Is this all there is?

Whenever I’ve declared to loved ones that I believe I’m going through a quarter-life crisis, they chuckle. They think it’s a joke. And really, I don’t particularly blame them. You see, our media has portrayed twenty-somethings to be carefree and blissfully youthful, with “their whole lives ahead of them”, so what could they/we possibly have to worry about?

young 1

The thing is though, I don’t think I have ever felt carefree and youthful; particularly not once my twenties started. With my twenties came more stress, more responsibility and more pressure. There is not only an overwhelming pressure for young people today to go to college and qualify in a particular discipline, there is also the addition of social media to ensure we always compare ourselves to our friends.

I know it’s inevitable at this point that older generations may be thinking But young people have so many opportunities nowadays! Gone are the days of fighting for your rights! The world is a sea of possibilities for young people today! And yes, I do get that. I really do.

For instance, if I was born as a woman in a different time, I likely would have birthed 4+ children by now and be chained to the kitchen sink, with no access to a blog, and most likely I wouldn’t have directly chosen this life. I probably wouldn’t have had any access to education, at least past primary school level, and a rewarding career was most definitely out of the realm of possibility.

I have complete and utter respect and adoration for the women of the past. I really do. They birthed children, cared for them, managed the home, cooked, cleaned, nurtured their husbands, and in a lot of circumstances, were rarely even acknowledged for doing so. It was merely a cultural expectation that that is what you did as a woman. There was no choice involved. That was the only path for a lower class woman in the past. But, were they happy? Quite simply, I cannot answer that. I cannot speak for the women of the past. But I can only assume that if they were happy, it was merely that they never had the opportunity to know anything different.

My point is, ones happiness is hugely dependent on ones circumstances. Nowadays, us millennials have been brought up to aspire to greatness. I recall that as a child, it was merely assumed that we would all finish secondary school and progress to third level education, become an academic of sorts, and achieve this mystical greatness. 

In fact, I cannot recall one instance from either my primary or secondary education in which a teacher made any insinuation that us (the future generation) could achieve greatness through a trade, through a retail job or through being a homemaker. It was merely assumed that we would become professionals and achieve GREATNESS.

And through this upbringing, we began to believe that once we were adults, we would be fulfilled and free and well-off. And yes, maybe us millennials became entitled as a consequence to this. Through our upbringing, we were taught that we were special and important and by merely being qualified and having the patience to study at third level for 3/4 years, this magical greatness would embrace us. We wouldn’t embrace it, but it would come running after us because we were that important.

businessman

The thing is though, by the time we reached that level, of finishing college with honours, there was no greatness to be had. I distinctly recall in Ireland when the R word hit the media like an incurable virus; Recession. It meant that before I even finished secondary school, I knew that my home country was in a terrible state. At one point, you couldn’t turn on the news or open a newspaper without a mention of this DREADED RECESSION.

But still, we were urged socially to finish college and achieve greatness. And if we didn’t achieve greatness, well that was just our fault for being entitled and unwilling to work from the bottom and go the extra mile; which apparently are traits that us millennials are severely lacking.

So, why are millennials so entitled and unwilling to succeed? Is it really as black and white as that? As a millennial, I say no. I was brought up to believe that I would instantly achieve this wondrous greatness upon reaching adulthood. I was brought up to expect greatness and fulfillment. was brought up to expect more. And yes, maybe was brought up to be somewhat entitled.

Admittedly, obtaining a degree in something as obscure as TV and Media Production was probably not my most sensible decision. Perhaps naively, I chose to follow my dreams because at the back of my mind, I thought doing so would ensure greatness.

Unfortunately, it has been three years since I graduated from college and as of yet, I have not secured greatness professionally speaking. To date, I have completed a 9-month internship for a community radio station, have worked in a banking call centre, and have worked in IT. Admittedly, I am proud that I have sustained employment for the most part. However, it has not exactly been the employment I was raised to aspire to.

college meme

 

I’m going to be completely honest here. I feel disappointed in myself. I feel disappointed that I have not achieved the greatness that I was taught to aspire to. I feel disappointed that at 25 years of age, I’m not fulfilled. I’m not happy. I don’t feel young and carefree. I feel lost and as though life is something happening to me; not something I determinedly and shamelessly embrace.

I have to ask at this point… Is this all there is? Is adult life really this hard? Is adult life really about typing ones days away in the office and budgeting ones earnings to pay for your bills and rent? If so, do I really even want to be an adult? I genuinely don’t think so.

But again, I have to ask the question… Am I only feeling this way because I’m an entitled  millennial?

Have I been raised to have impossibly high standards for myself? Have I been brought up to think that I am entitled to greatness?

Truthfully, as a non-psychiatrist, I cannot really answer that question. But I can, as a millennial, make the educated presumption that my upbringing has taught me that I am special and deserving of the best of the best.

