I am so happy that I can bring you a free Java for beginners course. It is now up on Udemy and the content has to be less than two hours for it to qualify to be free.
I also posted up the free Udemy course: https://www.udemy.com/course/learn-beginners-java/ It is limited to two hours of content. The next Udemy premium course will be announced when it is available and it will have a lot more content, programming exercises and self-review quizzes.
I am so grateful that I get to have this opportunity to develop courses. I am excited to add in the next course that has more content, quizzes and programming exercises. So far since it went live I already have 123 people enrolled in the course and have 13 lectures online. It's light on quizzes and there aren't any programming exercises - you follow along the videos yourself and it's self-guided. The next course will be a little different. There will be quizzes and programming exercises to accompany the lectures, however, it needs to be premium (free courses are limited to 2 hours) as the content covers a lot and the videos are more than two hours of content. Also see the new video I posted today in the beginner's course on YouTube. With Udemy you will get a full experience of course exercises, real-life examples and coding to do. In YouTube it shows the videos that I have recorded so far to explain different concepts and we are almost coming to the end of the beginner's course on YouTube. I have had so much fun creating these and I hope you have fun watching them too. Enjoy programming and thanks for watching!
I worked in a bar when I was 18 in Limerick city and my first night working I got ice thrown down my t-shirt by the manager for fun and apparently it was a tradition to all new people joining. I thought the place was wild and it was. I was used to working in the Body Shop during the day as a summer job and decided I needed some extra cash before going to college. I did what another girl in the shop did and that was sign up to work nights in the bar and club in town. It was a culture shock - bear in mind only a few years earlier I had gotten sick meeting boys for the first time and also shied away approaching customers until I was shown what to do and I didn't even speak until I was three - yes - that shy! It was a massive change, there was loud music, the pub was packed to the brim with a live band playing and lots and lots of drunk people.
I started as a glass collector and, for those not from Ireland, we do not have a pfand for the glasses. You just put them down anywhere and people go around and collect them. I would stack them up above shoulder length and bring as many as I could at a time. Sometimes managing two or three stacks of pint glasses a couple of feet high. After a few nights of this I progressed onto table service which was asking people for their drinks orders at the table and bringing them to them. I was really good at this as I am not the tallest and I could weave in and out of the crowds fairly easily.
I then moved onto selling shots, working behind the bar, cloakroom and club behind the bar too. It was ideal for the summer and I worked really hard. The boss would come and run their finger along the counter of the bar to make sure there was nothing and we would scorch our hands on the boiling hot water to ensure that all the alcohol was wiped away and the counter surface was sufficiently cleaned. It was hard work and our bodies were definitely put to the limits. I worked usually until 4 or so, sometimes later and would run home (don't tell Mom!). We lived outside the city limits and it was quiet enough at that time in the morning that no one was around as all the pubs were closed about an hour earlier. It was the clean up of the toilets, bar and everything that took time to leave. We'd also (sometimes) have a staff drink at the end of the night to relax. I always wondered why I never made tips and apparently once I was told I was 'too happy' by one of the customers who used to call in regularly. I would, of course, dance to the music behind the bar and serve drinks as quickly as possible and without any waste which I was and still am very proud of that!
The summer went by fast and I was going to start college. I had been introduced to a new way of life. I loved it. I loved the music, bar people and I had fun partying sober while working all summer - or at least that's what it felt like. Limerick is small so the same people came into the bar regularly and we saw them again throughout the evening in the club upstairs. It was fun and good hard work to keep me honest for the summer before college started! I was really thankful that I could ask my coworker to come to my debs (the end of year school dance in September) because I had been tragically unsuccessful asking others and he obliged thankfully. It's another story but he's a lovely person and I was also lucky to meet him a while back and recreate our debs photo!
I came back that following Christmas to take back up my job to work Christmas (not Christmas day obviously as everywhere is closed!) and the new year. I had enjoyed working there because my first day it was like a christening into the place with the ice down my t-shirt and the lovely managers we had. They were hard but they were lovely. They reasoned with us. Long story short, they weren't there when I came back and I was upset. In fact, none of the staff remained and it was under new management again. I continued working hard and dancing behind the bar, not collecting my tips but enjoying myself, happy out dancing and pouring pints.
The following summer again the staff changed and again it was under new management. I was shocked. How could they go through so many people in such a short time. It was the largest bar outside of Dublin so there must have been at least 15 working in the bar and more upstairs in the club. I didn't ask questions and kept doing what I was told. I worked hard, didn't complain and enjoyed working there. I made friends again and every time (over the next few years) that the staff changed, I made new friends. I stayed there for a few years while in college and even to this day I still know the upper management.
