London

You Don’t Need A Degree To Be Successful

Photography by Simon Creasey

After writing Monday's post I've come to realise that you guys enjoy reading about my experiences and not just a quick 'so, heres what I'm wearing' style post.  However I also understand that you do come to me for fashion so I'm going to be mixing the two together from here on in.  If you want to see an outfit or some high quality imagery to inspire you then that's what you'll get but if you want a little more insight on who I am, my thoughts, feelings and experiences then I'm offering you that too. If you're interested in both, well you've hit the freakin' jackpot here.

I started jotting down a few topics which I'd like to talk about here on the blog, and some of my own experiences which I want to share with you all.  Today I'd like to tell a story of success...

I think the title of this post will giveaway the direction in which I'm going to go with it but I can only speak about my own experiences.  I enjoyed school, it was fun, but I wasn't particularly academic in all subjects.  Some I excelled at, especially anything creative like Art and believe it or not I loved PE (Phys Ed I think you guys in the US call it) despite my current hatred of anything involving physical activity.  I enjoyed English, loved the Biology side of Science and didn't mind Maths, although never to this day have I used Trigonometry or Algebra.  I wasn't a fan of RE (Religious education) because even from a young age I decided religion wasn't for me, I was always very sure of this.  I enjoyed learning, and as lots of kids do, I would go home at the end of the day and tell my mum and dad about what I'd learnt at school.  As I got older the creative side of my personality really began to blossom, I get this from my mum.  But I also enjoyed sports, and this comes from my dad.  I was on the netball team, the basketball team, the hockey team, the track team (Long distance can you believe), I used to roller-skate, I surfed, I did everything.  Location might have something to do with that because I grew up in Cornwall, a beautiful place, but for a child or a teen there's naff all to do unless your 'outdoorsy'.  It's a tourist spot, so come Winter aka 'the off-season' everything even remotely fun closes so you had to be active.  I did ok in my GCSE's, some pretty good grades and some shitty ones, RE being one of them, but I didn't care about that, in my head I knew exactly what I wanted to do and these subjects were insignificant to me.

 

Emma Hill wearing Trench coat, light wash jeans, white ankle boots, Simon Miller tan nubuck Bonsai bucket bag, chic Spring outfit

For a good few years I was adamant that I wanted to be a Marine Biologist.  I was obsessed, and I mean obsessed with whales and dolphins and any kind of marine life.  In fact I still surprise myself when Simon and I are watching a bit of Dave (Attenbourough) on the the telly and I can still spew out all these facts about Sperm whales or the mating habits of the bottled nosed dolphin.  Honestly, if there's a marine-life based pub quiz, you want me on your team.  I was that set on being a Marine Biologist that I spent months researching how I could continue these studies in the US because that's where I wanted to be, with all the incredible marine life in Florida or San Fran.  After my GCSE's I chose to stay on at the Sixth Form at my secondary school, because I loved that school, I loved the staff and the familiarity.  I was studying English, Sports Studies, Biology and Art, quite a random mixture but along with the academic subjects I needed for Marine Biology I also needed to feed those creative and active sides to my personality.  We've all been teenagers so we all know what it's like to be that age and to change our minds at the drop of a hat, and that's what happened, I just changed.  After three months I dropped biology, I just didn't enjoy it any more and most students/my friends were only taking three subjects so they had more free time and more of a social life...I had serious FOMO.  As a 16/17 year old I wanted to be part of the mix, I didn't want to be missing out on social activities, even if it was just a celebratory drive to the local McDonalds because someone just passed their driving test, that was our tradition.  If I'm being honest at that point, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or what I wanted to be, I was living for the moment, enjoying being young and carefree, and those were some of the best days of my life.

I'm not quite sure how it works these days but when I was at school you only really started hearing about University when you started College or Sixth Form or at the very earliest, pretty damn close to taking your GCSE's in year 11.  Your choice of subjects at A-Level were dependant on what you wanted to study at University so you needed to decide on that pretty quick.  For some, choosing your life path at the age of 16 isn't easy, and as someone that thought they knew what they wanted to do but later changed their mind I would say don't rush into it, and don't be pressured to decide on a life just for the sake of others.  If you're unsure then take more time to figure it out. I know people who went to study History and Art at University and came out with the highest possible qualification, but they never did anything with that degree once they graduated because it wasn't what they wanted to do, they just got a degree because a degree means success (wrong).  Now they're stuck with a pretty hefty student loan to pay off and a degree which is useless, to them at least.  Just a bit of paper stuffed in a box in the loft because hanging it on the wall reminds them of a mistake they wish they hadn't made.  I know from looking at my blog analytics that my main age demographic of you guys reading is the 25-34 bracket, so I might be preaching to the wrong crowd here, but on the off chance I reach someone who is struggling to decide what to do with their life, take your time.  Maybe some of you even have kids of your own that might be soon approaching these life changing decisions, and I would just urge you to consider that not everyone is so sure on what they want to do or be.  My mum and dad were incredibly supportive, I never felt pressured into doing anything I wasn't sure of and that's why I never went to University.

