Back home in Derry

I flew from Bristol to Belfast last night. The flight had a three hour delay, and easyjet compensated us by offering a £3 voucher, which given we were in an airport wasn’t even enough to buy a sandwich! Nevertheless, eventually I managed to get on a plane and escape back to Ireland, where my mother was waiting for me at the airport.

Today I am mostly relaxing, but also going through all my preparations for moving to Germany. It feels as though I am at the end of a long period of uncertainty and stasis and I can finally feel some mental clarity returning. I feel I know exactly what I have to do and I have no hesitations about working through it, even if that meant I was on the phone to SSE first thing this morning.

I also am working on reigning in my lifestyle and spending. I am off the cigarettes again and also trying to do some exercise. This was helped by going to the Brecon Beacons with my friend on Sunday, where we climbed Sugar Loaf.

It was a strange relief coming home; I felt better than I had done in months, as if I could finally get on with my life. Although it was very nice to stay with my friend, it seemed to continue, or even contribute to the sense of prolonged stasis I was feeling. For the first time in a long time, I am starting to feel like myself again.

Relaxing in Cheltenham…and turning 24

I am currently staying at a friend’s place in Cheltenham, sleeping on a futon in his drawing room, and will be until Monday when I fly to Belfast from Bristol.

KODAK FUN SAVER Digital Camera

(My current living situation. The whale was a birthday present.)

It it a strange feeling to suddenly have barely anything to do after the stress of moving in the last few days. I almost am starting to feel myself coming round to feeling human again. The stress of moving prompted me to smoke two packs of cigarettes but I’ve stopped smoking them again now, without much difficulty. My body still aches from carrying everything, but at least I feel some sense of calm.

I feel I am just about to start catching up on my friends, a lot of whom have been in work already for a year or two. But I suppose this is simply a peril of doing a four year course and then having a year out. At any rate, it feels good to no longer be “stuck”.

This sense of delay was brought home to me on Monday evening when a friend wished me happy birthday and gave me a present. It was very thoughtful of her, especially because I hadn’t mentioned anything about my birthday to anyone, being caught up with graduation and moving.

This has triggered something of a quarter life crisis, as I wonder what the hell I am doing, and more importantly what the hell I am going to do after my contract finishes in Germany. I suppose I can only wait and see…

Moving on: saying goodbye to Oxford

I am leaving Oxford on Tuesday.

I am sure I will be back to the city in years to come, not least because some of my friends will still be living here. But I won’t be.

My time at Oxford has been full of ups and downs, some of which I discussed in detail previously. 

Nevertheless, there is something distinctly bittersweet about packing up and leaving. It all came to an end academically with my graduation on Friday, which consisted of a rather impersonal two hour ceremony in Latin. I did get to wear the fancy hood with a white ermine lining, somehow symbolizing that I had, after all this time, progressed from the uncertain undergraduate status to that of a graduate. I have my 2.i. I can finally leave.

Right now I am in the throes of intensively cleaning my flat, something which is made rather more difficult by the fact my flatmates have both gone home. But I agreed to do it and it will be manageable. The worst jobs (cleaning the cooker hood and unblocking the sink) are already done, so there are some small mercies. But I will nevertheless have to be up early.

I have also got rid of most of my belongings. The entire contents of my kitchen will go in the bin tomorrow, which is a slightly depressing thought. It would be nice to able to take things to foodbanks and charity shops, but without a car that is necessarily a struggle. It is strange to see that everything I now own can be fitted into two rucksacks and two shopping bags. It is a mildly depressing thought, but also a necessity.

I will go Cheltenham to stay with a friend for about a week, who very kindly has offered to let me stay until I fly to Belfast next Monday. We are hoping to get to the Brecon Beacons at the weekend, but that will depend on a number of factors. Tomorrow will be taken up by cleaning, saying goodbye to a friend, and probably a final smoke on my balcony, just for old time’s sake.

Putting the self on display – and Writing about Writing

There is something strange about keeping a blog like this, where so much of my life has been put on display to read. I shrunk from linking it on facebook until recently and when I did (and got a surge in hits) I felt a strange sense of shame, as if I’d suddenly had something intimate more widely exposed. Would the people I had written about read what I had written? Would they think I was some self obsessed idiot, or be surprised at my neuroticism?

We live in a world where the way in which people “write” has fundamentally changed. If you wish to get your writing out there, you must create a blog. One common aim is to generate traffic and eventually monetize. More and more novels are commissioned from bloggers. Moreover, blogging has become an important avenue of marketing. Much of what in a previous era would have been called “copywriting”, is now known as “travel blogging”, “beauty blogging”, and “lifestyle blogging”.

Sensing that I would need some supplementary income in the months to come (my stipend in Germany will cover my living expenses, but with not a lot of room to manoeuvre), I created this blog as an attempt to dip my toe into this rather cynical world. The personal effect of the mixing of personality and blogging “technique” is still something I am adjusting to. I am not sure I ever will, or if it would be natural to.

