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12-03-2020, 19:12   #1
Insect Overlord
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2020 - Off to A Mad Start

Way back in Ancient Times (c. 2005), when Facebook was still called The Facebook, YouTube was still in development, and Tiktok was just a noise that clocks made, I was a young Transition Year student who had never even heard of Boards.ie. We were lucky in my school to have a strong English department who encouraged reading, writing and public speaking. They ran a competition that year for speech writing. Alas, I did not enter it myself!

I still remember one of the outstanding entries, cleverly titled "2020 - the Year of Perfect Vision". It was witty and optimistic, peppered with imaginative references to students and staff and all the things that we would have accomplished by the time this far-away year became a reality. At that stage we probably hadn't even picked the subjects we'd be studying for the Leaving Cert, but we knew who the talented musicians, artists, rugby players and athletes were.

What's happened since then? That year group produced several doctors, teachers, architects, designers, a journalist, a local councillor, two Irish international rugby players, and a wide variety other professions and life-stories. Many of us stayed in touch with our own little gangs and see each other at Christmas and weddings. Some of the lads are parents now themselves. Some, like me, are still figuring life out as we go along.

I think it's safe to say that none of us could have predicted the way the world would be in 2020, though. The last few years will be remembered for many reasons, and many of those will be negative. Reeling In The Years will have to do a whole episode just on January to March!

The concept of climate change is nothing new to any of us, but this series of weather warnings is taking a lot of getting used to. Flooding is still getting worse at this end of the River Shannon due to seemingly incessant rain. The world watched Australia burn for well over six months. Parts of Canada had unexpected levels of snowfall. The world has always experienced extreme weather conditions, but in 2020 we're exposed to every disaster around the world and expected to react to every emergency as if it's something we can fix with donations and thoughts and prayers.

The Covid-19 strain of coronavirus, on the other hand, is something that genuinely does unite the globe at the moment with 125 countries (so far) reporting cases. Today we've seen the Irish government announce the closure of schools and colleges and pre-schools. The GAA and the FAI have called a halt to all activities. Concerts, races, festivals, gigs, and myriad events are postponed or cancelled altogether. Travel to other countries is curtailed and supermarkets are full of senseless panic shoppers. As of this evening we have had 70 confirmed diagnoses in the Republic, one fatality, and a further six patients in intensive care due to complications with this infection.

It's a lot to take in, and that's without the likes of Brexit, the future economic consequences the pandemic, the usual stuff with Donald Trump, trolling and bullying on social media, the ongoing debates around identity politics, the fallout of Caroline Flack's suicide, the sentencing of Harvey Weinstein, and the inconclusive results of our recent General Election. I, for one, could do with some good news for a change!

Who knows, maybe the next 15 days of enforced isolation will bring more people back to Boards. Maybe we'll fall back in love with the old-fashioned phone call. Those of us who don't get ill will have more time to read, listen to music and podcasts, watch films and TV shows, play video games, make art, meditate, sing, cook and write.

To paraphrase Paddy Kavanagh, we live in important places, times when great events are decided.
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19-03-2020, 09:11   #2
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Well, it's been a week since I started this thread so I guess it's acceptable to bump it now.

How's everyone doing? I know that can be an awkward question at the best of times. Comedians have been using it for stand-up routines for years now. It's an accepted cliché at this stage that "How are you?" is an empty greeting rather than a genuine invitation to talk.

Another secondary school story - when I was in 5th Year, an international group of Christian Brothers came to visit our school. They had a mission. The process started with an open call for anyone in our year to step up and volunteer to engage with a youth leadership program. Out of over 150 students, only 12 of us expressed interest. We were interviewed and a shortlist of 6 were selected to represent the school. Then we found out that this would involve a foreign trip, and suddenly the other 140 lads were raging that they hadn't got involved.

We went to spend a week with a school in North America. They had been running their retreat program for 15 years and had perfected the process. Every detail was planned and structured to give the students a life-changing experience over the course of one weekend during their final year in secondary school. Parents and guardians were involved in a special way. School staff had all been on the journey before and it had fostered a wonderful sense of community over the years.

The six of us who traveled from Ireland got to experience the whole thing first-hand, along with a group of teachers from our Religious Education department. We learned as much as we could and brought it home to establish the same retreat program in our school. A similar project was underway in an all-girls school in Waterford. We traveled in 5th Year and planned to hold our first retreat in 6th Year.

Without going into too much detail, the retreat was based around "big group" talks and "small group" sessions. About 30 students from the school got to attend the first weekend. As leaders, the six of us had to set the tone for everyone else. This meant giving a personal speech in front of the whole group (students, teachers, Brothers) and then splitting off into our small groups for a few hours. The first small group session began with a simple question. How are you?

