In the year that none of us could have predicted, Gaby Mendes looks back on her Talk Twenties journey and shares her thoughts and feelings for 2021. Listen or read Gaby's frank and honest account of her twenties and allow it to inspire you to push through those harder times and create the life you want for yourself.
Wahey we made it to 2021!
Phew, ain’t that a relief.
If you’re tuning in to the podcast today, hiya, and thanks for listening/reading. Now if you’re a frequent listener of the podcast you’ll be used to hearing me interview guests about their stories and expertise in their twenties, but for this episode, it’s just me, Gabs.
I wanted to find space to chat to you about the whirlwind of a year we’ve all been through and share my story of how I came to create Talk Twenties, it’s not been as straight forward as you might think. I’m also going to chat to you about how I’m feeling about 2021 in the hope that it will help some of you feeling nervous about what it has in store.
I’ll also be celebrating our 1st birthday (we launched our website a year ago today on the 1st January 2020)! So let’s kick start with a recap of my own journey through 2020….
We all started the year with so much optimism… I for one officially launched Talk Twenties on the 1st of January 2020, although it had been almost 18 months in the making (hello imposter syndrome)! I was relieved to finally get it out there, but nervous and anxious for how it would be received. But if I’m totally honest, I am sat here recording this episode in the box room of my house feeling so much gratitude for the way in which you guys have supported me through this little dream of mine.
It’s not been without its challenges though and for this, I have to start at the beginning. You may or may not know that when I graduated from university I trained to be a secondary school teacher. During my time teaching I was given a form group of sixth form students (aged 17-19) and I had barely entered my twenties myself. It was here, way back in 2018 that I realised these students would likely grow up to feel as lost as I felt when they reached their twenties… often asking me questions about credit cards, debit cards, or whether they should do an apprenticeship or go to university and what it would be like living away from home for the first time. It was here in my early twenties that I myself experienced what I can only describe as post-graduate depression, so uncertain of my future, feeling like a misfit and not knowing where to turn. But on the outside my family and friends thought I was doing great, after all, I’d found a steady career path and respectable job.
But, I wasn’t happy. This was the life that other people wanted me to live because they thought it would make me happy. But it didn’t make me happy and I knew it from the moment I stepped into that teacher training interview. I spent the next 2 years questioning whether this was what adult life was like, you pick a job, you stick to it and one day you’ll find happiness? Or maybe you aren’t happy but you find happiness in other things like weekends, friendships and relationships or getting a new car or a new house. But I didn’t really know how to go about getting those things either. So I left. I left my steady £25,000 a year job and searched for something that would leave me feeling the way I wanted to feel waking up each day.
After sitting down and analysing my skillset and the things I enjoyed doing (I analyse myself so much, sometimes to my detriment). I settled on the idea that a job in media would be more to my taste, given that I loved working on projects and was fiercely creative. Living in the North West of England, Media City is the place to go for anything in the media world so I set my sights on there. I applied for about 20 different jobs at Media City and didn’t even get past the first stage of shortlisting questions. I went to visit a friend who I knew was working at Media City and it suddenly dawned on me that this was probably not the life I was hoping for at all. It would be really tough to gain experience, especially without a media degree, and I couldn’t afford to work unpaid as I had bills to pay. Although I’m a strong believer that ANYTHING is possible, I am also a firm believer that we don’t always set goals for ourselves that are good ones and it’s important to do your research before you dive in believing it’s right for you. Gut instinct is so so important. So, it was back to the drawing board.
I remember going home to see family at this stage and I could read the fear on their faces. I was about to leave teaching with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. We went out for a birthday meal with the extended family and it was there that I chatted to my auntie who had a career spanning 15 years in the world of events. The more she spoke about her job, the more I knew this was something I would be well-suited to. So I switched up my job search and, after a number of applications and convincing people that I had left teaching for a good reason (and not failed - people are so judgey) eventually landed myself my first temporary contract in events.
Despite this being just a minimum wage job for a 3 month period I was so much happier. The job involved hosting career events for female STEM students and meant I got to travel up and down the country to host events in different venues with different employers and students. I was in my element and it was in this job that one night I dreamt up an idea that an event for twenty-somethings (not just graduates) would be an incredible thing. But something more than just a careers fair, because there are so many other elements to your twenties that are harder than just getting your career right.
I sat on this idea for a year. I moved jobs to work in creating trade shows and awards ceremonies and alongside this, slowly started to grow my twenty-something niche over on my blog that, at the time, was called ‘G’s Twenties’. In April 2019 I was awarded Liverpool’s Influential Blogger of the Year which gave me the courage to go public with my friends and family about my blog, before this, I’d always tried to hide my blog from them out of fear of judgement.
By November 2019 I was meeting up once a week with a friend who worked in Marketing who helped me pull together a website and idea for my events. We were all ready to go on January 1st 2020 and as I look back now it feels like that was so long ago. I am sure for many of you listening, you have a similar story of where you were going until we reached the year that no-one could have predicted.
I was on a work trip in London at the end of January when the first news broke about British tourists returning from Wuhan to the North West of England. I remember sitting at dinner with my two colleagues, feeling nervous but also somewhat joking about them being quarantined in a hospital close to where I lived. Just less than 2 months later we were no longer laughing.
