Ireland is a backwards country, that’s no secret. As a result, I live in a backwards town. I don’t really go out socialising any more. It’s not that I don’t like drinking, I just can’t stand most people lately. I’ve never been a huge fan of the human race, but the last few seasons have forced me to cancel my account. Last night, however, I decided to venture into town with my better half. I wore a red hat. Within 5 minutes of entering the pub, three different people made some sort of snide comment about it, and one person pulled it off my head. And those were just the ones that decided they needed to say something to my face. I’m very aware that Kingscourt is stuck in the 40’s, but I thought it was ready to accept hats at least. Obviously not. Individuality just isn’t allowed here. Full stop. If you go to school without your uniform on, you get in trouble. Same goes here. Except the uniform is: the same haircut you had in your communion photos, Crosshatch jeans, a Superdry jacket (the number of zips on it must match your IQ), 2 vodka red bulls in your hands, and a Bora or Golf for you to drive your drunk ass home in. I hate this town. I truly do. Not because of last night, cuz that would be ridiculous. But it is a part of it. People don’t talk to each other here. The suicide rate illustrates that all too well. Even in a social setting, they just go out to yell over each other, go on about work, and make unnecessary remarks about people that don’t follow their template. There is no room here for new ideas. You’re considered a music buff if you know all the words to Hit the fucking Diff, for Christ’s sake. It’s so frustrating. I’m surprised the emigration rate isn’t higher than it already is. Once people get away from this place, they rarely return. And if they do, no matter how much time as passed, they see it’s exactly the same as they left it. I look forward to buying that one way ticket.
There’s nothing like a bit of academic pressure to get your creative juices flowing in the wrong direction. Like a true procrastinator, I find inspiration in fields which couldn’t possibly be ventured into during free time. As I sit among looming deadlines, which stealthily creep up on us like the vulture that definitely didn’t want anything when we were ordering from the chippie, I realise that there couldn’t possibly be a better time to document my thoughts than right now.
My issue with completing assignments is this: I simply do not want to do them. Completing mundane tasks purely because it is required of me just kills my sporadic creative spirit. It’s just so uninspired. The world seems to be full of enough waffle without me adding to the rather unappetising stack. I like to do things at my own pace. If a song takes two years to finish, so be it. No point carving a turkey before it’s cooked.
The latter end of the creative process can be seen everywhere you look. Some modern “creators” are making a fortune from pedalling re-recycled content that would make Leo DiCaprio weep with humanitarian pride. While the opportunity to get paid for creating content you’re proud of is both incredible and highly sought after, it is also quite damaging. The monetization of online content is a double edged sword. As your audience begins to grow, the demand to consistently produce original content can be decremental to it’s quality. Refresh your Facebook timeline and you’re 100% guaranteed to see an instance of this.
Clickbait is the commander-in-chief on this mission to devolutionise art. Consumers are being lured in by misleading titles and thumbnails and making the “creators” millions in the process. It. Is. Everywhere. Even Irish radio stations are filling segments by reading out benighted Reddit posts and claiming them as their own; broadcasting misinformation to the masses to fill dead airtime. Irish radio isn’t exactly a reputable source for quality content, though. Pretty sure they play Niall Horan’s solo single about 90 times a day. Sounds like an eight year old wrote it, so at least they’re encouraging children to be creative, i guess. Can we not think for ourselves any more? The sheer desperation to stay relevant is cringeworthy.
I don’t think I could let the bright flashing euro signs dull my spectacled eyes to artistic integrity. As humbling as it is to see your work amass fake internet points, it is in no way validating. Having pride in your own work is worth a lot more than a few blue thumbs. A thousand likes on your bi-annual Nando’s photo doesn’t make the meal taste any less disappointing.
Last night I had a hankering for pizza. After a long week at college and working all weekend, we decided that the effort of putting people clothes on and venturing out into the world was just all too much on date night. It was a cold, wet, dreary Saturday and I had just gotten my fatman pants dry cleaned and pressed; begging to be worn. Chinese? Nah. Apache? Apache.