I do think that there is an unbelievable pressure on young people today. Both professionally and socially, we are constantly being compared to one another and called entitled and delusional.

Maybe this is true. But is it our fault? I don’t think so. I actually think that our older mentors; teachers, professors and parents, have attempted to make us millennials more successful than they perhaps ever had the opportunity to become.

Is this all there is? Sadly, yes. Adulthood is adulthood; regardless of if you’re a millennial or not.

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The Republic of Ireland is NOT Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland is Munster.

face palm

So, I moved to Cambridge in the UK from Ireland in early 2018. To clarify, I’m a born and bred Irish woah-man. I was raised between Co. Mayo and Co. Roscommon and courageously fled further afield to Carlow for my studies, then to Co. Cork for work and to Co. Kilkenny, too (please note my sarcasm, this was not courageous, this is a thing boggers do to work. Note: boggers are people from the cionthrayyy!)

So anywho, wanting a change and more employment opportunities and to experience life outside of the Emerald Isle, I packed up and moved to the UK. My name is Aisling (or Dream, if you ask Google Translate). For the non-Irish folk, it’s pronounced “Ash-ling”. Lots of British people rightfully presumed it was Ace-ling. I don’t have a problem with this at all, because logically that’s what one would assume if they’re not familiar with the name. Like, if you asked a non-native English speaker to pronounce “photographer”, they might struggle too.

However, I did soon find myself becoming embarrassed by my name. I can’t quite explain why, or even pinpoint the exact moment it happened for me. But rather quickly, I started introducing myself as Ash to Brits (for Irish folk, you’ll know this is a common abbreviation, but still not my actual name).

I soon found myself repeating and explaining my name to British people. Without thinking, I would start defensively babbling “Oh, it’s an Irish name. It’s an Irish word. It means Dream.” It was like I was trying to sell my “foreign name” to the United Kingdom. It was almost apologetic, pathetic even… Please accept me! Please love me! Please take me as one of your own! 

It suddenly dawned on me that I too have been ignorant about foreign names back in Ireland. I used to work in a call centre (which was by far the best job I’ve ever had) and I used to grimace whenever I saw a non-national customer’s name on my screen. What should I call him? Maybe I should just stick to “Sir”?! And what if he can barely speak English?!

indian stereotype

Now, to be clear, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination comparing the life of an Irish person living in the UK to the life of an emigrant who has a completely different culture and has to learn the native tongue from scratch. I completely appreciate this is ten times more difficult for the Irish in the UK. I am simply stating that being different, being from a different nation, can be embarrassing. It can be uncomfortable, isolating even. In a sense, you’ll always be an outsider.

It is worth mentioning though that many British people have told me how much they love Ireland. They see the West of Ireland, in particular, as a leafy-green landscape of crystal-clear oceans and peaceful solitude. “It’s so beautiful!” they’ll exclaim, before (normally) telling me they have Irish descent.

However, I have also noticed an ignorance about Ireland from British people. After contemplating for a while, I understand it. I really do. If you think about it, Irish people are exposed to British media so much more than British people are exposed to Irish media.

And that comes to my next point, and the motivation really to write this blog… Southern. Ireland. is. not. a. country.

I’ve come to the realisation that many British people distinguish the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland by claiming one is the North and one is the South. Irish people don’t ever refer to the Republic as Southern Ireland, because quite frankly, it is not Southern Ireland. It is simply Ireland. It is its own independent country. It is its own independent culture, currency, economy and laws.

I’ve also come to the realisation that many British people do not see Northern Ireland as associated with them… when it is literally part of the United Kingdom!

So, for Northern Irish people (and I can only assume this), Irish people don’t see them as theirs, and nor do British people. Where does that leave them, culturally speaking?

In Ireland, Southern Ireland refers to Munster. The part of the island in the south of the Republic. I wonder if British people would be fond of Irish people referring to their land as Western Ireland? I’d assume they wouldn’t be too keen on that terminology.

I’ve also discovered that many British people are completely unaware of the fact they dominated and owned Ireland for so long. I’ve even spoken to British people who didn’t even know Irish was a language, and that we only speak English because of Britain’s control.

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Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who think a nation of people should feel guilty or responsible in some way for their ancestor’s actions. I just think that as there is such a strong link between Ireland and the UK, and there always has been, surely some knowledge of each other can only be a good thing?

Of course there are probably plenty of Irish people, too, who know next to nothing about the UK. This isn’t right either. Why don’t we settle our grudges, and learn from each other?

To my British buddies, is mise le meas!

 

 

 

 

Finding Myself

I don’t know about you, but I have found it very difficult finding myself in this world. I’ve always wanted to share my opinions, but I feel that obstacles have always presented themselves…

I was born to very liberal, modern parents. They always encouraged me as a child, saying I could do anything I wanted to do. Early on in my childhood, I really believed it too. I had such confidence in myself. I was loud, boisterous and outspoken. My parents never hushed me, but other grownups found me irritating and poorly behaved. This instantly led me to believe that children should be seen and not heard. And slowly, as I grew older, I began silencing and shrinking myself more and more.

