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This is the year I ... quit meat, speak Irish, start a business

In 2021, those long-held personal plans will finally become reality, these people promise

Sunrise over Bull Island, Dublin. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught many to stop putting things off and grab opportunity when it comes. Photograph: iStock

While 2020 upended many of our plans, it also spurred some people on to make a change in their lives. While we may not be free of Covid yet, the experience has taught many to grab opportunity when it comes, to stop putting things off for a rainy day and to make the most of every moment, every experience, and every important person in our lives.

With this in mind, we spoke to several people to find out what the coming year will mean for them and why 2021 is the year they will make something happen.

“This is the year I become a fluent Irish speaker”

Crossy, (Thomas Crosse), FM104 DJ, has decided that 2021 will be the year he perfects his native tongue.

“I was thinking about this [a goal for 2021] during the lockdown in November as I wanted to do something that’s not giving up the booze or trying to lose weight (as it’s already a regular thing) and remembered that when I was in school, I was almost fluent in Irish.

Then for some reason, I fell out of love with the language. I stopped speaking it and by the time I turned 25 it was a distant memory. I’m now 33 and a few months ago I was asked to cover the Irish language show on our station and as I presented it, I felt the words coming back. It got me thinking that it would be great to get back into it.

So I’ve started to watch TG4 Nuacht and shows that people like Hector [Ó hEochagáin] present, as I find that having normal conversations with people and watching normal shows makes it feel less like school and more like real life. The idea is by the end of 2021 I’d love to be fluent in the language and be able to chat about it on my socials in a way that isn’t ‘school’.

I would also like to head west and tour the Gaeltacht and to educate and encourage people like myself to take a look at the language and make it more modern. I don’t think I’d ever write anything in Irish as for me it’s more about being able to speak it in a modern way. I want to be able to walk into a shop and order a roll or to ring a friend with some gossip in Irish – It could be a nice little social challenge.”

“This is the year I go home”

Food writer and chef Rozanne Stevens is moving her business online and heading back to her native South Africa to be with family.

“For the past 20 years I have lived between South Africa and Ireland. For the first decade, I was largely based in Ireland with an annual trip to South Africa but for the past number of years, I have split the time evenly, working remotely, shooting cookbooks, videos and teaching in South African cookery schools and catering colleges. Having the freedom to spend more time with my family has always been my dream but I hadn’t done much about it.

Last year, South Africa closed its borders to international flights, and I missed both my mom’s 80th birthday in May, and the rest of the time I would have spent there. It’s one thing choosing not to travel, it’s another beast entirely not being able to. And it’s quite terrifying not knowing when you’ll see your family again. Nothing else really matters once you boil it down.

This really gave me the push to move my business largely online so that I can head home to South Africa.

Once I made the decision I donated a lot of my cookery school equipment in Ireland to Age Action and to home economics departments in a couple of schools. Then I sold appliances such as fridges, freezers, and steam ovens, which don’t transport well due to the possibility of damaging cooling units. I also had a huge collection of heavy cast iron Le Crueset items, so I sold a lot of those and put the rest in storage for use in filming.

I also spent a lot of last year learning how to teach cookery classes online and how to produce a podcast, with the help of some very expensive courses. The content delivery was never a problem as I love teaching and doing radio, but the tech always felt daunting. Although I’m still not super comfortable with it, I’m getting there and wonder what held me back for so long.”

“This is the year I work less, see my family more”

Broadcaster Dáithí Ó Sé says the best part of 2020 was spending time with his family, which is something he vows to do more of in the months ahead.

“For the last 10 years I’ve been doing MC work at the weekends. I really enjoyed it while I was doing it, but that work has been gone since March, so I have spent every weekend at home since.

And this made me realise how much you miss as a Dad when you are working, so from now on, I’m going to be fussy and pick only the events I really want to do. It would want to be a very special event to get me off my behind in 2021.

Also, I usually fill the summer months with work as my wife Rita and son Mícheál go to the US for a few weeks every year, but again, I’m not too pushed to fill that diary either and will only do what I need to do. There are more important things than work and it’s only when you stop and look around you realise this.

Family time is the best time and when that involves doing nothing and just hanging out, it’s the best of all. I love when the front gates are closed, the fire is down and it’s only the three of us. Our sitting room is where you can read a book or the paper, or even go for a snooze. It’s where the home really is.

I believe that now is the time to do the simple things that we took for granted. The long finger has run out of space and I think 2020 made us all think now 2021 is the time for doing.”

“This is the year I finally get my college degree”

Chris Ledwidge, a musician, and tutor from Limerick, plans to go to college and get a degree.

“This year, I’ll be moving ahead with finishing the college degree I’ve been putting off for too long. I completed some of the modules for my BA in music from 2010 to 2012 then had to take a break. But I am going to restart it now and I plan to have it completed by May 2023. I’ll also be self-releasing music I’ve composed and recorded. I have had these plans for so long and 2020 made me realise more than ever, that I need to get things done.

I believe that if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then you should make a start. As a music tutor I’ve never heard anyone say they ever regretted starting to learn to play an instrument, only that they gave up. And I think it’s the same for most things we’d like to achieve.”

“This is the year my family becomes vegetarian”

Ollwyn Moran with Matthew and Alex

Ollwyn Moran is a neurodevelopmental child therapist and founder of Cognikids who wants to make a change for her children, her health and the planet.

“This year, my family and I have decided to become vegetarians. Trying to keep two boys away from screens last year when they couldn’t play their usual sports or socialise with friends due to the restrictions was tricky, so in a bid to keep them busy I came up with the idea of growing some of our own vegetables. We soon had a patch in the garden and with mixed success we have grown and learned a lot about vegetables.

We had dabbled in expanding our diet to include more vegetarian dishes over the last couple of years and during lockdown I saw The Happy Pear online cooking course as an opportunity to teach my teenage sons how to cook healthy meals, so we all did it together.

I think the pandemic, along with the likes of Greta Thunberg, really made young people realise both their own mortality and the life of the planet. Also through one of my son’s school projects on sustainability, we all learned more about the benefits a vegetarian diet would have on our health and the environment.

“Also, last year, I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and used some of my Covid-restricted evenings to look into ways in which I could help my situation. I discovered that my diagnosis could be improved with a vegetarian diet of leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds and zinc-rich peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. So my hope is that by eating the right foods consistently, my doctor will see an improvement in my condition and support a change in medication - which really would be life-changing.”

“This is the year I set up my own business”

David Lynn with his wife Lynsey and son Max

Tenor David Lynn has decided this year he will give up singing and set up his own music academy in Ireland.

“I was in Adelaide, Australia on March 15th last year, performing with the Scottish Opera to over 1,000 people at the annual international opera festival. Afterwards I flew home to a new world, and no work. As we landed back in Glasgow [where he had been living with his wife and child], all our phones buzzed simultaneously; our next five-month contract was cancelled and over the course of the following week, I had 15 months’ worth of work cancelled.

I moved home to Ireland in May with my young family, and luckily got some work as an operator in a factory. But in November, I was laid off that job due to Covid – losing my job twice in one year, caused me to become quite down, and I really didn’t feel like luck was on my side – but I did have one bright light as I had started doing some singing tuition.

So I have decided that this year, I’m going to invest all my energy into a new venture, the Lynn Academy of Music in Ballina, north Mayo. It will be online for the time being, but this presents a unique opportunity as I can teach people from all over the world.

Destiny is in my hands and if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I should take the bull by the horns, and not rely on others for my employment situation. With my new business, I hold the cards and make my own luck. Because although launching a business in a pandemic might be madness, the only way is up.”

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