When I was working in the Body Shop we had a manager that also was a bad boss. She managed to get everyone, even the people working there for 15 years or so, to quit including myself. It was a really lovely job but it was something that we all had to do. Eventually though and usually it is too late - upper management notices and once they do they get rid of the rotten apple. It usually takes several people to leave a position before that happens though as that's the only way that sends messages to upper management when something is wrong. It's unfortunate but I have seen it across several sectors now and in offices, retail and bars. I have had enough experience at this point to conclude that that is my perspective as I have several more examples.
The key now is if you find yourself under a bad boss to get out and not let that impact you. It is really hard to do and when you don't have a choice or feels like you don't have a choice because of money or bills to pay for example, then it is harder and you can convince yourself to stay longer. The real issue is that it is insidious and you can't tell when the damage is happening when it is happening. We are all fighters and want to stay in jobs that we love but at the end of the day, the facts are the facts and a high staff turnover is, unfortunately, a sign of a bad boss so get out while you can!
Burnout is common and from only speaking with my friends they seem to have all landed in a toxic relationship/workplace/situation. Burning out can tremor feelings of anxiety and also land you in a situation where your self-esteem has taken several blows by the environment that you are in. You may find yourself overwhelmed and unable to cope in the uncertainty of the time. Perhaps even your sense of identity has been questioned. All in all I know that it is a temporary time and that what goes down must come back up. You need to view this time as a time that will pass and also that once you have felt overwhelmed, it is time to get strategies in place that help you to manage these and never let it happen again.
Feeling overwhelmed during certain situations can happen quite often. For me, I live alone and going into a loud environment like going home can be overwhelming. All of a sudden I am thrust into the realm of busy-ness and have to deal with people wanting my attention constantly. This, I am not used to and it can be overwhelming. I enjoy quiet mornings and when I go home it seems really loud and jarring to the psyche. Having yourself become overwhelmed versus burnout is another thing - see post on burnout below. It is a continuous feeling of being overwhelmed, a continuous stress and a continuous questioning of how you are handling things in the best possible way for you. Your identity can come into question as the strategies of the past may not work in this current scenario and you are too exhausted to figure out the why or how to move forward with new ones.
You may resort to avoidance and avoidance is a strategy in its own right - we've all been there, the phone rings and we look at the number, it's not from someone you know so you decide to ignore it. It rings and rings and your mind goes through who it could be until it stops. We hope an email comes through explaining that it was so and so on the phone or that a voicemail has been left. The discomfort experienced with phone calls is not something I enjoy or like. I was never one for phone calls. In fact, I would say that phone calls make me anxious and nervous. I prefer messages/emails or even video calls are better than phone calls when my voice goes dry and I've to bring the energy to the call when I am nervous on the other end.
I am aware of this and have sought to overcome it time and time again. I even had a job as a call-centre representative for a summer once. I was actually really good at it and enjoyed it, once I got used to cold calling people! What was once uncomfortable then became something I just did without thinking. I had to do, I was there to do and it became normalised. I didn't get stressed. I just did it. My body went into the motion of doing it and performed the task at hand. We all learn to overcome these things eventually!
When you experience burnout feelings of insecurity and questioning of your identity becomes the norm and this can impact on your relationships too. You normalise these feelings and your day to day tasks can increase your insecurities to a realm where you cannot cope very well. It's into the abyss of feeling inadequate. You start to question the level of respect given in certain relationships including the ones closest to you and are on high-alert for these. Some of which might be that you want the support and someone there for you but they are off doing their own things. You may even fall into being dependent while you are experiencing this sickness. This is, of course, normal. You want the people closest to you to look after you.
Being physically sick you can see the illness, it is there to view, it is visible and physically present but when you are burnout, you are emotionally drained, perhaps also physically ill and your immune system is not functioning as your body goes to fight/flight/freeze mode. A small cold may take longer to recover, you may fall into victim mode and the person closest to you may choose to be around other people. You feel upset and tell them that you cannot deal with the disrespect shown - this may be interpreted as jealousy.
Jealousy can result in having low confidence. Jealousy is toxic and a lot of people that are jealous are unhappy with their lives and look at another person doing something that they want to do but do not have the courage to do it. A healthy way to look at this is to get yourself up and do what you want to do. Perhaps approach the girl and tell them how much you admire and look up to them. That is a healthy position to be in and a healthy thing to do. We need to lift each other up. There are times of course when some behaviour is not to be tolerated and sometimes people think girls are jealous when they might have been disrespected by another girl - then this is a case of not jealousy but disrespect and burnout.
If there was some behaviour that is not to be tolerated then, of course, address it. Why wouldn't we? We are human, most people do not do things to hurt others. Most people are good human beings that want to be safe and secure - unfortunately with burnout, everything is under threat and the feelings of safety are also not secure so you will be on high alert. This is also normal as your body is experiencing fight/flight/freeze mode.