My childhood friends knew me as being crazy. I naturally have a pretty excitable personality and it was more intense during my childhood. I am not in contact with my childhood friends to this day, but I can only assume they would recall me as being crazy or eccentric and most definitely not opinionated or passionate.

That’s not to say I wasn’t. Even as a child, I was passionate and opinionated… in my mind. I became so extremely closeted in own beliefs that I felt embarrassed even trying to debate with someone or even go against a popular opinion.

I began to shrink more and more throughout my primary education. My perception throughout primary school was that being opinionated was a very negative trait to possess. My teachers rewarded classroom obedience, not talkativeness.

At 12, the free spirit I once was had more or less vanished into thin air. I remained quiet, cripplingly under-confident and entirely obedient to social and gender norms throughout secondary school.

But inside, I wanted to scream. I experienced examples of daily prejudice and regular instances of discrimination throughout secondary school, both by fellow students and occasionally, from teachers.

I will always remember the anger I felt towards teenage boys who would use gay as a way to insult their friends. I will always remember the pretentious, macho exterior presented by teenage boys, the pompous and sexist attitudes expressed by them. I will always remember how atheism was forbidden and even punishable in secondary school; how Catholicism was integrated into all aspects of our school activities and subjects.

Ultimately, and here’s the part that broke my teenage heart, I will always remember how each and every one of us in secondary school were assigned the same narrow box to live in, and the same narrow rules to live by.

At 17, I thankfully graduated secondary school and respectfully kissed goodbye to a damaging, restrictive and confidence-crippling institution.

I soon began to learn that who I had been taught to be in secondary school would get me virtually nowhere in the real world. A path of self discovery lay before me. I would have to learn eventually how to be a civilized, respectable member of society. But how could I do this? What was my life purpose? At 17, I was filled with so many questions but I had yet to find any answers.

I first began to gradually reject social and gender norms. I didn’t want to be seen as weak because I was a girl. So I tried to be seen as strong. I began helping more people and showing compassion. I also finally learned how to stand up for myself, approaching 18 years old. I didn’t want to be seen as stupid, so I decided to go to college but this time study something I wanted to study. My secondary school academic performance was, overall, rather bleak.

I felt like there was something wrong with my brain in secondary school. A lack of interest combined with sheer boredom resulted in quite poor performance; particularly in my junior cycle. I was treated like there was something wrong with my brain, too. School encourages a system of putting people into boxes. I was horrendous at Maths, so I was deemed to have a learning difficulty. I was then treated differently by teachers and members of staff as a consequence.

I’ve come to realize that the term “learning difficulty” can cause irreversible harm to a young person. When a student struggles, they are examined and labeled a word and thus identified by that word. How can we expect the youths of Ireland to become confident, well-spoken, functioning members of society if we segregate them as being smart or stupid in school?

I had to unlearn the labels assigned to me after I graduated. Nearly five years later, I have completed my self healing process. I now reject the term “learning difficulty”. Instead, I choose to openly tell others (if brought up in conversation) that I struggle with the concept of numbers and spacial awareness. Additionally, I have extreme issues with organization and am prone to anxiety as a result to stress brought on by poor organization.

This is me. These are my shortcomings, but they do not make me “unable”. They do not cause me to suffer from a “learning difficulty”. They do not cause me unmanageable difficulty in day-to-day tasks. At 21, I can say that I am an active, functioning member of society. I will not be a label. I will not fit into a box of gender or social expectation. I will not be defined by what people call me, or what people see when they look at me. I will not be defined by the way I laugh. I will not be determined by who I used to be in the past, I will be determined by how I show myself in the present.

At 21, I am also aware that I still have a lot to learn. And I openly embrace my future experiences and lifelong lessons.

I have only begun to truly regain confidence in my opinions in recent months. In school, I was always shut down. But now, I can express myself freely without being segregated or labeled as a result.

I’m still finding myself, more and more every single day. But every day I notice something new. I notice a different form of inequality. I become aware of our failed education system, when I witness the intolerance and ignorance of young people regarding social issues. Homophobia, trans-phobia, racism, racist stereotypes, casual sexism, rape, victim blaming, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the point in sending our children to public school at all from age 5-17 or 18; if we release them into the world as ignorant, intolerant or simply dismissive. What’s the point? I’d rather my child understands and rejects inequality and oppression instead of know how to do Algebra or cite a Yeats poem.

But maybe that’s just me. And who knows? Maybe that opinion will change. Because I am always progressing, changing and developing my mind. I’ve come a long way, but I’m still finding myself after all… I think we all are, ’till the day we die…

Aisling Kelleher