Issy Panayis is wearing shiny silver trainers with see-through mesh socks. Her make-up is pristine and colourful, her hair dyed blonde. She has on pale blue jeans and a pink shirt, slightly wrinkled because the material, she tells me, is so damn delicate you can’t even sit down in it. She is an extrovert, full to the brim with laughter, with an unabashed London accent. She perfectly encapsulates the confidence of one who is returning to a well-known place more successful than when she left it (kind of how you feel driving past your old high school), but also someone who the memory of submitting an essay three minutes before the deadline is still a little too close for comfort. If ‘recently graduated young professional’ had a picture definition, Issy would fit the bill perfectly.
This is the first time she’s been back since graduation. Since then, she’s landed herself not one job, which in today’s market would be an achievement in itself, but two. Ever listened to a traffic bulletin in London? Were you awake in the early hours of the morning in the week leading up to New Years? If so, then there’s a strong chance you’ve heard her voice. Issy currently works as a travel broadcaster for INRIX, and as a cover presenter for Radio X, part of the Global family. Back in November she also won a Gold and Silver Student Radio Award, because of course she did.
All she wants to do right now though is have a pint in the union pub. She says she’s really missed the cold glass of a proper San Miguel pint. So that’s what we do. Almost. The union pub was too busy so we compromise and go to the post-grad bar, and I pay. She jokingly grumbles about the lack of seats as we eventually find a spare sofa in a quieter corner, only the occasionally thud of pool cue against ball to disturb us.
“It feels like I’ve never left and exactly the same. This is always gonna be a part of my life, there’s always gonna be a part of me in Norwich… but it’s weird to think that every time I do come back, I am a bit different and more things do change.”
Surely, you must feel different? She concedes yes, slightly, but not massively. The biggest difference for her was getting out of the so-called ‘uni bubble’ she inhabited for three years. Her bronze nails tap against the glass as she takes a sip.
“You get very wrapped up in the drama of it all, things that aren’t big deals become huge deals, and I don’t miss that. I have no drama in my life now and I love it! To an extent – occasionally I get bored.” She laughs, the type of laugh that lets the whole face join in.
Issy was always ambitious, and knew exactly where she wanted to go. As a child she was a daily listener to XFM, which has become Radio X, and says working at the station now is like a “dream come true”. It was dropping in on a friend at UEA’s radio show during sixth form that sealed the deal. From then on, it was broadcasting all the way, and in her final year of university she bagged the top job of Station Manager at Livewire 1350, UEA’s student radio station. With all this experience, she must have been fully prepared for life in the real world? Apparently not.
“It doesn’t prepare you for what’s going to happen, it’s tough. You’re trying to prove yourself to a room of people who don’t know you. You come to uni and your friends get to know you, you have a supportive community around you. Now you’re coming into spaces where nobody knows you, it’s kind of like the first day of school.”
So it seems Issy, despite all the success she has had since graduating has not been immune to the graduate blues felt by many, and that includes having to move back home. She, like others, has struggled with the technicalities of once again living under the same roof as a parent, “arguing about washing up like you’re 13”.
To me, Issy seems to have it all figured out. A job, the prospect of moving out pretty sharpish, an excellent watch on her wrist. When I mention the watch she tuts and shows it to me. She’s having a problem with the sizing. One hole leaves the watch loose on her wrist, whereas the other cuts off the circulation to her hand ever-so-slightly. Which do you opt for, I ask, with the interest of someone who doesn’t wear a watch. “I’ve got used to not being able to feel my hand.” I wonder if there’s a metaphor in someone choosing personal discomfort over an unwillingness to lose a (very nice) watch. It does seem like the more mature choice of the two, and I tell her this.
“I still don’t consider myself to be an adult. Uni, you look like an adult but you’re still not quite there. Being an adult is hard.”
At this point her friend Pippa spots us and comes over to say “hello”. Issy compliments her dungarees, which turn out to be her boyfriend’s Mum’s from Canada. They agree to go for a drink when we’re finished, and Pippa relaxes onto the sofa opposite us.
“I’m back on normal people time now,” she explains, turning back to me. Normal people time? This is something Issy uses to divide her life up. Normal people time is filled with breakfast in the morning, getting out the house at a reasonable time and human interaction. Overnight time, which is generally when she works for Radio X, means going to bed at 6am and hopefully sleeping until the late afternoon. It sounds like an ordeal. But she loves it. How is it possible?
“I think the adrenaline keeps you going. Sometimes I have too much coffee, and then my hands start shaking, which is bad because you can’t move the buttons.”
Being up so early in the morning, something weird must have happened, you can’t be up that early and be sane the entire time.
Turns out you can’t.
Her first cover shifts were over Christmas when no one was in the building. She would come in really early to get settled in, and this is when she met Margherita Taylor (of T4 and Classic FM) fame.
“One evening I was making a coffee and there was no milk in the whole building, and she walked past me and asked how I was, and I was like “there’s no milk!”, and she went away and came back and brought me her personal half pint of milk! And I was talking to my friend Tom about the milk, and he was like “show me”, so I was taking selfies around the office with this milk, trying to get a good one, and then I looked at the screen and it was literally counting down from three until I was meant to be talking. I did almost miss a link because I was trying to take selfies with Margherita Taylor’s milk.”
She assures me she didn’t miss the link, and that funnily enough, she didn’t tell anyone about the incident. From graduation to taking selfies with professional presenters’ milk cartons, she sure has come far.
She laughs and nods. “It’s all very new and exciting, I’m still very much getting to grips with it. I was saying to my boss yesterday, the way I’ve come in the last six months has been insane.”
She’s finished her beer now. Pippa is waiting patiently on the sofa opposite to take her for a drink downstairs. Before she has to rush off I ask her if she has any advice for people graduating this year?
“Stay calm, ‘cause it’s going to be fine! Make the most of the time you have at uni, because it is gonna end. It feels like it’s gonna go on forever, and then it stops, and you just have to use the time you have here to do as much as you possibly can… Whatever you want to do, if you work hard you can definitely do it. One hundred percent.”
Her hands rub absentmindedly at something on her jeans. When I ask what she’s doing she says that she’s dropped so much on them today and she’s just blending it all in so no one can see. It may be the best metaphor for adulthood I’ve ever heard.