Oh, hey, how you doing? Yeah, haven’t written in a while. Sorry ’bout that. No, no, its not that I haven’t wanted to write, its not that I’m not missing you, its just that, well, everything seems all over the place a bit at the moment, and I couldn’t identify an amusing theme with which to tie together all my threads of thought.
I had wanted to write a very deep and meaningful post about last Sunday, when the family took me to Gougane Barre, a forest area in West Cork, which also happens to be the source of the River Lee (the river that runs through Cork city) and where St. Finbarr (the patron saint of Cork) had a monastery set up (in very forward-thinking way, he also set up a little church, on a tiny island in the middle of a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains, knowing how the competitive brides of the future would be falling over themselves to get married in a totally unique, secluded and MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL PLACE THAN EVERYBODY ELSE’S WEDDING PLACE – the church has up to 3 weddings a day now its that gorgeous). I thought this would be a very good post, very deep and significant, you know, patron saint of Cork, source of the River Lee, all sorts of great metaphors and things to be had there. Me, wandering around, feeling significant and holy, admiring the trees, and attempting to stop the youngest girl from throwing herself into the River Lee in search of better pebbles, that sort of thing.
I was also going to write about the bizarre ‘laughing workshop’ I did yesterday in Cork, and tie it in with some of the other bizarre workshops I’ve been doing and haven’t written about yet. My laughing workshop was based around the idea that children laugh 300 times a day (as I have experienced whilst working as an au pair) whereas adults laugh only 17 times a day, but that there are all sorts of medical benefits (physical and emotional) to laughter. The ad said we were going to be doing ‘laughter yoga’ and ‘laughter meditation’ as well as be working with a stand-up comedian, all of which sounded very interesting. However, it turned out to be an elderly Dutch man who had been living in Cork for 12 years, just doing strange exercises with us that were designed to make us laugh. Except before every exercise he would say, ‘Now, don’t laugh! Of course, you will laugh! But don’t do it!’ Which was all very confusing. It was made worse by the Bosnian photographer who kept saying things that were way too close to the bone and the truth of a situation, and then when the group lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, he would look at everyone and he would demand, ‘I’m making a joke, why aren’t you laughing??’ and we would all laugh awkwardly. The worst was at the end of the day when a photographer came from the paper and we had to stand around and have our photos taken, and we had to force laughter for 45 minutes. I will tell you that, there may be medical benefits to real laughter, but forced laughter just gives you a headache, makes you feel like you have a fever, that you’ve been hyperventilating and/or are about to throw up. I ended up running out of the room in a haze, to splash my face with water before I fainted. There were some lovely people there, as well as some very interesting people – a lot of whom seemed to have been drawn to Ireland for the same sort of reason as me (that is, we had no bloody clue why we decided to come, but somehow we had ended up here). I’ve actually met a lot of people like that in Ireland. I don’t know if Ireland attracts those sorts of people, especially now its in recession, or if its just a symptom of the crazy workshops and places I’ve been heading out to. Still, it also seems a common feeling amongst some of the au pairs.
I was also going to dedicate an entire post to men. Or, more properly, the lack of men. And, I don’t mean, oh woe is me, there are no cute boys around the kiss (although that is part of it), but just the fact that, at the moment, in my life, there seems to be NO men. All the au pairs I’m hanging out with are girls, my course is full of girls, I’m looking after girls. Obviously I still see men around, but they kind of exist on the periphery of my life at the moment. They’re sort of hazy and blurry around the edges. Most of the time, the only place I see them is in the pubs in Bandon, and the way they react, you would think I was a different species. When the other au pairs and I walk in, the pub men will all stop what they are doing, turn to us and stare. Its like they’ve never seen women before. Or, never seen women in a pub before. Or, maybe, they’ve never seen that many women in a pub before. Whatever it is, its very strange and unnerving. Generally everyone loosens up and starts talking to you and joking with you, but its a strange first few minutes. Last night we met a very funny Irishman, Ray, who kept forgetting all our names, so he christened me Alf Stewart, the other Aussie girl, Don Fisher, and the other girls according to their countries. Of course, he told us he was also heading to Australia on May 5th, for a job in Brisbane. His mate was heading to Perth for a job in September.
And, well, that’s what I’m going to write about now. Because the only thing that seems to be a common thread for me at the moment, is what on earth am I doing here? I don’t mean it in a desperate, oh-god-why, kind of way, because, of course, I am having fun and its a beautiful country and all, but, I’m just so confused. Everyone is leaving. Its like I jumped on the sinking ship just as everyone got into the lifeboats and they’re all waving me good bye as I sink into the water. They think 50, 000 people will leave the country by the end of the year. There’s a theater piece going on in Dublin at the moment called ‘I am a Home Bird (its very hard)’, which, apart from being a beautiful title for a play, really sums up what its like being a person of my age here in Ireland. The strangest thing is, how few young people are here. There are a lot of university students, but once they graduate, not many are able to hang around. I keep thinking, wow, what would happen if everyone just left? Maybe everyone in Ireland should just abandon ship. Just go somewhere else and then what would Germany do about the bailout? Can you imagine? An island with all its infrastructure, but entirely deserted? The other image I have is of all the young people going and the island just being populated by people over the age of 70, who don’t want to leave or can’t see the point. The island of the elderly. And, then, I just keep coming back to my question, why am I here, why, why, why am I here?
I could throw out all sorts of feel-good, la-di-da answers about broadening my horizons and getting life experience and all that sort of crap, but I still get this sense of, well, what’s the purpose of broadening my horizons, what’s the purpose of all this ‘so-called’ life experience? What will I do with it? Can I put it on my CV? Life experience: tick. Can I use it to pick up men? Hey, how you doing, I have ‘life experience’. And, more to the point, why, why, why, did I choose Ireland? Why am I broadening my horizons here? Most people are so sad. Why am I broadening my horizons by being stuck inside a house as an au pair all day? It verges on the boring. I read an article about a woman with post-natal depression yesterday and I could, terrifyingly, identify with a great deal of what she was talking about.
I sound really angry, I sound sort of depressed. I may be a little of both, but please don’t worry. I am having fun as well, its just when I stop and think about what I’m doing, I suddenly start to get confused and worry. What’s that quote, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living?’ Sometimes, I would like to say, bullcrap to that. The unexamined life is just fine, and the life that isn’t compared to other people’s lives is also pretty good, and the life that contains no self-help books about reaching your full potential is also not bad.
Well, that’s probably enough existential angst for the moment. I applaud you if you got this far, and hope you’re not on a bit of a downer now. I welcome your thoughts on the purpose of my journey if any are forthcoming, because I am lost in the Irish wilderness.
Image: Existential angst in the Irish wilderness