Christmas Blog #1 aka The strangest and busiest week of my life!

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I moved to Galway at the end of January this  year, just after my viva, and since then it has been a great, busy, eclectic, strange, year. 2012 will definitely go down as the start of a new era in my life. I moved in with my partner Siobhán, I moved to Galway, I became obsessed with fostering kittens, L learnt a lot about cobbling, and I met the best English students in the world at Croí na Gaillimhe. But this new stage, like any new beginning, didn’t come without its troubles. The “labour pains” of my rebirth came in the form of my old friend anxiety/depression. As most of you reading this blog will know, I’ve battled with anxiety/depression for some years now. I spent much of my PhD taking SSRIs and visiting the wonderful UCD Health counselor Dr. Robert. The medication worked pretty well, but talking things through with Robert really really helped, gave me a whole new perspective on things. The day I submitted my thesis I went to my last meeting with him, it was really a special moment. But since leaving UCD and entering the job market, things like doubt and worry started creeping back in. I tried to keep myself busy, but lacking the structured life that I’d grown so accustomed to, things got on top of me,. I stopped talking to people, my mood swings got worse, I couldn’t leave the house. When anyone asked how I was I instantly became the most charming and charismatic man in the world regaling them with funny stories about how great my life is, while hating myself inside.

After a few (I wish I could give you a number but I honestly lost count) screaming/crying sessions over the smallest things (milk, shopping, dishes) I realised that something was off and needed to be corrected. I spoke to a friend of mine who unfortunately had gone through what I was going through. He said he wished he’d done something about it sooner, so I figured I had to. I looked into counselling in Galway, but on the dole and without a medical card the cost was just prohibitive. Also I just felt, as many Irish men do, that I should just snap out of it, and get on with it FFS! But something needed to change. So I went to my GP (The Beatles should have written a song called Dr. Karen!) and got a prescription for Effexor and have been taking them since. They’ve really helped. But like any medicine of that sort, it only goes so far, one has to help it along by making structural changes to your behavior. But the ssris gave me enough headspace to actually start doing stuff again, going out, talking to friends, applying for jobs, and writing my blog! It was great, I felt like a cloud had lifted, I started saying ‘yes’ to things. I started making opportunities for myself (inspired in no small part by the wonderful documentary Best in the World and amazingly enough the world responding. People started saying ‘yes’ to me! Lot’s of them! YES!! YES!! YES!!

And here is how I came to have the busiest week of my life!

I’m taking Thursday 13/12/12 to 20/12/12 as the week in question….

Thursday 13th

My good (albeit new) friends Gary and Dave decided that they wanted to make a short film for The Little Cinema Christmas special. Dave’s script concerned a rough sleeping heavy drinker who wanted to make some money, so decided to impresonate Santa. I was the obvious choice for their homeless 40-something alcoholic (no offense taken lads!) but as mentioned above, I was saying ‘yes’ to things, so I jumped at the opportunity. Then I realised that I would be the lead in the film and almost instantly I became an insufferable egomaniac! (see my facebook page for details!)

It was a great day, we started early in the GTI where the skilled make up technicians make me look dishevelled, dirty, beaten up (and to quote a certain someone) about 3 years older!! But it was a real treat to have the work done, it made my character come alive.

We began filming in Eyre square shopping centre, semi-legally, and then moved on to NUIG. When we broke for lunch I ran off to an interview, because… I’d joined the circus!!

YES!! I have joined the circus! But let me be precise, I have joined Galway’s Community Circus a charity that needed someone to write their monthly news letter. So this involved me leaving NUIG and walking to Shantalla to have a fun but quite serious interview about my abilities. It was great! I got it!! But let me remind you, I looked like this…

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But I guess the GCC are the right kind of crazy cause I’m working away with them now!

After the interview, I met Siobhan for coffee, scared Trish, met Colm, again, booked an actor for Friday, worried Matt, filmed in town, got really cold, pretended to be Mad Max, cycled home in full costume, bought beer, took a very long hot shower, spent two hours cleaning the house with Siobhan for Friday’s Christmas party and then settled down to watch Die Hard! Whataday!!

Friday 14th

I got up late, had a slow breakfast and went back to the GTI to have my make-up reapplied. It was great! I’d a mirror this time and I got to see myself transform into my future self! We had a great time filming, even though the rain got in the way. I was able to tie my friend Brian up in tinsel and have great fun hanging around backstage at the BOI Theatre NUIG. And then I was wrapped! (WRAP = Wind Reel And Print btw) So I headed off home thinking the hardest part of my week was done, and if I say so myself, done very well. I did a quick hoover, made up my Christmas jumper and ran over to the Galway Bay Hotel.