It's an experience I still remember vividly now, nearly 14 years later. We defied stereotypes and taboo and opened up. We took turns sharing everything. Each group bonded and grew to trust each other, knowing that we could turn to each other if there was ever something worrying us. There was no need for secrecy or shame or embarrassment.

I tried to apply the same philosophy here in the early days of C&H. Community and communication are key. They always have been. Whether it's in person, here on Boards, on the phone, on IRC or in Discord groups, we do better when we can rely on each other.

So how am I doing now? I'll think about that and put it into words in my next post. For now, I just hope all the old gang from here are doing okay.
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02-04-2020, 03:02   #3
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It would be great to get some of the old gang from here conversing again. I spent hours upon hours in here all those years ago () and everything is so different now.

The beginning of 2020 has been...heavy, I think. It's hard to believe we are only just beginning the fourth month of this year. On a personal note, it has been a very rocky year so far also. To the point when I wonder when luck will come my way again! Reading back over some of my posts in here, I really did not understand what "stress" was. Not really.

I think we all have a lot of catching up to do
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07-04-2020, 01:18   #4
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Someone asked me today how I'm coping with the new status quo. Though they didn't say it explicitly, they were specifically refering to my mental and emotional health. I answered straight away that I was doing just fine. And I meant it. The last few weeks haven't been drastically different for me.

I got used to living pretty quietly back in February after a previous run of steady work came to an end on January 31st. I started catching up on movies and TV shows that I'd been meaning to watch for ages. I stopped eating takeaways and started cooking healthy meals at home again. I bought a new guitar, started running 4 days a week, got back into weekly creative writing events. I was still going to football training every week even though the weather meant most of our matches got cancelled. The stress of work melted away and my lifestyle improved a lot.

But in all of that I was still mostly living inside my own head. The only people I felt close to were my girlfriend and my dad. The arrival of SARS CoV-19 meant I couldn't see my football team, my fellow poets, a local circle of gamers, some runners, but nobody who I'd really miss.

It's only struck me tonight how sad that is. I've isolated myself from most of my best friends for a long time now. I don't get tagged in any of those social media challenges, whether it's to share favourite albums or to post a picture for suicide awareness. I have so few shared interests with most of my best friends that the only thing they know we still have in common is classic Simpsons memes. I have my girlfriend, and her circle of closest friends have welcomed me with open arms, but I've let too many others drift away.

How do I feel about life right now? I feel like I've screwed up a little bit. I take myself too seriously. I stubbornly avoid anything that's popular. I don't make the first move to contact people. I could be self-pitying and weep because "Nobody texts me any more" but the truth is I haven't made enough of an effort to text any of them first.

I spend a big chunk of my days reminiscing about awesome times from the past. School. The Gaeltacht. College. The glory days of C&H. Girlfriends who became exes. One-off events. There are people who I miss a lot and I feel too awkward about re-opening the channels of communication with them. I know I shouldn't re-open some old wounds, but others should still be part of my life. I should be closer, too, to my football team-mates and those friendly faces from running events and poetry nights. I've kept my guard up too high, put up walls to keep them out. It keeps my base-level mood much steadier, but protecting myself from lows has also meant sacrificing a lot of highs.

I'm not sure what to take from this little spell of introspection. I imagine some of the people I want to talk to again might just tell me to mind my own business, now that I'm a stranger to them. Others are certainly busy living their own lives, dealing with their own issues and responsibilities.

I don't know. Maybe some would appreciate knowing that I still think about them and wish them well. I'll have to get over my anxiety and contact them to find out for sure. It looks like none of us will be meeting in person for quite some time, so I don't really have much to lose by messaging a few old friends. Right?
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07-04-2020, 09:33   #5
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I feel the same way. I had to move home from Galway two years ago because I couldn't afford rent anymore, which was mortifying. And I don't have friends here anymore? I live in a big city and I barely know anyone, and this lockdown has completely made me realise that.

I haven't had to change my life because I don't have ways to change it. It's made me realise I need to do stuff to make friends, because the internet can't make up for all of it.
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09-04-2020, 11:01   #6
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I think you should call your friends Insect. You shouldn't feel like you're alone. I bet you they'll think nothing of it!
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09-04-2020, 11:19   #7
Insect Overlord
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Panda_Returns View Post
I think you should call your friends Insect. You shouldn't feel like you're alone. I bet you they'll think nothing of it!
I got a DM from one of them on Twitter yesterday, and a Facebook message from another late last night. And another fella I'd been missing re-joined a WhatsApp group I'm in. A great day for virtual reunions!

That just leaves maybe 10 other old friends I'm still thinking about, but it does feel less daunting now.

The story that partly inspired my OP (the Transition Year speech) resurfaced this week as well. The guy who wrote it shared pictures of his first draft on Instagram to mark the 15th anniversary. Some of it was surprisingly accurate. We've arranged to catch up properly soon as well.
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