It had always been the plan to support my idea of events for twenty-somethings with a podcast. In fact, I am looking at an old notebook with my 2020 goals in and one of them says launch a podcast and record 10 episodes (we actually ended up tripling that in 2020). So whilst all the madness had started kicking off I thought I’d crack on with this and start mapping together a plan for the podcast, officially launching at the beginning of March. For the time being my event idea had to be put on the back burner.
As you know we were plunged into lockdown by the end of March, but I am sure I am not alone when I say that I honestly thought this would be a few weeks or so and then we’d be out of it… so I popped on my Instagram story saying that I had planned to launch bi-weekly episodes but given that we were in lockdown, did people want a weekly one and the decision was unanimous. So, throughout lockdown 1, I embarked on a journey to find the most interesting and influential twenty-somethings I knew to interview and share their thoughts on the podcast.
Throughout this time, although my full-time job was not as fast-paced as it had previously been, I was still working and so had to carefully balance the workload. But podcast listeners were growing episode by episode. Some of the most popular episodes of the podcast were the House Buying episodes and that planted the seed to work on an online course that brought together my experience as a first-time buyer (I’d bought my house with my boyfriend in 2019) with the expert advice of a mortgage advisor that I had previously interviewed for the podcast. I’m so proud that the online course is the exact thing I would have wanted to have access to when I was buying my first home as sadly our house buying journey was not straight forward because quite simply, we didn't know what we were doing! I knew I wanted to help other people by providing them with the knowledge they’d need to not make the expensive and costly mistakes we did. I also felt frustrated that there was no simple place to find this information, it’s not something you can dip your toe in lightly to decide if it’s the right next step for you. If this sounds like you right now and maybe you’ve set a goal to get closer to buying a house in 2021 then make sure you check out the First -Time Buyer Guide.
Shortly after we launched the course we were plunged into a second lockdown and this was where we launched our Talk Twenties monthly workshops. These workshops are a 90-minute interactive online workshop, lead by either myself or a guest host to help you in a certain area of your twenties. This was the perfect opportunity to bring together the community we had started to build.
There have been two moments in the last month where I’ve honestly felt so overwhelmed and speechless and as you know, I’m not often speechless. The first was when Spotify Wrapped came out in December… stats, figures, ratings and reviews have never been something I have focussed on for the podcast. Content has always come first and so I was shocked to find out that Spotify had ranked the Talk Twenties Podcast in the Top 50 Education Podcasts in the UK. Before I burst into tears just thinking about it, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Never in a million years did I think this little podcast would be so well-liked and thank you to those of you that have sent messages in the past 12 months to say that a certain episode has helped you. I will continue to make sure we continue helping you.
The second moment where I had to pinch myself was waking up on Boxing Day to find out that the Liverpool Echo had included me in an article called ’30 Under 30: The young people changing the face of Liverpool’ and my little mug was on the front cover! To put it into context, Jodie Comer from Killing Eve is on that list, as well as The Vivienne who you may know as the winner of UK Ru Pauls Drag Race, Curtis Jones a footballer who at 19, holds a premier league medal with Liverpool FC and Katarina Johnson-Thompson who brought home Liverpool's first-ever gold medal at the World Championships in Doha, as well as many other people doing amazing things for Liverpool. There are a number of reasons this means so much to me. The first is that I don’t feel like I deserve to be in a list with such amazing people… this year has been a whole lot of trial and error and I don’t think it’s worthy of anything like this at all, I still feel like I am only at the beginning and am still working to learn new things to improve Talk Twenties. The second reason this means so much is because I love Liverpool. I wasn’t born here but I was reborn here. I feel like I found myself in this city and I am so pleased to call the North West home, so thank you, because without your support you wouldn’t have made this little girl from Gloucestershire feel so welcome in her new home.
So I guess it’s Happy 1st Birthday to Talk Twenties, in a year that has been so flipping crazy you would not believe.
I know many of you do not have stories like this to tell of 2020 and probably have felt much like I felt at the beginning of my twenties. Lost, confused and little hopeless.
Many of you will have faced redundancies, unemployment, reduced hours, or overworking as a key worker. We’ve all experienced loss, some of us grief, and we’ve all missed our human connections with our friends and families. It’s a year that has truly tested us.
But it’s always easier to look back on the harder moments and see how they’ve shaped you, so if you’re in a difficult place right now, one day you’ll be able to look back on this moment and see it helped make you, you. You just can’t see it right now.
But we made it to 2021 and we’ve got through the very worst days of 2020. We flippin’ made it!!
In the year that’s taught us to be more grateful for the little things and to slow down… take some time to appreciate all the little wins you’ve achieved this year. Whether it’s finding a new hobby, starting a new project or spending more time working on yourself, that’s a win. I’m so proud of each and every one of you who uses this platform to learn and grow and I promise you there’s more of that to come in 2021. I’ve got some massive projects that I’m working on and can’t wait to tell you about!
I know you’re usually used to hearing other people’s stories and expertise on this podcast so thank you for listening to my story. We’ll be back later in the month with an amazing line up of guests, I can’t wait for you to hear their stories. There is so much to come in 2021.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode and want to hear more from me and my personal journey through my twenties you can follow me on Instagram @iamgabymendes.
All that’s left for me to say, I am wishing you so much love and luck for 2021 and don’t forget to stay in touch through our online community by joining our Facebook Group ‘The Talk Twenties Hub’. Love ya!