By Sean McKenna.

I wrote this article a year ago but it’s as applicable now as it was then, enjoy.

The 5th of January 2017 is a date that will always stand out in my mind for the rest of my life. Let me set the scene. I’m a recent graduate. Like many others probably still clueless about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. We get asked these questions in the largely meaningless careers classes at school, but let’s be honest, who the fuck knows what they want to spend the next 50/60 years of their lives doing at the age of 16/17?? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s certainly a difficult question. I concluded my undergraduate Law degree in August 2016, and shortly after started my first graduate job with a law firm. The firm itself and the people I met were fantastic, in fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. In the beginning I was loving it. Not only that but I began considering how I could start climbing the corporate ladder and where exactly I wanted to go in my career. As one of 5 original members of the team that started the project, we were asked to essentially help newer team members get up to speed, which was fair enough I suppose. One day however, I found myself getting annoyed at having to constantly go back and forth to correct mistakes, so much so that I ended up annoying myself about it. The night of the 5th something changed.

Myself and a good friend Eoin Donnelly were killing an evening with a bit of Pro Evo and a joint. Anyone that knows me well enough knows I have an occasional smoke, my main motivation for doing so is the thinking I tend to do throughout. It opens your mind to everything, or as the great Bob Marley once said “when you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself”.  Eoin or ‘Straw’ (the exact origin of the nickname is still unknown) as we call him, has a bit of a reputation amongst our group of friends as being a bit of a music guru, I’m not saying he is, I’m not saying he isn’t, but he was on fire with the tunes this particular night. One song in particular, Miguel – a beautiful exit, made me space out for around 15 minutes and I got thinking about everything, work, life, travelling etc. I thought to myself, ‘fuck me, you’re 22 going on like a 50 year old”. I thought about how our lives are essentially already structured out for us. We’re expected to go to school, get a degree, get a partner, have children, settle down and financially cripple yourself with a mortgage and work until our time is up. It’s a fucking grim thought, i’m sorry, but add in the small things like a summer holiday here or there and that’s life very basically summarised. I can’t stress enough this piece is not an attack on how anyone lives their lives, that choice is always up to each individual. It would be ignorant to assume otherwise. It got me thinking however, is that what I want? What’s more weird is the fact that I do quite a bit of reading, whether it be articles or books, and I kept noticing different things that were pointing me towards a different direction. The most notable example I can think of is an extract from Joey Bartons autobiography. For anyone that doesn’t know him, he’s a professional footballer that’s had a controversial career to say the least, nevertheless, I’m a big fan, the man knows his shit. I was reading his book on the bus from Belfast back to the sticks one night and I came across this passage.

“Normal people don’t get to the highest levels in life. Normal people don’t climb Everest, sail around the world. Normal people sit in the café, play bingo, go to work, come home, and repeat the same routine the following week. I’d see it as really offensive if someone told me I was normal”

I was reading this thinking, fucking hell this man is literally hitting the nail with a sledgehammer in regards to what I was thinking. It put me in mind of another friend of mine, Fergal Hegarty. A great fella that I’ve known him for a number of years, most recently through spending a number of weeks volunteering over a 6 week period in Zambia together. Fergal has a very good job, I’m sure he’d be the first to admit he loves it, but he strikes the perfect combo between work and living. He looks to the bank holiday weekends and makes a point of going to a different country for each one. Most recently he actually did in fact complete climbing Everest, to refer back to Bartons point. That’s an accomplishment that he can talk about for the rest of his life. The point I’m trying to make here is there is so much more to life than work. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, don’t panic, you’ve ample time to figure it out. These are the years to go away and see the world. The years where we aren’t burdened by a mortgage for example. Again everyone is different, there will be some polar opposite opinions to what i’m saying here, that’s perfectly fine, this is just my outlook. If I had a £ for every time I’ve clicked on to Facebook and seen someone sharing a travelling video and post a travelling caption on Instagram, I’d probably never have to work another day in my life. The difference is actually going out and doing it. Look at it this way, if we’re lucky, we get 70, maybe 80 years of life. Such a length of time to do some unbelievable shit. 70/80 years ago, when you were old enough to work that was it, you went to work. The opportunities now are unbelievable. We live in a time where there isn’t a single country that isn’t accessible via some mode of transport. It would be a tragic shame not to avail of those opportunities. I know what you’re thinking, “I’m skint how can I afford to do it?” Take a chance, take a loan from the credit union, save every penny you have and go for it. Look at it in terms of possibilities. If you go travelling, or move to another country to live for a stint, the possibilities of what can happen are endless, you can meet anyone, you could end up anywhere, do anything. It entails living outside your comfort zone essentially, but sure what’s wrong with that?  Compare those possibilities to a set routine here, of going to work, coming home, watching Netflix to kill an evening maybe, bed then repeat. Again, this isn’t a criticism of anyones personal preferences, just something to think about.

With this notion in my head anyway I went back to work. The days just kept progressively getting worse. I know everyone has to start somewhere but all I could think about was, seriously what the point of this. The work was starting to take a turn for the worse and all I could think about was why am I doing this, it’s pointless to me, it’s making me miserable, what is the point. Eventually I plucked up the courage to have a word with my manager, and just told her the craic. She couldn’t have been more understanding about it. I’ll never forget that. She knew I had a notion of travelling and told me to go for it. Not many people are so genuinely considerate to personal ambitions when it comes to the work place, but that was it, a burden was lifted. It doesn’t stop there but. I was back in Belfast on the 23rd of January just fucking about with the lads if I’m honest but all I could think about was leaving. Must have been around 9 or 10 o clock I got up, went home and booked a one way flight to Sydney. In the space of 18 days, I’d packed my job in and booked a one way flight away, all over an epiphany as I’ve been calling it. Maybe it’s just a travel bug. I’ve done a good bit so far. I had an unbelievable summer just passed there in New York, the lads of 66-29 know who they are and what I’m talking about. I had contemplated going back there but opted for somewhere different. Luckily I’ve family in Sydney, that obviously makes things easier and I cannot wait to see them but aside from that proper plans are scarce, which is the way I would rather it. Fuck it, let’s just see what happens.

Nothing I’ve said here is groundbreaking stuff. I’m not the first person to have this notion i’m sure and i’m also not ignorant to the fact that some day you may have to settle down, or maybe it isn’t for you. One thing is for sure, Ireland will always be here. If you’re a student at the minute, enjoy every minute of it. I look back with absolutely no regrets from 3 unbelievable years living like a slumdog thousandaire. Not everyone has everything figured out in their early 20s. Anyone that’s been to college will know this, as i’m sure they’ve experienced a mature student or two throughout the college process.  I guess if there was a morale of this article or whatever you want to call it is, if you aren’t happy with what you’re doing, whether it be work, the degree you study, the relationship you’re in, whatever, you need to look after your best interests because life is toooooooooo fuckingggggggg short. If you want to travel, make it happen, if you want to climb the corporate ladder, make it happen, just do whatever makes you happy. I recently read an article about a 25 year old woman given just days to live following a double lung transplant which her body subsequently rejected. The woman is called Nardya Miller. Even more heart breaking was her goodbye message in which she explained she was not giving up, just simply letting go. In addition, she made a final request to others… “please I beg you to live your life to the absolute fullest”. I’d rather a ‘fuck it at least I tried’, than a ‘what if’. Just something to think about.

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