Apache Pizza have jumped onto the ‘outsourcing human staff’ bandwagon and offer discounts if you order via their app. It really brought out my inner Cavan man, so I complied. At the end of the order process, there’s a little comment box for you to express any special dietary requirements you might have, so I couldn’t resist getting a giggle out of it at least. I can’t quote it exactly, but I said something akin to “It would be great if you could have Gangsta’s Paradise playing as I walk into the room”. Now, I had very low expectations for this. Maybe a half-hearted acknowledgement of my attempt at humour at best. But fuck it, bitta craic sure!
After ten minutes or so, I sheepishly walked in to collect our beautifully hand crafted Wigwammer. The sound of a busy kitchen and manically ringing phones filled the room. I listened closely for my song, but with the internal organised chaos going on, I knew deep down that it wasn’t to be found. It was but a minor disappointment. I wasn’t going to cry about my unreasonable request not being met on a busy Saturday night.
After waiting a few minutes for the heat to die down, I made my way to the counter. Gave my order. Gave my name. And just like that, the intro to Coolio’s timeless masterpiece danced through the air like a wild gazelle that had just found out that Attenborough was in town. Pretty sure my jaw cracked one of their tiles when it hit the floor. I don’t know why, but it made me happier than a pig in shite. I really couldn’t believe they actually did it. Speechless. I could see the people in the back peeping their heads out to see who the big eejit was that needed an extra helping of 90’s classics in his diet. They were laughing and had huge smiles on their faces, just as I had. One of the chefs even came out and personally handed me the treasure chest that contained my most prized possession at the time. I’m nearly sure that the briefcase in Pulp Fiction had an Apache pizza in it. Like 99% sure.
I’m babbling now, but as silly as it all was, it really made my night. And in a way, I think it made the staff’s night, too. As awesome as it was having the song played, I think it was their smiling faces that got me the most. Working weekends is hard. Particularly in fast food, at this time of year, in this miserable weather. Bringing a smile to someone’s face while they’re busting their ass has the potential to make their next hour feel like a minute, which is a godsend on nights when you’d rather be anywhere else. So a massive shoutout to all the staff in Apache Pizza in Carrickmacross for truly brightening up what was once a cold, wet Saturday night. All it takes is a little bit of silliness to transform something as mundane as ordering a pizza into something memorable.
My initial plan was to begin this piece with a parodical clickbait-esque style intro, which seems to have become nauseatingly common as of late. But, I’ve decided not to become what I hate just yet. Despite the title, however, this is not a how-to guide. Nor is it a template for you to work off to help you score chicks. So, you can probably stop reading now if that’s what you’re after.
After some extensive research (I chatted to two different women about this), I’ve come to the conclusion that the days of gentlemen sending love letters and standing outside their crush’s house in the pouring rain while blaring Kiss From a Rose out of the boombox above their heads are well and truly gone. Lewd behaviour and downright sexual harassment seem to have knocked Seal’s timeless classic off the charts once and for all. I can’t tell you how long this has been the case, but I can tell you that this is a massive problem, and not just for Seal. Tinder and Snapchat seem to be at the forefront of this next-gen mating ritual. Opening conversations with requests for sex and/or illicit images straight off the bat seem to be the new “How you doin’?”. Sorry, Joey from Friends, but Top Gear has destroyed your credibility. Is the BBC to blame for all of this? Where did it all go so wrong? Why is this behaviour allowed in some cases? How do we fix it?
Of course, I can only attempt to answer these questions with bias and assumptions, but I’ll give it a go.
(1)Is the BBC to blame for all of this?
(2)Where did it all go wrong?
Perhaps the trickiest question of the four, predestined to be riddled with controversy. But sure look; welcome to the internet. You can point fingers in a lot of different directions here. Upbringing, media, personality, gender, yada yada yada. I’m just gunna ignore those things for now and go straight for the jugular. We’ll be visualising a bar/niteclub scenario for this next segment.
You may wonder why a male might greet an unsuspecting female by grabbing part of her body instead of just saying “Hello”. Two reasons. Speed and Trial & Error. It’s quicker and easier than striking up a conversation with a stranger and if it doesn’t work, you’ve only lost 10 seconds of scorage time. No big deal. Move on to to next one and try again.
At this stage, I should point out that I don’t condone this ‘method’ in any way, but I must also pose some questions. Can sexual harassment be mitigated by the offender’s appearance? Is it less frowned upon for someone to overstep their boundaries if you find them attractive?
