Friday, October 24, 2014

Facing the fears

Writing my last article for the Connacht Tribune

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

A few funny incidents arose during my last few weeks as a provincial journalist.

When I spoke at a pro-Palestine talk in a city centre hotel one night, a very vocal activist shouted out that I should have the “balls” to lose my job over my principles.

As if that would do wonders for the cause.

Ironically, my newspaper had never actually prevented me from expressing my views over the occupation and colonisation of Palestine. If anything, the Connacht Tribune published more articles than most regional newspapers to raise awareness of the occupation and local activism in recent years.

Mulling at the time over the prospect of taking a voluntary redundancy, I did not have the heart to tell her (nor could I) that I was in the process of applying to leave my job.

In the same month, the Bishop of Galway condemned the wonderful Saint Vincent De Paul for using a small portion of a Galway-based fund to support a resource centre for the city’s gay community.

When I wrote a (personal) blog to highlight what I thought was a case of unacceptable bigotry and discrimination, I was attacked on-line by people who condemned me for being “anti-Catholic”.

I know quite a few gay people who had nightmare childhoods in the 1980s, because of the Catholic Church, and I don’t think homophobic statements are acceptable any more.

When my on-line critics were not happy with my response, some of them contacted my newspaper to highlight just how “anti-Catholic” I was over the weekend. They wanted to get me in trouble for expressing a personal opinion.

An incident which could have been seen as a case of bullying just made me laugh. I joked with the editor and told him to reply, saying that I was about to be sacked for my radical views!

So, now it’s happened.

I have left my newspaper of 22 years and I have to admit it’s scary, facing winter days in Ireland without having a job to go to.

I suddenly realise how difficult it is to be out there in the jobs market, not that I ever thought it was easy in the first place.

All summer, I tormented myself with the decision to leave – even though the print newspaper business all over the world, and not just my own 'paper, is deep in crisis. I don’t really regret my decision, but I am still full of fear.

I ran off to the Canaries for two weeks, for escapism, fun, scuba diving, and good company, and to delay all major life decisions.

I’m trying to get out and about, and talk to people, and I’m amazed by how many people I know who have been through a similar experience. It’s been great to spend leisurely afternoons just chatting to old friends who, through disabilities or the economic downturn, have also lost their jobs.

We have been in recession for six years now, so it should not really be a shock.

One of my neighbours took a voluntary redundancy at the exact same time as me, after spending even more years than me in his job.

Another one of my neighbours, a really nice man from Asia with a young family, has been job hunting for months and even years. I used to smile ruefully during July and August when he would ask me if I knew of any vacancies as I cycled home from work on sunny evenings.

I just couldn’t tell him that my own business was also letting people go.

Now that I’ve more free time, I have more time for a chat with family, friends and neighbours. I had a great chat with my Asian neighbour this week and was horrified to discover that he used to be exploited by “one of his own” in my home town. 

He used to work full-time for just €200 a week in a Galway restaurant for eight years, supporting a young family on a pittance because his employer knew he could get away with it.

He’s had countless job applications turned down over the past three years and I’m sure he would be an excellent worker, if given a chance. He probably thinks I'm crazy for voluntarily leaving my job.

There are people like Abu all over the world, dreaming of a better life. On the day I spoke to him, people from his country (Bangladesh) were discovered in a Thai village – they had been drugged, kidnapped, and transferred to another country to be used as slaves.

When I was in Thailand some years ago, a big group of people from his country were washed up in distress on a deserted island. They were lucky to survive after traffickers brought them to Thailand on a sub-standard boat.

Yes, life just is not fair.

And there was me, feeling so much fear, flying off to Tenerife to enjoy sun, sea, and scuba diving with old friends. 

Redundancy is scary, and the fear it brings up can be overwhelming at times. But, ultimately, we all face the same fears, hopes, and desires for happier or better lives.

Some of us just get much better chances than others, by virtue of mere chance or place of birth.

I have to admit I’ve been anxious, but life is so much better if I focus on all the good things in my life. 

And, ultimately, life is always about change. Much as we try to grasp onto things, they will never stay the same. Here's to the next chapter ... !


  1. Beautiful blog post Ciaran. I have (in the past) also taken early redundancy from a job and it set me off on the path to Education - a place I never thought I'd end up. Now, five years later, I am just re-entering the 'job search' phase of life and feel strangely optimistic about it all. Enjoy the time off ... sounds lovely to have all that time to chat with friends, family and neighbours.

  2. Thanks a million Mona. To be honest, agonising over the decision ruined the summer for me in many ways. It's great to hear from people like yourself who have come through redundancy and have no regrets. I'm coming around to believing that challenges in life make us stronger and change is a good thing, plus an opportunity for growth. Despite my fears, I can see that I was there for too long! Education is a wonderful sector to be in ... I had to go to Nicaragua to volunteer before I learned the true value of education and how much it can mean to poor communities. Best wishes, Ciaran