In the Galway Bay Hotel there was a Christmas party for the volunteers of Croí na Gaillimhe, the place where I teach English on Tuesdays. It was really lovely, everyone was dressed in their finest and it really felt like I was *living* in Galway! I’d a great chat with my colleagues, heard loads of juicy gossip and then ran back to Kilcrona for the Christmas Jumper Party.

jumpWithin the blink of an eye, I was drinking mulled wine, listening to Nat ‘King’ Cole (my favourite) and telling the five month old Coileans that she is the most beautiful baby in the world (she really is!) Now here’s where things get fuzzy, let’s just say ssris + beer = a very very jolly Stephen. My memory goes something like this… something something Fr. Ted something something Batman something something more wine something something WHAT!? something something you’re my best friend something something WOOOOOO!! something something Congratulations Trish something something Batman. Let’s just say fun was had. But Night Stephen really screwed morning Stephen cause on Saturday I’d to go to Dublin!

Saturday 15th

I was cold. Very cold. I was hung over. Very hung over. I was on a bus. Very on a bus. But all was good, the bus left on time I’d tonnes of podcasts, I was going to meet my aunties and play a gig, life was good. Now in fairness to Dublin, it did its ABSOLUTE BEST to ruin my day, effing me around right left and centre, but fortunately I was able to battle through and stay jolly. I went home, met my aunties, had a long nap and cycled into town. We were playing a gig in The Cobblestone, which is a pub right beside where I used to live. It was really nice to go back to my old stomping ground. On arriving a the pub I found a beer that seemingly is made by me, judge for yourselves… 521345_10152359437115195_1101051406_n

It was odd. But the gig went great! We sounded really well and me, Paul and Rachel all enjoyed ourselves. Its been a long time since we enjoyed a gig that much!29584_10152359438440195_1057116957_n

Anyway, we had a couple of drinks (hair of the dog etc.) did lots of impressions of Franno from Love/Hate and then all headed home. I needed a good night’s sleep cause Sunday was Santy day!

Sunday 16th

In 2011 I was lucky enough to be invited by Siobhan’s family to the MDI dinner. It was great, there were lots of families having fun enjoying themselves and taking the piss out of each other. Then Santy came. The poor fella. He just wasn’t up to it. He was too nervous for what was a tough room (the MDI don’t eff around yo!) But Karen and Dr. Brendy helped him out and it was all good in the end. On the drive home I courageously / foolishly / bravely / stupidly volunteered to be Santa the next year…. All of a sudden it’s December 16th 2012 and I’m in the Red Cow Inn getting changed into my Dad’s old Santa outfit in an ice cold closet was Siobhan guards the door. I hear the DJ counting down to Santa. I’m at least a 5 count away and he’s now at 3. It must have really scared the bar staff when a 6 foot Santa came sprinting past them to burst into a room yelling MERRY CHRISTMAS!! in a Tom-Hardy-as-Bane-Voice. Also that Santa was instantly met by an 11 year old kid wearing a medal for boxing saying “you’re not Santa” before I had time to explain that I was only Santa’s helper, the anxious Stephen (who doesn’t really give an eff about anyone or their opinion) took over and stormed right passed him parading around the room shouting “When I say Ho! you say Ho! Ho…HO! Ho…HO!” This Santa was no suckah MC, he was certified Fresh. The next half an hour was a bit of a blur, but by all reports things went well. I found myself yelling “DJ drop the beat!” and doing the Gangnam style dance in the middle of a room of bemused and unimpressable diners. It was rough. But kids got chocolate. Teenagers got humilated. And I got a terrible headache! Afterwards I also got chips. A day of winning all around!

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Monday 17th

Monday… finally it was beautiful Monday!! I had nothing much to do today! Oh the joy!! Me and Siobhan got the bus back to Galway, did a little Christmas shopping, spread a tonne of joy/goodwill and then headed back to our gaff. Siobhan played her uke, while I worked on a Christmas present for Fur Immer. We drank tea, we had a chat, we looked at our Christmas decorations…. When suddenly…. My phone rang!! It was a local Galway number? Who could it be??? I answered. It was Sarah from Bioware/EA…. to make sense of this call you must recall Roxie, the beautiful cat me and Siobhan had fostered. she had been adopted by Roisin and Kieran, who were themselves beautiful and kind people. Kieran worked for EA. He advised me to send in a CV. This all occured during my YES!! YES!! YES!! phase so of course I said ‘yes’. Two months passed without a word and then suddenly, out of the blue, they rang me! They wanted me to come in for an interview on Thursday at 2pm. I practically plotzed down the phone!! Thursday at 2pm. An interview. It was booked. It was on. My first job interview since 2007!! The rest of the afternoon was spent practicing my French and getting hella nervous!

