Each day is bracketed on either side by bed. What the hours in between hold should be the reason why we emerge in the morning, and hopefully return contented in the evening. These two different times of day share a common ground. They’re transition points between being asleep and awake, between retreating and going out to face the world. And, for me, they’re the points at which I tend to consider what I want from life.
Interviewers sometimes ask their subjects “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”, or alternately “What’s the last thing you think of before you go to sleep?” They are not the same question, but for me, both would yield answers referring to satisfaction. I get out of bed because I’m enthused about what the day could be spent doing. I like to go back to bed feeling that the day has been well used. One bookend is composed of hope, the other of fulfilment.
At least, in theory. Those are the best possible days – the ones that have been stuffed full of creating, experiences or good conversation. They are the things I appreciate the most. Drawing, writing or taking photos; seeing friends, meeting people, going to parties, travelling or discovering new places; reading, watching films, seeing exhibitions or visiting museums; completing essays, researching a topic or debating; cooking or spending time with my family. These activities, among others, are what I like to embroider my weeks with.
Of course these are balanced up with commitments to college and daily routines. There are always going to be train journeys to make and exams to revise for. I’m fortunate in that I love learning and am always looking to expand my understanding and thinking. The prospect of studying English Literature at Oxford come October (I found out on Friday!) is absolutely delicious. But the other bits, the practicalities and responsibilities, are useful – if not always enjoyable.
This focus on enjoyment has become more important recently. Last year I was obsessed with achievement. I measured my self-worth in grades and success. It was corrosive. Aiming to be the best invariably ends in unhappiness, for perfection is unreachable. Such high standards, imposed on me by myself, became stressful. Not reaching my own lofty targets was a form of failure, I thought.
That changed, thank god. The self-motivation and desire to do well hasn’t melted. If anything, it’s stronger. But now the focus is not on achievement, but on contentment - working hard, having fun and being alive to both complexity and wonder. For me it is not about passing time, but possessing it. Making it worth it. We often talk about ‘spending’ time – and if so, I want mine invested well.
The photos of the owl print dress and parrot trousers are from early last year when talented designer Charlotte Taylor sent me some pieces to try on prior to modeling for her A/W 2012 Lookbook (the resulting photos can be seen here). The last three were taken by photographer Vanessa Jackman at the most recent London Fashion Week. Both events typify my continuing desire to take opportunities, seek out new experiences and appreciate the process. Working with skilled photographers and designers is always a pleasure, and there’s plenty of joy to be found in a beautiful silk bird print dress or Charlotte Taylor gramophone print scarf and cabbage print top...