Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Developing survival mechanisms to see us through the crisis

We have no guarantee that the future holds better things for us, so all we can do is be resourceful and make the most of the hand life has dealt us, writes Roisin Agnew.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 01:00


We have no guarantee that the future holds better things for us, so all we can do is be resourceful and make the most of the hand life has dealt uswrites Roisin Agnew.

Roisin Agnew. Photograph: Des Moriarty

Last week, having nothing else to read in a waiting-room, I answered a questionnaire in a women’s magazine. Of the three answers offered for each question, one of them always seemed to be describing me exactly.

“1. Do you live … b) In your aunt’s attic. But she’s really cool.”

“2.You watch your favourite series on … c) A second-hand laptop (borrowed or stolen).”

“3. What is your usual form of payment? a) Freebies. But I love them dearly.”

I came away with two feelings: first, a sense that my life had become a joke in a women’s weekly; and second, a sense that I had earned my spurs and was an example of something. According to the magazine I am an example of “the millennial generation’s condition”. One shudders to think what that might mean.

At a party a few weeks ago I was struck by the upbeat demeanour of everyone there. Aged from mid-twenties to mid-thirties, every one of them was doing something with their lives that genuinely interested them.

Next morning, relaying my misadventures to my aunt and what everyone “does” (children’s theatre, photography lessons, bike-fixing) she interrupted with “But those are all hobbies. What do they actually do?”

The long answer it that a good few of them are on the dole, others are working part-time or on short-term projects, some have gone into a field of work where they were not expecting to make money (“artists” is the preferred term), some run small businesses, and all would admit to suffering from the blues on an irregular basis.

The short answer is that they’re playing the hand that’s been dealt them with resourcefulness.

In Dublin there’s a community whose members take care of each other, and significantly validate each other’s work and opinions. The products of facebooking, blogging, uploading this-and-that, writing, sharing are ridiculed by sceptics as sources of culture and community. They’re dismissed as a magician’s trick for a bankrupt youth with nothing better to do than navel-gaze and applaud insignificant achievements through different media according to the style of the day. A waste of everyone’s time.

But people sharing and generating meaning from what they’re experiencing is part of this generation’s survival mechanism. It’s important to our chances of coming out the other side having learnt something and improved because of it. We don’t want to validate that worrying study about the trauma caused by long-term youth unemployment.

What is a waste of time anyway? Rotting away at parties in Dublin instead of leaving for Australia with the others who emigrate every day, missing out on opportunities, visions of full-time employment and security? I wouldn’t emigrate to Australia for love nor money, and I don’t see anyone rotting away around me.

What I do see is people coming to terms with a feeling of having been handed extra time, to reflect, to lie fallow for a while, and to do, do, do.

But the choice was obviously not ours, the future holds no security, and there is no guarantee that we will go on to gain and conquer.

In Dublin I often meet people who can feel their world slowing-down and are ok with it, who are willing to spend their time thinking, making, doing, enjoying and appreciating life as it has been handed to them. People who want to make sure that the uncertain future turns out for the best.