Friday, November 30, 2012

Bridging The Gap

Inspired by a workmate who blogs with much more effort than I do (to the left, My Mate who blogs about delicious food!), I've decided to resuscitate my writing.  Hard to believe it's almost 2013, and I haven't blogged since returning from South America and starting back to college again.  Well, a synopsis seems in order...and brevity would definitely be beneficial at this stage.  After all, encapsulating over three years of life into one blog post seems slightly foolish.  With that in mind, I'll just say that quitting my job and returning to college was the best thing I have ever done with my life, even though it was a struggle from beginning to end.  My Mam was my biggest fan in terms of academia, and she always felt that writing and learning was where I shone the brightest.  So losing her at the start of my second year made continuing with college both the only option, and the hardest decision I've ever had to make and follow through on.  I could no longer bring her my English essays to read, praise and edit, no longer phone her with my results and listen to her glee as I made A after A.  First year was difficult, as her sickness got worse and I rushed from class to hospital and back to class again, trying to accommodate every part of my life into days that suddenly seemed too short.  In that time myself and Alan broke up under the strain of it all, I moved home to Wicklow, and spent more time than ever back with my family, waking up every morning and being more of a help to Mam than I ever could have been in Dublin.

Though Alan and I got back together after only two months apart, I remained in Wicklow for the summer - and it was a fantastic summer.  My brother's well overdue wedding in June was amazing, surrounded as we were by family and friends in cheery mood, and with Mam dancing the night away, putting the rest of us to shame.  I had the pleasure of not working that summer, and so spent what appears in hindsight to be endlessly sunny days walking the roads around Donard, making dinners to tempt Mam while she underwent chemotherapy.  We even spent one unbelievable day at the river I swam in as a child, with Mam, my sister and all of her kids, basking in sunshine and watching Mam again put us all to shame by swimming in the river herself for the first time in ten years.  By the end of the summer it was clear that despite Mam's monumental will, she would not be staying with us.  In September, with us all around her, she passed peacefully at the age of 54.  Nothing in my life will ever be the same without her, but it is in her memory that I continued to fight my way through college and emerge the other end battered and bruised, but proud.

As tough as first year had been dividing my time between hospitals, campus and my part time job, it became even more difficult accommodating Mam's memory into my everyday life, and attempting to continue without my biggest fan was harder still.  Having spent my teenage years fighting with Mam, the past few years of friendship and respect had been an absolute privilege.  With this in mind, I kept my head down and did my best to go on.  The college assigned me a counselor who proved absolutely useless - not to denigrate the profession, because I'm sure there are many good ones working at colleges throughout the country, but this particular one repeatedly asked me 'what was making me so upset'...and my answer that my Mam had just died didn't seem to satisfy him.  So, after two sessions, I decided to continue on alone.  I threw myself into my college work, and though my concentration was not the same as it had been - still isn't, in fact - and my writing skills needed similar adjustment, I did alright.  I managed to enjoy it again - though Freud's attack on the mother-daughter relationship left me breathless more than once during psychoanalytical studies.  After finally gaining my degree in English and Film Studies, I wanted to continue, so applied for the MA in Gender and Sexuality in Culture - a masters that combined English, Film and Women's Studies in one fantastic course.  Not everyone was convinced that this was the right thing to do, but I knew that if Mam was here, she'd be delighted that I was continuing on with further and more in-depth studies.  I continued working in the bar and nightclub that had sustained me during my degree, but after Christmas my position became untenable there, and I moved on to a library assistant role in a solicitors' firm, working three days a week to allow time for continued study.

Towards the end of the MA, and while writing my thesis, I had another setback on my return from the Euros in Poland, where I had holidayed with Alan.  My friend and workmate, Jam (James), had been missing for almost a week when his body was discovered in a river in Bydgoszcz leaving his family, his friends, an entire town, and Ireland fans all over the country devastated.  He was a fantastic person, who was filled with fun and trickery at all times - and it was an absolute pleasure to know him, to work with him, and to be his friend.  Behind the bar, he made my nights fly by with his jokes and games - riding a sweeping brush, putting ice down our shirts, finding snowballs outside and smuggling them in to throw at you when you least expect it, running for the front seat of my car no matter who was in it, ripping his tight trousers in one overenthusiastic lunge, finding ways to make obnoxious customers calm down, slinging his arm around my shoulders even though he had to stretch to reach them, always wanting to take his trousers off when he was drunk and having to be laughingly restrained, buying sweets from the sweet shop and always sharing, running into his house to get me mini Toblerones at Christmas time for my journey back to Dublin because his Mam always had them in the kitchen, staying until 7 in the morning even though work finished at 3 just to keep chatting and laughing, the list goes on and on and on and on.  A few weeks before we both set off for Poland, he came up to Dublin with another friend from the bar, John, and the three of us spent a night getting drunk and soppy, ending up in La Cirque declaring our everlasting friendship before breaking into a rousing chorus of 'I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane' (our party piece from so many parties), and getting roundly kicked out.  So, the last time I saw him was getting into a taxi and heading back to Blessington after a night where I got to tell him how much he meant to me.  Not many people get that opportunity, and I'm eternally grateful for it.

Finishing my thesis was an uphill battle after that, and the struggle resulted in a dissertation that was not what I wanted it to be, but was the best I could do in the circumstances.  The title was 'The Casualisation of Sexual Violence Against Women in New Millennial Media', and covered what I believe to be a media-wide attack on women that has led to a very real change in attitude - from movies to newspapers, and on to court convictions for real attacks on women.  My bottom line is that I believe, to paraphrase a paraphraser, that the greatest trick Postfeminism ever pulled was convincing the world that Feminism doesn't need to exist. Anyway, it's all done now - I got high enough grades to be happy.  Not enough A's, but only Mam really cared about that part and how hard I worked to get there.  For everyone else, it's enough that I'm done - for now.  In fact, for me it's enough that I'm done for now.  I continue to write reviews when I can, published on the Film Ireland website, and in the meantime have had some minor success with my review of 'The Social Network', which Scott Rudin himself requested be used in the circulation and advertising material for the film in America.  Quite the coup, and it was a pretty fantastic feeling to know my writing was appreciated.

The job I'm in is for now, and not for good.  I'm still unqualified as far as actual workable skills are concerned - my options now range from PhD, if possible; another MA (in education - primary or secondary, so that I could teach); getting to write for a newspaper; travelling with Alan; working in another country; or continuing to work in administration.  It's tough to have finished studying - despite the hardship, I loved spending my days immersed in the writings of the greats, dissecting movies and then building them back up again, delving into gender studies and feminist writings, associating life with art and art with life, tying my feminism together with the varying facets of my life more completely than I had every thought I's been a journey.  And, like all journeys, it eventually had to end.  I'm far from where I started - both figuratively and literally, being back in Dublin with Alan and visiting a home that feels so much less like home without my mother there to welcome me.  But steadily we build and we move on - Dad's now the patriarch and matriarch, working hard to fill both roles and make Wicklow the home it once was to us all.  I continue to read and stretch myself with furthering my studies in case I decide on PhD or further MA.  I work, I eat, I sleep, I live....this is how the days pass, now.

As I started with a Zeppelin quote to begin my blog way back when, it seems only fitting to drag one out of the woodwork now...

"'s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn, for those who stand long,
And the forest will echo with laughter."
- Stairway to Heaven

Back to basics soon, with film reviews and travel updates.  I've a Primavera to blog about, a Euro's trip to Poland, a foray into Mexico and a converted-camper-van trip up the North.  It feels good to write again.