned, if it is in your power to do so, just keep ploughing on in pursuit of what you want

That applies to work, to cycling (and to running – and injury setbacks!), to family life – to so many things.

And, if you’re applying for jobs in journalism – yes – every job has a hundred applicants. So apply for 100 jobs. And in the meantime, take steps in the right direction.

Lesson ends.

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There is one comment

  1. adarling575

    So very true. Especially the bit about applying for 100 jobs and taking steps in the right direction! I fully believe that you get what is right for you. If you don’t try, you can never get it, but if you fail, that means that particular thing wasn’t right. Doesn’t mean the career wasn’t right, but the particular job spec etc wasn’t right… And if you keep trying it will work out okay in the end! So glad you’ve ended up where you want to be and Total Women’s Cycling is FANTASTIC 😀

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