In these times you will need support - to support yourself and tell yourself that you are overwhelmed and to comfort yourself alone. I want freedom and that includes for a partner. I think these feelings of burnout can be interpreted as jealousy so it is whether or not your partner sees that and knows that you value freedom is another thing. Being upfront about things is both yours and your partner's responsibility as secrecy also breeds jealousy and what can be interpreted an unhealthy perspective from one side - this is for another post! I value being straightforward with people and once that is done then everything will fall into place.
For me, I value freedom, I value other's freedom, I want other's to be happy and to feel free, light and able to do what they want, when they want. It is something that I want for myself and it is that not feeling that goes with burnout as you feel trapped and smothered by feelings of inadequacy. Being emotionally drained you need to get back on track and taking a walk or going for a run might be pushing yourself too much depending on your physical state. You may need to sit with yourself in solitude (without distractions - I know when you are in pain it is easy to pick up your phone to look at as it's easier than facing sitting with yourself) to work through your emotions until they are under wraps and balanced again. You may need time alone to let everything out and allow yourself to accept the situation that you are in. Don't breed toxic positivity - by telling yourself to only focus on the good we cannot appreciate why it is good and what happened for it to become that way.
WITHOUT THE BAD TIMES, THERE ARE NO GOOD TIMES
You need to sit with the bad and allow the emotions to be purged - for me that is journalling and letting them out. I also love celebrating things and redirecting my energy where it is needed most. Celebrating the small wins can be part of purging the burnout. I love celebrating things - it's the small things that need to be celebrated that amount to the big things. Sometimes we feel empty and stuck and don't know what to do. I think that's a natural cycle. People go through periods of stress and push themselves and we could learn from nature. We need time to reenergise. We all need to have the balance. We have taken a few steps forward then we need to stop and accept it. Take it in and relax. You can drive ahead with things and once the level of emotion has peaked in terms of performance then it is time to rest.
Like flowers giving all their energy to blossom in the summer and then rest in winter. It might be time to take a leaf out of nature and take the time to go through your own cycles. Do other things and do not push yourself. The most common way we give up our power is by thinking we don't have any. So be compassionate and kind to yourself - let yourself blossom for the flower that you are. :-D Feeling free is the best feeling in the world, it should be cherished and when you can overcome the burnout, you will cherish it even more. Without the bad times, there are no good times! You will appreciate the freedom more once you have had the feelings of being trapped from burnout. A free mind is a dangerous thing and most people will not know what to do with you so protect it and laugh about it. Enjoy living your free life, with your free mind and your free choices. The picture below was taken in Galway in 2013 - running, adventures and hiking makes me feel free - do the things that make you feel free and you'll notice more when you aren't free - but only when your body allows it, if it doesn't, then prioritise rest! When there's no petrol in the tank, there is NO PETROL IN THE TANK!
If you are in a relationship that means taking on a mature freedom. Embracing commitment as a freedom in a way that enables both people to flourish, be themselves and step into their own power. Being free, feeling free and most of all protecting that freedom as a human so we can thrive in all environments is one of the most important things about live and feeling alive. Do fun stuff and get out of your comfort zone. You have only one life and life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Go for it! Make the stuff happens that you want to happen. You'll thank yourself afterwards for building the life you want and for the freedom you have accomplished. Start the blog, do the adventure, learn the language, run the marathon - build the life for you.
BY ORIAH MOUNTAIN DREAMER
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
Fear and anger are the two emotions that can hinder ourselves from progression, not only that but they have the power to overwhelm and destroy relationships with ourselves and with others. Having fear can prohibit us from reaching our goals and stepping into the part of our lives that is full of adventure and ambition. Anger can lead us down the path of 'why me' and adapt into aggression when nothing can be done about something. Both are neutral emotions designed to help us in different scenarios and both can be overcome through time and effort to make progress.
Fear is completely normal when we step outside of our comfort zone. The questions in our head about will we be accepted, rejected or are we good enough stands out to keep our fear at high levels. Fear can also be a reaction to our environment and the intense nature of disruptive environments around us. Fear can be part of our animal instincts that tell us to stop doing what we are doing as we are in danger. Fear can also be something to be overcome to achieve our goals.
Our goals are things that we might want to achieve or it could be something that we want to do that scares us. We set the goals and want to achieve them. We want to get that degree, run that race, get that job, remain in that job despite circumstances, learn that language, learn to cook, go zip-lining, jump out of an airplane, climb a mountain, learn to dance, sing on stage. These are the goals that can stretch our limits and to achieve our goals we must overcome our fear of failure. Our fear of failure is so powerful that if we envision failing then we are more likely to fail than succeed. Our brain can interpret that as something we want as opposed to don't want as our attention is focused on 'not' failing as opposed to succeeding.