If you think the answer is ‘No’, then I’m sorry for your troubles. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’re part of the problem. Trial and error really comes in to play here. If you cast your rod out enough times, you’re eventually gunna get a nibble. Simple as. It doesn’t work a lot of the time, but sometimes it does. It’s a lottery really. And you’re playing whether you’ve bought a ticket or not. I don’t think guys would be sending unsolicited dick pics to everything with an extra X chromosome if there wasn’t a notable ‘success’ rate. As a wise man once said, “It’s not stupid if it works”. And so, the select few set the standard for the masses. If it happens to everyone, it must be normal, right?
(3)Why is this behaviour allowed in some cases?
I don’t know. I do know this, though. Lads, I’m looking at you. What you think might make you seem confident and endearing after a few pints is simply unacceptable. Is it ok to grab your significant other’s ass in public? If she’s cool with that, absolutely. Is it ok to chance your arm and grope a stranger in a niteclub? Answers may vary. Now take away the godawful music and inebriation and apply that logic to, let’s say, a coffee shop. Is it still ok? Absolutely fucking not. Why, though? She’s still hot. You’re both still waiting for drinks. You’re still unable to communicate with words. Oh yeah, because IT.IS.NOT.OK. Some of you know this, but there are also those that don’t. You might feel cheeky doing it on a dancefloor, but imagine seeing it happen to your sister on the street. Compare. Rules do not vary depending on circumstance.
(4)How do we fix it?
How do we fix any problem with society? Ignore it and hope it goes away? Or maybe we could try something else. Learn what boundaries are. Know that there can be a time and a place for certain things. Learn to communicate. Some people are open to things that others are not. There’s a reason why you’re asked what way you’d like your steak cooked, after all.
This isn’t just aimed at the male species, though. I’ve been inappropriately grabbed, too. Granted, it’s extremely rare and pales in comparison to many of the accounts I’ve heard, but it has happened. Mainly by drunk middle-aged women. Would I have felt less violated if I had turned around to see a hot 20 something year old standing there? Probably not initially, but once the shock of it wore off, who knows? Can something that was initially so negative turn into something positive that quickly? Next time the chicken in the fridge starts to smell funky, I’m just gunna eat it all anyways to find the answer.
I made a very important decision when the ball dropped this January: 2016 is going to be my year. It took 26 years to allocate one just to me, so I figured I’d better take the offer while I was still feeling generous. I was 2 weeks into my first year at college when the relationship I was in ended suddenly and mysteriously. My college work and diet/fitness really suffered for quite some time after that. The predictable ‘drink, die, repeat’ lifestyle took over and I soon grew tired of that craic. Hindsight has shown me that being hungover and broke all the time doesn’t really lay a great foundation to build yourself back up on.
This was the first time in 5 years that I had nothing holding me back from doing what I wanted and i was going to take full advantage. I was fresh out of another toxic relationship, had very flexible work hours and an eagerness to seek happiness.
My first adventure took me to Edinburgh on New Years Eve to see Biffy Clyro with my very good friend Conor. 24hrs of pure divilment was the only item on our itinerary. I’d never had New Years off before and I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend it. We didn’t even bother booking a place to stay. Figured no great stories ever came from planning things. We were right, obviously! We acted like teenagers the entire time we were there and had a fucking great time! Managed to even sneak in to the pit and got situated 10 feet away from the stage without being caught. Got invited back to a creepy ass house party but opted to sleep in the airport instead. Stab wounds don’t really make great souvenirs.
Soon after getting home, I’d started chatting with Michelle. Tinder’s finest! I decided to check out Ryanair’s site just to see if there were any cheap flights for the craic while we were chatting one evening. I was itching to get away again. To cut a long story short, I would be meeting Michelle for the very first time in 10 days. At the airport; bound for Berlin. Sounds pretty crazy, but the idea of it alone was just so bonkers that it had to work, right? And besides, who wants to go to the cinema on a Tinder date anyways?! Turned out to be such a great trip! She’s such a gorgeous, fun,bubbly person; got on even better than I’d expected! My friends Kevin and Megan just so happened to be on the same flight, so we met up with them for a few drinks after a day of sightseeing and acting the eejit. It was a hard place to leave!
