before you die

Taking on the "100 Books Everyone Should Read" Challenge

12:00 AM

Recently, I have found reading for pleasure quite difficult. Although I manage to do it most nights and on the majority of my commutes into university, I don't read much in one go and I find my attention waivers incredibly easily; I used to be able to read a whole book in a day! I fear I may have lost a bit of my love for reading due to all the reading I am doing for my PhD and for my obsession with looking on the internet instead - this must change!

This is something I have wanted to do for a while but had never pushed myself into doing it. I have seen several lists and I'm not sure if there is an "official" list that should be followed, but you can look at the one I am doing here. I wanted to share my journey on this blog and to do updates, reviews in the hope that people will come along with me and to motivate me. Without further ado, I am about to take on the 100 Books Everyone Should Read Challenge.

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

To my delight, the first book on this list is 1984 by George Orwell. Luckily for me this is actually one of my all time favourite books and I haven't read it in quite a while. I am sure most of you reading are familiar with 1984 or if not then you have most definitely heard of ideas from within the book which have been made into popular TV shows such as "Big Brother" and "Room 101". I would have expected this to have been on the list due to its sheer popularity and the influence it has had both during its publication and straight into the modern day. I'm excited to get into this one - Lets hope for a good start!

a level

I don't know what to do with my life!; Stamping out those worries.

9:45 PM

If you're not from the UK you probably won't be aware of how our education system works, so I will explain it in the simplest way I can:

  • Primary School (age 4 to 11): SATS is the exams in the final year
  • High School/Secondary School (age 11 to 16): GCSE's is the qualification you receive in the final year, you have to chose some of the subjects that you do but a lot are mandatory such as maths, english, science.
  • College (age 16 to 18): A-level (short for Advanced level) is the qualification you receive at this stage. The first year is called an AS level and if you take the subject into a second year then you gain the full A-Level. You generally chose four subjects at this point.
  • University Undergraduate (Generally age 18 to 21 but there are lots of mature students and people who take a year ot two out before doing their degree): This is where you gain a degree. Depending on what subject, most people either get BA (Bachelor of arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) after their name. 
  • Following from these you can go onto a postgraduate degree which is a masters and then a PhD or a doctorate. A PhD/Doctorate is the highest level of education.

I have a younger cousin who is 16 and about to venture into college. When she had to pick what GCSE subjects she had to do, she was worried about her future because she didn't want to pick the wrong ones. And now she is also worried about what A-level subjects to do because she "has no idea what she wants to do" career wise.

I think this mistake is made so early on, schools make out like you HAVE to know what you want to do, you have to have a clear path when that just isn't reality. For some people, they may have easily decided what they want to do. They may have always wanted to be a doctor or always wanted to do game design, so then it's easy... You pick the subjects aimed towards this goal. But what if you have no idea what you want to do? I wanted to write this blog post to help people feel at ease; whether you are doing GCSEs, A-Levels or are on your undergraduate degree.

Don't worry. It's okay not to know.
One of the biggest things that younger people worry about is not knowing what they effectively "want to do with their lives". It is put into our heads from a young age that we MUST know what we want to do as a career from as young as 14, which is a difficult ask! It also doesn't give someone much time to find out what subjects they are interested in. I didn't have a chance to try Psychology until I was at college level and even then, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do I just knew the area I wanted to go into. It is okay not to know what you want to do, you may never know and just try a lot of different things until you find what you love. But it is okay and don't let anyone scare you into thinking otherwise.

A lot of Universities only ask for certain grades/points, not specific subjects.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you want to go into something like medicine then they will ask for specific subjects and grades. But a lot of the time universities will either ask for grades e.g. you must get 3 A's in your subjects. Or they will ask for what is known as UCAS points. Each grade is worth a certain amount of points, grades of a full A level is worth more than an AS level, but it does mean that you can put the grades of your AS levels towards this. And if you don't get the grades you need there is also what is called "clearing" where universities will have some spaces left on some courses that you may be able to get onto. So don't worry too much about the specific subjects, just try to pick subjects you enjoy or are good at. My A Levels were; AS Maths, AS Extended Project and A levels in History, Graphics and Psychology. A completely random mix, but still got me to where I needed to be.

There is never just "one way" to get to where you want to be.
For some reason, schools tend to make out like there is only one certain path to go down to get to where you want to be and if you don't go down that path then you can't do the career you want. This is not always the case. There are plenty of people who don't realise what they want to do until later in life. There are options called "conversion" courses which can help you get to where you want to be. Yes, it may be easier to go down a straight path but don't worry if you end up changing your mind or having to go a different route.

You can always change subjects if it's not for you. "Taster days" are also a good way to find out.
Sometimes, its hard to tell if you are even going to enjoy a subject, especially if it's something you are going to do for the first time. Often, colleges will give you a certain amount of time that you can change by. I sort of did this in my final year of university when we had to pick specific modules in Psychology. I had originally picked "Positive Psychology" and quickly realised it just wasn't for me so I changed to "Substance Use" and I enjoyed that a hell of a lot more. A lot of colleges and universities tend to give "taster" days or sessions and if you are offered this opportunity I would definitely go for it to save any messing around in the future.


To all you young people out there, I hope this post has helped you to feel at ease about not knowing what it is that you want to do. Good luck in your future endeavours!