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The Bilocated Man

November 12, 2013 1 comment

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The bowl of ages…

In my kitchen cupboard sits a bowl that’s stands out from the crowd. My crockery tastes tend to run to bachelor minimalism, but this one has a faded floral border. It also has a couple of hairline cracks, one of which covers more than half its width. It may not be long for this world, but it’s the venue for my breakfast cereal every morning.

This bowl, along with one other plate in that cupboard, is the sole survivor from the package of crockery and cutlery that I was given when I moved down to Dublin from County Down, just over 19 years ago. At the time, I had just turned 19 myself. So, as of late September/early October this year, I’ve officially lived in Dublin as long as I did in Northern Ireland.

It’s not quite that neat, of course: my first year in Trinity College Dublin was very disrupted, and I spent most of it, especially the latter half, up north. Still, insofar as I can identify a tipping point, this is it. When I came down to Dublin to go to college, I was a kid. Now that I’m still in Dublin, having just finished a Masters course, I can’t really claim the same measure of youthfulness.

I will forever be from Northern Ireland. When I first moved to Dublin, I had to face the question of whether I was Irish or British. I definitely didn’t feel like the latter—growing up in a nationalist, Catholic family saw to that. But I didn’t feel like being Irish suited me either. The experience of growing up in the North during the Troubles was a thing all of its own. So I eventually settled on insisting on my Northern Irish identity.

Though being Northern Irish hasn’t changed, it no longer seems to cover everything. This is not necessarily a bad thing. One way of reading it is that there’s more to me than was when I first arrived here in Dublin. I recently added an Irish passport to my British one, so maybe what’s grown about me is the Irish part.

It’s a funny thing, to realise that you’ve built a life in a particular place. Friends, work, education, habitation. An interest in local culture and politics, a landscape littered with memories and associations. The same thing is true up North, of course, but up there it’s a case of experience accumulated in the accidental form of childhood. Down here in Dublin, it feels a little more deliberate. Or perhaps necessary is the right word.

Perhaps the nature of it then is that we all live multiple lives, often overlapping one another. Childhood, teenage years, college, first job, first house. Sometimes, as in my move to Dublin, you get a clear break that allows you to divide what came before from what came after. Not that live is usually that clean. It is, and always ought to be, a work in progress.

With my Masters over and a job hunt underway, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that another life has started, adding another layer to the person that I am. I have no idea where this current path will eventually take me. It might just be that 19 years down the line, I’ll get to write something entitled “The Trilocated Man”. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Intermission

September 2, 2013 3 comments
Gulfoss Falls, Iceland

Some gaps are for jumping into. This one isn’t.

 

A few weeks ago, I went to the cinema with a friend to see one of my favourite films. Specifically, 2001: A Space Odyssey in a 70mm print. Being such an old print, it was scratchy in places, though the glorious visuals more than covered for that. As an old print though, it had another surprise to give: a little over halfway through, the screen went dark and a single word popped up. “Intermission.” Now that was an unfamiliar experience.

Maybe not all that unfamiliar though. Two years ago, a lot of the things that had defined my life had come to an end. The most recent of them was that the company I’d worked for had been bought out and the job I’d been in since college was being made redundant. The first part of my working life was over. Time for an intermission.

My first reaction was the obvious one: start looking for work, start looking for something to fill the yawning gap that had opened up in my life. Obvious, but wrong. I’d been complaining about being in a work rut for years at that point, wondering how I could get out of it. Well, life had delivered a short, sharp answer.

So, I took my severance package, had a quick think about what I really wanted to do, eyed up that yawning gap and jumped. Within a few months, I was travelling around the world, visiting places that I’d wanted to see for years (and, as a direct result, starting up this blog – the earliest posts are all about this trip).

It wasn’t all indulgence though—I was thinking about what sort of working life I wanted on the other side. On my return I secured a few freelance jobs, leveraging my publishing experience, but the two-dimensional nature of my career to date limited my opportunities. Luckily, there was another jump to take.

Not long after my travels, I was at a meeting of publishing folks, where I was told about a course in Trinity (by one of the people taking it), the MSc Interactive Digital Media, which covered a broad array of media forms and the technologies used to manipulate and present them. A pretty good fit for my interests and skills, even if some of them were dusty from years of disuse.

So I applied, to just that one course, and after a certain amount of trepidation on my part, I got in. That was just under 12 months ago. It’s been a year of fascinating education, good company from my new classmates and more pressure to excel and achieve than my job had thrown at me in a decade and more.

This morning, I gave a presentation (together with the rest of my team) on the project that we’ve been working on for the last two-and-a-bit months. You can see our work here, though be aware it’s a hefty download and requires a WebGL-compatible browser (and doesn’t work at all on IE). Tomorrow, we get our results and find out whether we can append that MSc to our names.

So. Intermission over. Time to retake my seat, metaphorically speaking, for the second act. Once again, it has the look of a yawning gap of uncertainty ahead of me. But you know what? Having jumped once, the second time really isn’t all that daunting.

Back to Where I Once Belonged

September 23, 2012 5 comments

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Front Square during Freshers Week: Societies a-go-go

The other day, I mentioned to someone in the pub that I graduated from Trinity College Dublin back in 1998. His response? “Wow, I was ten then.”

Now, I quite like the grey in my stubble, and references to my advanced years rarely bother me. However, there was one difference with this comment: the guy I was talking to wasn’t just a stranger in a pub. He was a classmate.

That’s right: after a gap of fourteen years, I’m heading back to college. Specifically back to Trinity. My goal? To study for an MSc in Interactive Digital Media, a one-year, full-time course. It’s been a strange experience so far; nostalgia and novelty in equal measure.

My first four years in Trinity were a time of change. The college was getting wired up to the Internet and making the most of the nascent boom as it fundraised for new buildings. Over the course of my degree, I made lifelong friends, got my first email address, and found myself a new place to live. I settled in Dublin, got myself a job, and have never been away for long since then.

Even so, reentering education has offered up a lot that’s familiar. Freshers Week, with its host of society kiosks in Front Square, is much the same as ever. The Sports Centre is new since I was a student, but seeing as my fees paid for it and I’ve been using it as a graduate, it’s not exactly novel. All the strangeness, in fact, comes from the fact that I’m in a very different position to my former student life.

Let’s not mince words here: in my class, I’m the oldest, by a good few years. Most of the rest of the class are a few years at most from their graduation. They seem like a great crowd though, and there seems to be a common eagerness to develop an esprit de corps. Given that a lot of the work we’ll be doing is team-based, that can only be positive.

So I doubt I’m going to feel like an outsider here. Even so, most of my fellow postgrads still have the habits of education ingrained in their heads. How much of that has survived a decade and more of a working life? I’m about to find out.