March would introduce me to Belgium. Dundalk’s very own beautiful Canadian vagabond, Bri, had been planning a trip and with very little persuasion, my flight was booked. Bri would be starting in Amsterdam while I would be meeting her in Brussels. Fate would have it that she would miss her bus to Brussels which left me with an entire day to kill on my own. This would be my first taste of the food for the soul that is: solo travel. After wandering aimlessly through that gorgeous maze, I eventually joined a tour group, sampling all the best sights and beers that the city had to offer. Such a fun way to meet people! Later that evening, Bri somehow managed to track down a very drunk Gabe and the adventure continued once again. We even saw a man baby. Baby man? I’m not sure. Picture an angry toddler with a beard.
It was on the flight home that I had realised that I had been to 3 new countries within the first 3 months of 2016. A pattern which I had grown to love. That was it. I had decided. Over the 12 short months of this year, I will see 12 countries I’ve never seen before. The goal that i needed to set myself and stick to was set.
One could easily read this little story and see a romanticised view of travel and adventure, when in reality I was medicating. I never thought depression would be a part of my life, but that bastard kicked my door down and stuck the kettle on. Fucker didn’t even bring biscuits! It didn’t even dawn on me until I had to do an assignment for our Personal Development module. I basically just had to take a personality test and talk shite about myself for a few paragraphs, but I just opened up. Told my life story to a lecturer I hadn’t seen in 3 months. Things I hadn’t told anyone. It really helped. Maybe that stupid class wasn’t so pointless after all…I won’t bore you with the details, but it mainly broke down to financial issues and a betrayal of trust. It had gotten to the point where I just stopped caring about anything and lost all motivation. I stopped going to class, stopped exercising, stopped looking after myself, stopped eating healthily, stopped seeing friends and barely left my room. But whenever I stepped off a plane into the unknown, all of that went away. I was outgoing again. Eager to get up in the morning. Eager to meet new people. Eager to be me. All for the price of skipping two shit nights out in the local. No brainer. In saying all that, my parents are fantastic. They wouldn’t think twice about helping me out financially or supportively if my pride didn’t bite my tongue for me.
My trip to Rome last week was my first major learning curve. My first fully solo adventure. It was on a party bus that I met Jacquelyne. A beautiful American girl who is probably one of the most driven people I’ve ever met. She served in the military, earned a masters degree, runs her own company and there she was, out seeing the world. Reading her blog on her experience there was what inspired me to write this pile of words. As well as a suggestion from my aunt, Theresa. I’ll link it below somewhere when I figure out what blogging is. She basically said to ignore the norms of society in terms of when the right time is to put your life on standby. Not to be pressured into starting a family or sacrificing your happiness for the sake of others. It really resonated with me. The goal I set myself no longer seemed to bear as much weight. I’m still going to travel as often as I can. Not for another notch on this international (metaphorical) bedpost, but for the wonderful experiences they bring. For there will be no prize at the end of this adventure when 2017 pokes it’s head in the door, because each trip is in itself it’s own reward. I haven’t really kept in touch with the brilliant people I’ve befriended on my travels, but that’s ok, because I know I’ll never forget them. It is their involvement alone that have turned my story from a drama into a comedy. Maybe even a lighthearted coming of age story at a push. Like if Stand By Me had a happy ending. Can’t really remember, haven’t seen it in years.
You’re probably thinking “this bollocks just said he was skint, how the fuck is away on holidays every 5 minutes, then?!”. Understandable. But rest assured, I’m still broke as shit. I stopped going out for the mostpart. Put an end to the cycle of drunken happiness to miserably hungover. By not drinking here with the same faces in the same bars with their same stories, I can afford to do my drinking elsewhere. Simple as. A flight to Berlin costs less than a taxi to Dundalk. Now who’s the bollocks?! As well as that, I think I’d rather be skint in a café overlooking the Brandenburg Gate than sat here listening to two aul lads fart and argue over the price of cattle.
If you can take anything from this story, I hope it is this: sometimes happiness comes with a pricetag. Stop paying for temporary happiness and invest in experiences that will stay with you forever. Walk into the unknown and don’t be afraid to do it alone. Don’t wait for your friends to have a week off. Don’t get high on alcopops on some fenced off holiday resort in skin cancerville. Go. See things. Do things. Come back a richer person. A healthy mind is a wealthy mind. Fuck your bank account. There are 6 billion other people on this blue dot of ours. Only takes one of them to leave a positive mark. A notch on your international bedpost.