Our emotions fill with anxiety at the prospect of failing and we think of our worst case scenarios in order to cope with the impending doom. Unfortunately this can lead us to failure faster as our brains fill with the stress hormone and we become more forgetful, unfocused and on high alert. We force ourselves not to concentrate and our conditions are not ideal as we go through the 'what if I fail' scenarios over and over again. Yes, it is pragmatic to thing about what happens if we fail, however, bringing our attention to that will increase our stress hormones. Ideally, we need to concentrate on succeeding and include the feeling it would be like to succeed in our goals - getting that mark and feeling elated that you passed that examination, got that degree, ran that race, learnt that language and sang on stage etc.
Doubt and fear both tell us that something needs our attention and we need to focus on these in order to get out of that 'dangerous' situation. It is our body's way of telling us to take care of ourselves, our stress hormones are raging and our blood starts only circulating to specific organs in order to run away from that stressful situation. If experienced for a long period of time our body starts to get sick as the blood flow is restricted. What happens when you cannot run away from the stressful situation? What happens when you are boxed in, locked in and kept in a stressful situation that is disruptive over long periods of time?
Anger starts to creep in once fear and doubt are present for an extended period of time. Anger and aggression is our way of trying to fight back. If you picture an animal locked in a cage, all they want to do is get out and initially they start railing against the cage with anger until they give up. When we, as humans, feel trapped and in a stressful situation, our brains send out the signals with stress hormones, our hearts start to race, our blood only goes to vital organs and our entire bodies are screaming at us to get out of that situation as quickly as possible either by fighting/running or freezing.
Anger and aggression is the next step that happens once the helplessness of the scenario is absorbed. In a similar way that animals get sad and a range of emotions sweep through them as they are locked into a cage from once running wild and free. Anger then has the power to become explosive if provoked and injustice prevails in our lives. Anger is encountered at a higher level when a hostile provocation occurs and defence needs to be engaged. Anger is normal. Anger is a healthy emotion and not good or bad, however, in these situations it can fall into the bad territory as the mix of injustice can trap us in our minds and we are then akin to the animals in the cage unable to break free.
The only way through anger is to lead. Leadership takes courage and something happens that might 'wake' us up to enact this stance. Perhaps the anger was useful to push us to act and give us the strength to pull ourselves out of a situation that is both stressful and harmful over a long period of time. The issue is trying to stay awake once we have woken up and we can tend to fall back to sleep when we are overworked, burned out, overwhelmed and do not have the support we need. We may not have engaged in a community and wanted to isolate in order to cope - which is also animalistic - imagine being wounded and going back into a cave to recover, it is similar to this. We need to reenergise and recuperate after our stress hormones have raged in our bodies for a long period of time.
Not engaging with the community and trying to do it all on our own can be detrimental and increase our levels of stress more as we figure out our own realities. It is seeing these situations happen but not having the perspective to wake up to the reality and see how others have coped with it. We all need to recuperate and reenergise, however, isolation is our way of protecting ourselves and while that is useful initially, it is more important to engage in a community where you get the support and inspiration to 'power through' these times of stress.
Everyone has their own power and figuring out what is unique to you that you can bring to the table is part of finding that power. What can you contribute? Things are greater than you and looking at this as the perspective and that you are not alone can help motivate things. When you do things alone and feel alone in a stressful environment you can fall into that helpless and hopeless realm of victimhood. We are always so much more likely to fall into the 'I am not right for the job'. The challenge is to stay awake, look for people that are inspirational, build a community that supports you and figure out how to manage the fear and anger associated with that stressful situation in order to get the courage to leave it. Find people that stay 'stop, you are good enough'.
We get empowered when we understand other people have had similar situations, however, we must decipher what is best for us. It is all well and good having this community and getting the support. It is much more important to find our own voice and make our own decisions as to what matters to us, what are our priorities, what can we contribute, what can we learn from other people's stories and how can we progress in our own situation that will allow us to have the freedom in our minds going forward. We need to tell ourselves that we are safe in order to dissipate the fear, purge the anger in order to become serene and become self-compassionate in order to heal. Ultimately, we need to ask - what is best for us based on what we have learnt from our own situation, about ourselves and from others around us?
I love a good comedy. I love observational comedy the most and people like Dylan Moran, Des Bishop and Dara O'Briain make it seem really easy but at the same time are really clever in the way they put together their material. I watch comedy when I am down and as a way of coping and seeing the silver lining in things all the time. I love the IT crowd and Father Ted and also some dark humour like Black Books - all of which are written by the same author - Graham Linehan.