It was in my first year of Sixth Form when people started talking about Universities, and I just went along with the flow, didn't really think about it to be honest.  I didn't even consider that there was an option of not actually going, it was just the done thing.  I got a boyfriend, my first love, and he wanted to be a Doctor so his path was very strictly laid out for him, there was no other alternative than to go to Uni.  He was in the year above me and when I look back I can bet his mum probably hated me, because I was a distraction at a time when he should have been studying for the most important exams of his life.  Even with this little blonde and tanned bombshell in his life he passed his exams and got into Southampton Uni, I went to visit him once and then our relationship fizzled out (ok not entirely accurate but that's another story for another time).  But what I do remember is that there were no other options for him, he had that life mapped out, I'm not entirely sure if he even wanted to be a Doctor, I never asked.  I don't have any contact with him but my mum has reported back that he is a Doctor, and I really do hope he's happy.

During my second year of Sixth Form the emphasis on Universities started to get pretty real. 'Open Days' were arranged for our entire year at the two closest Universities, Plymouth and Exeter.  It was at an open day for Exeter University that I made my mind up, this wasn't for me.  We all piled off a coach onto a green common on the Uni campus and were split up into groups, each group with a student tour guide.  All I remember from that day is a whistle stop tour through the halls of residence, rushing past the facilities and then the look of sheer delight on our tour guide as he marched us into the Student Union, stood proudly in his domain and proclaimed "Pound a pint in ere".  It was as if that was the only information we needed and we should be 'sold' on Exeter University based on that single fact alone.  Well, that single fact was the only thing which stuck in my head and from that very moment, I knew University was not the place for me.  As some of you now know, I don't drink, I don't like alcohol, and yes I have had a drink in the past, definitely in my youth but I hated it.  I didn't drink much when we went out, I actually had an effective routine of accepting a drink when round was bought and passing it off to someone else and then acting drunk, I could have won an Oscar for my drunken performances, peer pressure eh.  Having said that, I never had to have my stomach pumped so I like to think that every cloud has a silver lining in this instance.  The drinking and the emphasis on drinking was an issue for me, a massive issue, it put me off University because I didn't want that life, I wasn't interested in that life.  Looking back now I'm actually quite proud of myself for not following the crowd and for being able to make that decision.

So what did I do instead? Well after Sixth Form I got a summer job in a surf shop as most Cornish youths do, spending the Summer on the beach, my favourite place.  I had a new boyfriend now, but he was a year younger than me so he was still in Sixth Form finishing off his final year.  After that I'm ashamed to say that I slipped into a routine of just 'plodding along'.  I was in a comfortable relationship, but I had no real ambition to do anything with my life.  It was like any 'get up and go' had been sucked out of me and I blamed that on the lack of opportunities that Cornwall had to offer but actually it was because I just became lazy.  I did a few random jobs for a year and then I started my own business selling luxury pet goods, so random I know.  That was short lived and I hated doing my own tax returns (oh the irony) so I decided to get a job in retail because I knew I could work my way up and it would eventually amount to some kind of career with a decent wage.  If truth be told at this point I was getting majorly itchy feet, I was bored and uninspired by my life, my boyfriend, and by Cornwall.

I needed more, I needed a city.  The closest you get to a proper city in the South West is Plymouth, so I got a job as a Visual Merchandiser in the Mall in the city centre.  I was on an 11K salary but I loved it, I felt inspired again, I felt a new lease of life.  A new place, new people, surrounded by clothes and a role where I could let my creative side loose.  From there I moved very quickly up the retail ladder thanks to some timely departures and maternity leaves which worked in my favour, and after three years I was a Store Manager earning 35K.  Whilst working in Plymouth I met Simon.  He had just finished his degree at Plymouth University but he was actually from South East London.  He was unlike anyone I'd ever met before, he was driven, ambitious and knew exactly what he wanted from life, and it rubbed off on me (not a euphemism).  What I didn't know is that he had planned to move back home in a few weeks as he'd finished Uni, but then we met, I worked my magic and I ruined that plan, probably causing yet another mother to hate me.  I bought my first property and we moved in together in Plymouth.  He got a job with his degree, also bought a property but rented it out as another source of income.  I started my blog not long after and then talks began of us both moving to London.

When it comes to the blog the rest they say is history. Without waffling on any more than I have to it just progressed, it took time, ten years to be precise to get to this point but I made that happen, without a degree.  I might have stumbled at the early hurdles in life, or maybe you could say I just walked around those hurdles but in the end I have got myself to this point.  I run a successful business, so successful that Simon left his job ten months ago to come and work in this business, and he will quite openly tell you that it's better than any job he's had from his degree.  Together we have now taken this business to another level, both creatively and financially and we're excited to see where it takes us next.  So to anyone that says you need a degree to be successful I call bullshit on that theory.  My mum would say that everything happens for a reason, she's more spiritual than I am, I'm a bit cynical when it comes to that way of thinking.  I believe that you make your own luck and that you're in charge of your own destiny.  But I do believe that surrounding yourself with the right people can have a major effect on your life, as it has done mine.  I'm not trying to discourage the youth of today to not go to University and to not get a degree but if you're just not sure, don't let anyone pressure you, don't let them rush you, don't let them decide on your future.  Think outside the box and surround yourself with the right kind of people.

Outfit Details

Trench Coat - & Other Stories

T-Shirt - Topshop

Jeans - Zara

Bag - Simon Miller

Boots - Dune 

Earrings - & Other Stories

Short Necklace - Holly J

Long Necklace - Cinco

Watch - Cartier

Sunglasses - Ray Ban (Similar here and here)

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