To calm my nerves we met up with our friends Sarah and Emily. We then had the most Christmassy Bourgeois evening Galway had to offer! Irish coffees in the Meyrick followed by wine in le Petit Rouge! Yeah… cause that’s how we roll!

Tuesday 18th

It was Tuesday!! The day of my premiere!! The day where I should have spent the whole day crimping and cropping my beard/hair so as I could look extra dapper at The Little Cinema, but this was not to be. I now had a job interview to prep for, and more than that.. I’d a pre-interview questionnaire to fill out!! I won’t lie, it was tough. a lot of HR style questions that seem to ask one thing but may be asking another. I spent the day working on it. Then off to the premiere!! It was great, I actually knew people there! I felt a little awkward at first, but I’d said ‘yes’ to this life and now I was in a room at a monthly film festival and there were lots of friends in the room, it was great. I really felt at home. All the proceeds from the night went to the Lily Mae fund, so it was all for a very good cause. The selection of film’s were outstanding, my personal favourite was ‘Tuam’ by Kieran McHugh but all the films were excellent. Ours went down very well. Change was always destined to be a weepy and I think we managed to tug on a few heart strings. The fact that it all came together in less than a week just shows how talented Gary and Dave are.

Afterwards, we had great fun singing along with Ultan Sherry’s “Let the snowflakes fall” which is only improved when viewed collectively and the raffles and general merriment left all feeling great. I’d strongly recommend The Little Cinema to any Galway folk, it’s a load of fun.

Wednesday 19th

Wednesday was me and Siobhan’s last full day in Galway so we made it into our “Christmas” day. We’d a lovely lunch in the Kai café, bought new interview clothes (hella dapper!) did our last bit of Christmas shopping  (with help from the staff of Charlie Byrne’s!) and headed home for a lovely risotto and an a night of arts and crafts! All the while I was practicing my French and memorising the history of Bioware/EA! Fortunately I already knew most of their products. I think I may have been overprepping when I started learning off the different key planets in Star Wars: The Old Republic. So that’s when I went to bed!

Thursday 20th

So here it was, the day of my first interview since 2007. I’m not gonna lie, I was hella nervous. But I’d gotten good advice from my brother, a former HR specialist, my friend Ian, an interview classic, and my Dad. So I decided to be calm and confident and go in *knowing* that I had the appropriate skills for this job. I was ready. We packed our bags for Christmas and head out. All was disco. I left Siobhan in town and got the 405 to Ballybrit. I was 30 minutes early, all I had to do was find the building….

all I had to do….

was find…

the building….

OH

MY

GOD!!!

I’M LOST!!!

I’M UTTERLY LOST!!

I was utterly lost. I’d seen a sign pointing to the business park, it pointed away from where my intuitions were leading me but I thought I’d just follow the sign. My first mistake. The sign was actually pointing *AWAY* from the EA building but by the time I realised this I was actually in the middle of a very dense housing estate (remember the comedically thick fog made it impossible to judge where you were going). So I rang them to let them know and they couldn’t have been nicer. They tried their best to give me directions but I’d no landmarks beyond “a house” or “a garden” or “lots of thick werewolfy fog”. But eventually I found the road I was meant to be on. The herd of cattle through me off, but it’s Galway yo, cattle and blue chip industrial estates share the same space.

The interview itself went great, they couldn’t have been nicer. I was pretty happy with all my responses, they were honest and confident, which at the end of the day is the best you can do. We spent roughly an hour talking, a lot of which was about Star Wars and Dr. Who. I really hope I get this job, I won’t know til the new year, but aside from the money and its benefits I think I’ve found my tribe! Sci Fi Nerds UNITE!

After the interview I hopped in a taxi and met Siobhan. We jumped on the bus to Dublin where we ate sweets, crisps and sambos listened to Christmas FM and watched Modern Family. I was literally the jolliest man alive! In Dublin we met up with Ian for the annual Christmas pint-a-thon and it was great. A picture says a thousand words….

12160_10152368561185195_802395486_nAnd it’s just not Christmas without a festive flip off from the Classic One…

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So there it is, the strangest busiest week of my life. If this blog is about anything it’s about change. Our film was called change for a very good reason. You never know when change will come, how it can sneak up on you. A few months ago it took a great amount of effort to leave the house, getting out of bed felt pointless, talking to people was just maddening. But now today, things have changed. I’m happy talking to people. I’ve projects going on that I’m proud of. I feel close to my friends and family like never before. Sure there are still times when the darkness sneaks up and it beats me down. But I know things can change. I just hope that by saying ‘yes’ to positivity and making myself make opportunities for myself I can keep on changing for the better.

Happy Christmas dear friends,

love always

Stephen.

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