These are a way that I usually laugh once a day and they do say laughter is the best medicine. I do know babies laugh far more than adults but they haven't lived through or carry with them the sense of cynicism that we adopt throughout life. They are free to laugh at the most minor and subtle things and giggle at whatever they please. My Father - who is 90 - maintains that we should see everything as if it was for the first time to keep it fresh and have a sense of wonder and astonishment with the world and I think he is right. I do carry a sense of curiosity with me and amazement of most things that are new.
In college I had the privilege of participating in laughter yoga. It was an experiment that was open to all PhD students. I went to the laughter yoga with an open mind and participated in the brain study. It was, in fact, hilarious. We were in a room and she gave us exercises to do and we had to fill out forms etc. I won't go into detail but we laughed and before I went back to the PhD room I was lighter. The world had lifted off my shoulders and I saw the study a little differently. Criticism is good for improving and trusting your supervisor is also key in order to develop your study and I believe this laughter throughout the day helped.
I do have a tendency to seek out funny videos when I am going through something traumatic. I tend to bury my head and focus on the funny videos and while the world might be crashing down around me I will laugh at the absurdity that the comedian is explaining and transpose that to real life. In some ways this can be a bad thing as people misunderstand my comedic nature for not taking things seriously but, in fact, it is my way of coping. While I can't address the pain that I am enduring at the time I laugh about something that is not real in order to cope with the overwhelm of my emotions. Privately this has allowed me to manage well in times of stress, however, when someone sees this and questions it, it can dismantle the fabric of my being and I am lost without my coping mechanism. I have now built other strategies and do not need to rely on this as much, however, it was a key strategy for me for coping and we all need good strategies.
When I was younger my other strategy was playing computer games, I would sit for hours distracting myself from whatever was around me and focus solely on playing a game. It could be TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) or old games that my sisters had available like Terminator 2 on the Commodore 64. I have a penchant for classic computer games since! The time can pass by like minutes and I am in what is known as 'flow' - a concept widely written in academia by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The description of which entails the warping of time, where a person is fully immersed in their experience and energised afterwards. It is a case that the person is fully engaged and while, for me, it is a coping strategy and the world around me might be falling apart, I am 'distracted' by the engagement of the computer game.
We know now that there is an immersive element to computer games and studies have been completed on this - see my PhD for references! Computer games can improve concentration and allow for users to fully engage with their experience. For me, computer games can act as a way of coping. They can fully distract and fully engage me in something else at the same time. At the moment, we are facing a time of crisis where we are all at home and seeking ways of coping in this troubling time and while I have distracted myself with other activities like reading, making videos for my YouTube channel - Learn Computers with Ali - I find myself missing the one element that I went to quite often before I did research in computer games and that is gaming.
'Steam' is offering more free games and while during the week I am busy with work, it is the free time that I have at the weekend that I can fully engage and fall into a different world, a world free from the horrible news of deaths from the virus sweeping across the world. I used to be too busy for computer games holding down usually several jobs, studying, teaching, supervising students and training for marathons and now I find myself innovating and looking at my time as a way that I can spend being kind to myself and enjoying the 'flow' state that computer games present. The 'Houseparty' app allows people to share their experience for mobile games and 'TeamSpeak' allows sharing on a computer so it doesn't necessarily need to be a solitary activity. You can engage with computer games as a team activity.
So I will leave you with this, I will go watch some comedy to cope and play some computer games and I will leave judgement at the door while I distract myself for a few hours from the world around me. I will enjoy every minute of it and fully immerse myself in an 'out of this world' experience and laugh about the absurdity of some real-life mundane situations. While these might seem inappropriate in some instances, I am all too aware of the reality of the situation and its seriousness. However, in these times we also need to look after our own mental health so we can come back energised and that is what 'flow' does. It re-energises a person so they are ready for more - as long as they meet the 'flow' state requirements though and start off small - something not too challenging and yet enjoyable.
Mihaly Csikszentmihályi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-016253-5.
See PhD for list of references or contact me for a list regarding flow state and computer games.
Marriage is a tricky subject. The institution of marriage in modern times has been filled with the hope that couples stay with each other through thick and thin, better or worse and in all eventualities. There are, of course, exceptions. The law in Ireland allows couples to separate due to mental illness and not only separate but completely erase or annul what has happened. So is it really for better or worse? Not in this instance it seems! It's only for better and if one of you gets mentally ill then an entire 20 year marriage can be erased - children or no children!
In Brehon laws in Ireland, couples had more rights than the institution of marriage allows for today in its modern Catholic form. Brehon laws stated that each couple re-new their vows to each other yearly and this was afforded to both men and women. It was the right to choose to stay together as a partnership. The trappings of modern day marriage does not allow for this. While we yearn for social contact and have soulmates, marriage and its institution feels like trappings of a modern institution that doesn't allow for the freedom of choice or to choose to be with that person each and every single day. Perhaps we all go through some days or years that are challenging and perhaps one gets ill and a marriage ensures that the partner says with you through this battle but wouldn't it be better if they choose to stay with them rather than be obliged to stay due to a piece of paper binding them to do so?