It was argued by Herbert Marcuse in the 60s that technological development would increasingly interpellate individuals as one-dimensional (and I know I am horribly simplifying here). I have never fully swallowed new-leftist thought but it is strange to feel conscious of oneself as voluntarily participating in such an experience, of putting a constructed, marketized self on display; at times it feels alienating (and certainly moreso than more mundane use of technology, e.g. social media).

Perhaps creative output has always involved a bit of self-marketing. Examples of this can be certainly found in the classical world at least (as anyone who has read any Cicero can testify to). At any rate, please have a look at some of my previous posts, e.g. Why I am Accepting Minimalism or Deutsche Sprache, Schwere Sprache, and remember to like, comment and share!

 

July update: work, results and thinking about the future

This month has been extremely busy. For the last two and a half weeks I have been working as residential pastoral staff on a summer course in Oxford, which has been hectic and challenging, but has also had its rewarding moments. I have also been trying to sort out various aspects of my life and do some planning for the future, with mixed success, in part because of the long hours I’ve been working. Today, however, makes it exactly three weeks since I last smoked a cigarette, which I think is a very good sign.

Last week, I also received the results of my degree: a 2.i.
After all that stress and worry, it has turned out fine. Not that there weren’t any hitches:
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After my job finishes, which will be on the 22nd July, I will have to spend a bit of time getting ready to move out of my student flat, and then I will be graduating, before heading home to Ireland soon after. For the first time in a while, I am very excited about the future and how my life is going, and I’m very much looking forward to the change of scenery that will come in August when I move to Germany. On that front, I have just one more piece of preliminary paperwork to complete, and need to find a flatshare (Wohngemeinschaft).

6 Steps to Surviving a Job at a Summer Camp

It’s that time of the year, and like many university students I have found myself once again in a camp counselling role, for the third year running, for four weeks this summer. Here are some of my tips on getting through it (some of which were lessons learned the hard way!)

1.Know what to expect

Summer schools and camps often come with brutal schedules. Split shifts, overnight shifts, and overtime are common. It’s really important to discuss how much you will be expected to work during your time at the camp and how much time off you can expect with your employer in advance. If your employer will not guarantee any time off, it is a bad signs. It is also useful to keep a time sheet to keep track of your hours once working, which will help you to make sure you are being paid above the national minimum wage.

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep is necessary. You do not want to be looking after 20 teenagers while tired. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will also get progressively worse over the course of the camp. Don’t do it to yourself!

3. Use your time off wisely

Often in a camp environment you can become very close to your colleagues, due to the closeness in age as well as the nature of the work. There will often be occasions for drinking alcohol. You may also take the opportunity of time off to go drinking with other friends. This will never end well; ultimately it is unprofessional and means that you are not able to give the kids the support they need, especially in an emergency situation. This goes double if you are residential.

4. Be Prepared!

Always plan the day ahead in advance, and try to find out what is happening before it does. Know where you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to be doing and who you are supposed to be doing it with. This is vital to ensuring that summer camps run smoothly.

5. Keep professional boundaries with your colleagues

This is a very tricky one, and relates closely to point (3). There can be a high degree of cabin fever, especially in a residential setting, and it’s important to give each other enough space and time to oneself, even when you get on with them. Apologize for mistakes and say thank you for any help your colleagues provide. Remember, however, that even if  you get on well, you are still colleagues and there needs to be certain boundaries in place. Be mindful of how you behave, how you speak to them and what you tell them.

6. Take a step back

Working at a summer camp can be extremely stressful. It can also be exhilarating and an opportunity for a lot of personal growth. It can make you feel anxious and burnt out, and other days can be absolutely wonderful. In the midst of this it is important sometimes to get out of the camp environment and find things to do which take your mind off of work and the things going on at the site. This is a very important part of ensuring your emotional well-being and helping you to make it through your contract.

Time at home, and coming back to Oxford to work

After my trip to Scotland, I flew from Glasgow airport directly to Derry, in order to spend a few days at home with my family. My mother picked me up from the airport, and I was quickly at home. In all honestly, I found the time at home very relaxing. It was a relief to be able to spend some time back in a place where everything was taken care of for me. I didn’t do too much while I was there, though I did go out for a drink and listen to Irish traditional music with my mother, and later in the week we went for a day out in Donegal.

First of all, we drove to Glenveagh National Park and had a walk around the grounds of the castle. I have been to Glenveagh many times before in my life, and the peacefulness of the place is always striking, as is the sheer beauty of the dramatic landscape.
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After this we drove down into the Dunlewey Gaeltacht (an area of the country where Irish is used as the primary language) and had a coffee in the Ionad Cois Locha. However, this wasn’t before stopping off at the Poisoned Glen, a breathtakingly beautiful place.
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I flew back to England on the Friday, and the events which followed are recounted in the post I made a few days ago.

That Saturday I started my summer job, which I am now nearly two weeks into. I will post an update on that very soon.