It’s New Year’s Day, 2021, and I’m at home in Dublin. My mother is practising the fiddle in the living room, and my father is singing to himself in the kitchen as he prepares a late lunch. It is a cold but beautiful day outside, with the clear sky reflecting its colour off Dublin Bay, and despite the arrival of Ireland’s third lockdown, there are many people walking along the Clontarf seafront.
Having worked on a new project for most of the afternoon in my bedroom, I walked down to the seafront myself after some food, and listened to Ólafur Arnalds on Spotify as I looked over Dublin Bay, across to the port and the Dublin & Wicklow Mountains in the distance. A walk on the seafront is nothing new to me, but that moment of serenity, between the music and the beautiful evening, was a special way for me to celebrate the new year. I was home for both Christmas and the New Year celebrations, having missed out on being there for my parents’ birthdays due to the previous lockdowns. That made this latest visit all the more important and special, and made me all the more grateful, too.
I don’t need to tell you, dear reader, that 2020 was a horrible year for so many of us, for countless reasons. It did, however, give me a newfound sense of gratitude, and a desire not to take those smaller moments for granted, from hugging a relative or loved one, to breathing a sigh of relief by the sea. I learned a few things about myself, as well, although some lessons need repeating, like in acknowledging one’s strength and appreciating those around you, and those who want to reach out to you, too.
One of the things I learned more recently was to trust myself more. I know that my talents and work-related “comfort zone” lies in communications, and I spent more than enough years in radio to know that sound editing, interviewing, and audio production comes pretty naturally to me.
When I left RTÉ in 2015, I seemed to have a promising career in marketing ahead of me, and I decided to close that media chapter of my career when I moved to England. I withdrew myself from any radio appearances over time, thinking that it was no longer something I wanted to do, and preferred instead to avoid the limelight and enjoy being a nobody (in the nicest sense of the word) in my new home of Nottingham.
Gradually, I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t need to turn my back entirely on those talents just because I don’t work in media anymore. My writing skills remained active since leaving freelance journalism, and I’ve written plenty more since then, but the audio production skills were neglected. I’m glad that I’ve decided to return to that world in some way, with the launch of my new podcast, Recalibrate.
This new podcast series is born from when I would ask myself whether or not I was on the right path in my life, or what my role was meant to be in my community and society. With Recalibrate, I interview some inspiring friends about their own connections to community, how they’ve grown as a person, and found their own path at times when they may have felt off-course. It’s an exciting new project for me, and one that I’m glad to be doing, so I hope you’ll give it a listen – let me know what you think if you do!
Personally, I’m going into 2021 with a mixture of hope and trepidation. With our home in Cork finally renovated, there are only a few more things that need to be completed before we can relax. With the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines, there’s a chance that life will return to some level of normality by the end of this year, and we can travel, hug, and catch-up with friends again like before. There’s also a more immediate anxiety, however, knowing that once I leave Dublin to return to Cork, I won’t be allowed back to see my parents (or anyone else) until March at the earliest. I’ll spend another birthday in Cork, and I’m just as likely to have only a Skype call with my mother to celebrate her birthday.
That’s what makes the next few days more special before I return to Cork, but nevertheless, I’m grateful for those smaller moments, and the chance to see a brighter day.
As this horrific and frightening year comes to an end, it may be difficult to fully comprehend how bad 2020 has been for our communities, our country, and the world at large. Such descriptions sound melodramatic, and yet in 2020, we have experienced a pandemic that has not been seen since the Spanish Flu over a hundred years ago. For a small country, we pride ourselves on our tight-knit community spirit, where even urbanites rally together to support one another when needed. It’s no exaggeration, in that case, that over 2,000 deaths in Ireland feels like a traumatic event, especially when that has affected every county, city, and community.
It’s fairly safe to say that there are many of us who have been negatively affected by the events this year brought upon us. Like something from a dystopian novel that couldn’t possibly happen in real life, we’ve experienced a global pandemic, lockdowns of varying levels, protests and civil unrest, extreme weather events, and plenty of other news headlines and events that have tested us like never before.