In today's institution you can go to what is known as modern day Las Vegas in Europe and get married within minutes in Denmark. The ceremony is small and it is done within a legally binding contract. The contract is done there but it cannot be undone there. You are tied to each other but cannot untie once the contract is signed. It is legally binding and that is that.
I quite like the idea of a small and intimate ceremony without the pressures of throwing a gigantic party that happens to be the case in Ireland with guests usually in or around 200. The celebrations are usually three days and the pressure to 'keep going' is there (first the night before, then the day of and usually all night and continuing to the morning followed by entertainment that afternoon). I do love going to a wedding - don't get me wrong - but for me the pressure of expectations and engaging in what might be the most expensive party you will throw in your life can cause some anxiety that I don't particularly want in my life.
Perhaps Brehon laws had it right, they reviewed their partnerships on a yearly basis and decided to be with each other each and every year. However, was it the case that someone fell got ill and they'd leave. Was marriage invented as a way to prevent this from happening? Is it that people are immature and need more empathy and understanding that people can, in fact, separate quite often?
People are complex characters and relationships are challenging as you navigate the ways of the world around you as a partnership. External influences guide thinking and persuade another to do something that the other may not like. The likelihood that the other partner is also going to do something that the other doesn't like is high - however, are we lacking in empathy then or are we? Is marriage set up to protect empathy and understanding? I know I would prefer if someone choose to be with me as a partner each and everyday rather than be trapped by the institution of marriage, however, is it a case that we need to cultivate empathy more when it comes to mental illness as this is an exception in the rules of marriage?
We all do things people do not like, we fall into the trappings of a toxic environment and in some cases become the toxic person. This envelopes us. This can happen to use like an infection. A healthy apple is put beside a rotten apple and the entire basket is then rotten within days. The infiltration of mindsets from different environments can be toxic. Are we to remain in a marriage with someone who's mindset can waver at its environment and be disappointed that they didn't choose you because they are influenced by someone else? The more we explore the world the more external impacts we might engage in, simply put, our external environment has more to do with impacting our relationships than we give it credit. Whether we choose to see this or not is another story.
It seems it is impossible to have fun together when one of you is depressed or stressed. Is is then that the stressful nature of a situation removes our right to choose to be with that person? Is it that we need to cultivate more empathy in this instance to ensure that there is an understanding on a deep level that the other person might be going through something that is painful? Can grief be handled in a marriage?
I know someone who was married and the person became verbally and mentally abusive the week after they were married and their partner then ignored the person for the rest of their marriage. Does contempt and abuse constitute a mental illness? Is it possible to have empathy for someone who is abusive? After reading the act of forgiveness - see post below - perhaps forgiveness is a way of understanding but also saying no, you cannot do this to me again. You have the right to choose who to be with - whether they treat you well or not and the institution of marriage, oftentimes, ties us to this person for a long time and if abusive you may need to get a restraining order against them.
At the end I would prefer someone to choose to be with me each and everyday, to explore and go on adventures together, to travel together, to go hiking and enjoy each other's company, to be kind to each other, be patient and have fun together. I would prefer someone else's right to choose to support me in times that are challenging, to challenge me when I am swallowed up by some toxic or victim mindset (as we are all guilty of falling into at times when our ego is battered and our self-esteem is low) and tell me to 'cop on now, you're worth more than that', to stand up to me and tell me that I am worthy when I am feeling unworthy and to push me to engage with my dreams and desires more than any other.
Again, perhaps love and the way we treat each other has more to do with the poem I posed in the post 'soulmates' than it does marriage. Marriage is the commitment to each other to last 'until death do us part' and have an adventure together as separate entities - separate lives but meeting in the middle every so often - having the space to blossom and enjoy every aspect of life. Whether the constitution of marriage itself needs to be addressed or not is another thing - I prefer the Brehon law's way of working. A good sit down once a year to make each other chat about what can be improved and the decision to be with each other for another year is a great idea. Perhaps its a case of managing both and allowing the person a freedom of choice to be with you or not - marriage or not. Then the next question is the right of the child without marriage... that is another blog post for another time! Perhaps the Claddagh ring is right in saying that it is a a case of love, friendship and loyalty.
Some interesting reads:
If anyone has been lucky enough to meet their soulmate then they will know exactly the feeling that happens when you do. I met someone who loved similar interests to me, he enjoyed climbing, running, computers, programming, hiking and quietness. He came from 'the country' that in Irish terms would be described as a large town as he had neighbours and if you come from 'the country' at home it tends to be a house isolated from neighbours. I thought that was a funny difference here.
He looked into my eyes and it was as if my body and soul had lifted off the ground and the level of intensity was magnificent. I was elated. I kept smiling and when we kissed it was as if I felt my entire body lift up into the air and dance with his. It was as if the world had melted away around us and it was just us. It sounds really cliché, however, if you have felt this then you know what I mean!
The eyes are the window to the soul and they really are. I felt like he had left fingerprints on my soul and it was his forever more. It's as if my body melted into the background. He left his unique imprint on mine and mine on his. Only identifiable by the electric intensity of looking deep into each other's souls and understanding each other on a level that can only be described as out of his world.
Most people will never meet their soulmates, they will find someone in the same group, go to similar things and maybe go out a few times and stay together. They will not have this experience and I am incredibly lucky to have had such an experience in my lifetime. Soulmates can have a level of intensity of feelings like no other. They were drawn to each other like magnets. Intrigued by each other and interested in learning more. Wanting similar things and exploring the same passions. Wanting to cuddle each other and kiss all the time as if the connection was only meant for a short while and you appreciate every touch. Wanting to do things for each other and appreciating every essence of their being - cherish every moment. These experiences will shape you, the level of understanding between two souls is magical. You make a team that works well together. Encouraging the best for each other and pushing each other to overcome each other's fears to live your best lives separately as separate beings but together as a partnership. Two separate souls, two separate entities choosing to be together each and everyday to live this crazy, wild adventure that is life - together. It can only be described as magic. The sparks of joy that fill your heart makes both of your hearts intertwine, making your hearts sing the same songs to each other.
George Ezra said it best in the song Paradise "If it feels like paradise running through your bloody veins, You know it's love heading your way"
I am reading a book at the moment by Katherine Schwarzenegger about the Act of Forgiveness. It is a collection of short-stories from different people who have been through some trauma and experienced the need to forgive at some point in their lives. I have learnt a lot from this book and perhaps it is a timing issue to let go of the past and forgive yourself and others in order to live a more fulfilling life.
Some of the stories detailed kidnapping, car accidents, infidelity within a marriage, rapes and all kinds of trauma that people have endured. There is a common thread throughout and that is the fact that people are incredibly resilient and they look at the silver-lining (some are in fact incredibly grateful for the chain of events that happened as a result of the trauma). For instance, with the kidnapping (who had also raped her) it was a case of being relieved that she didn't know the kidnappers as most people knew their kidnappers so she could cut ties and move on. Forgiving them was a source of personal relief and something that she wanted to do for herself. She didn't need to contact her kidnappers again or relive the experience. She didn't just take it upon herself to forgive like someone does in a school yard when someone does something wrong the other person is supposed to say sorry immediately even if they don't mean it. That is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is deeply personal and it doesn't necessarily involve the other person! She choose to forgive and in some ways in some of the stories they always looked at the perpetrators as people who knew not what they did!
Looking at some of the stories it also was a case of finding some hope within everything and looking at what I can distill down to empathy versus ego. Ego you hold onto the hurt - they hurt me, how could I forgive them, they did me wrong, they hurt me! This is somewhat self-righteous as if you and all humans cannot make mistakes. This doesn't see the other person's perspective - only your own. This is one-sided and holding onto the hurt makes the person carry it for a long time and build resentment and even bitterness towards the situation and person. The person who carries this will face the same lesson over and over and continue to face similar situations in different forms until they close their own wound. Empathy, on the other hand, is looking from the other person's perspective. It allows yourself to express compassion for the other person and let go of the judgement. We all make mistakes - whether you can see that empathetically or not is another story. This does not involve sympathy but rather empathy. You are not looking from a high point down on the person but actually feeling how the other person may have felt and putting yourself in their shoes.
You can get a momentarily high from feeling sympathetic for people but that doesn't bring the resolve. It is still self-righteous and putting you on a different level to the other person. If you detach the act from the person as much as you can then look at the hurt and pain separately then it is looking at the situation itself and not the person as a whole. We can have a tendency of bundling up the pain and hurt and attaching to the specific person without isolating it from the person to see that they are, in fact, human. They might have been going through an incredibly challenging time in their lives, they may have been emotionally flooded etc. This does not excuse their behaviour but let's you slip into their shoes to see them from their perspective perhaps.
I am not saying that giving the gift of forgiveness is an easy thing or am I saying that forgiving someone is a way for them to do it again when it is not. Forgiveness is a source of strength to be free from the source of bitterness and resentment and live your life without the wound. It is a case of trying to sew up your own wounds. That means that you have learnt the lessons from the hurt and pain and you will not let that happen again. It is also taking responsibility for your own part of carrying the hurt and pain.
The chapter entitled "Deborah Copaken: Confronting the beast" wrote about the story of her rapist. She was raped by a man before her graduation. The man was incredibly drunk (that is not an excuse) and even left her his number afterwards. She was traumatised and carried this around with her for 30 years. She emailed him the time that Brett Kavanaugh was facing trial (this appeared on television screens and something triggered her more than thirty years after the ordeal to contact her rapist) and he rang her apologising. He thought it was mutual but it wasn't. She had a sense of forgiveness wash over her and came to this conclusion.
"your life is either about forgiveness or it's not. You're either a person who decides to accept others, warts and all, or you're a person who has difficulties maintaining friendships".
I don't know whether I could have the strength and courage to do what she did and forgive someone who has done her such wrong! It is instilled in me since a child the very essence of right and wrong - however - this again shows that I am measuring other people from my yard stick! This does not mean that other people have this sense - again - we are human and while this doesn't give him an excuse for his behaviour, did he actually know what he did was wrong or not, does that matter when it comes to forgiveness? The forgiveness is not for them but for us so the other person, ultimately, doesn't come into the equation.
She is right regarding what she said above but forgiveness also involves forgiving yourself too. Forgiving yourself for the situation and not being hard on yourself for being at the wrong place at the wrong time or lashing out at people when you were not yourself. Abuse can come back around if the pain isn't felt and forgiveness isn't afforded. You need to watch 'I am a killer' on Netflix to realise this simple fact!
Forgiveness is difficult. It is incredibly challenging but like Deborah said, you can either be a person to accept humans warts and all or not. That doesn't mean you invite the other person to do the same thing again - no! This also doesn't mean seeking an apology from the other person - this is only for you in order to sew the wound up that you are carrying and let go of the past without letting go of the lessons that have built your character from such an ordeal.
People are resilient. People are also people and at the end we are all animals. We have instincts and as a result, this can often trigger survival mode, you can lash out or be cornered, or trapped too. Forgiveness is a source of freedom. You can free yourself. You can feel free, you can uplift others and live life without the sense of doom associated with the hurt and pain. You can see humans for what humans are, warts and all! You can be free to be you!
This is not a prescription that we must forgive - it is deeply personal and we are all different. It is up to you and a decision that you make whether to forgive or not. For me I want to be free of the clutches of bitterness and hurt so I choose to forgive. I want a fulfilling life full of adventure and the times that I have held onto the hurt, it has only shown to hurt me too and my life. It is also about timing and some may need to go through the hurt to get to the forgiveness.
Going through the hurt to get to forgiveness also means that in the messiness of being human, we can go through months of pain and hurt before we get out of being the victim and feeling hurt. It is akin to a physical would. If we think back to our cave ancestors going to a cave to sit by a fire and heal if they have been struck down, this happens too. You can do this. You are entitled to handle this in whatever way you want to in order to get through it and some choose to not forgive at all and carry it for the rest of their lives and that is their choice. It all takes time and time does not, in fact, heal all wounds! Working on yourself and your thoughts about these things brings you ease and forgiveness is one of the things that requires work each and everyday.
This morning I woke up inspired to write about the story that I heard so often as a child. We would play tricks on each other and call out someone to come when there wasn't anything wrong just for fun. The boy who cried wolf is a similar tale. The boy lived in a village and would tell the farmers that their sheep were in danger. The farmers would go off into the mountains and herd their sheep back to safety. All the while the boy would laugh at how stupid the farmers were to go after he told them. One day the boy actually did see a wolf but this time none of the farmers went because they thought he was joking. He had told them too often about this danger and eventually the boy stopped believing them.
We are now in another pandemic except it is like the boy who cried wolf. A lot of people who lived through the swine flu pandemic didn't take this time too seriously. We are now faced with real danger as the countries shut down to protect the people at risk and hospitals are overrun with large numbers of people facing real issues breathing and some are facing organ failure. Unfortunately for some it seems they are still not taking this issue seriously and it is something to be taken seriously especially when you hear of so many in their thousands dying in Italy and hundreds dying on a daily basis only from Italy alone!
We are now faced with staying at home, social distancing and the world has changed all because of a pneumonia that started with one person initially. The numbers are staggering and unfortunately the virus is more persistent on surfaces than any other. The alcohol rub-downs won't do it, it's a case of washing hands thoroughly and not touching your face or if possible wearing gloves and staying away from other people. It is a time to try to find some balance in our newly constructed world and all of a sudden we find ourselves checking in on people that we hadn't spoken to in a while to ensure that they are healthy and safe. We are in a way more connected and people are making more of an effort for online-chats than ever before as we sit down with groups of people on conference call software to find out the situation in their country and encourage each other that it will all be fine.
If Anne Frank can last as long as she did in a tiny area then we are fine. It is a different time, we can still go to the shops, enjoy the sunshine, talk to people, move freely (somewhat) by going to the shop and or pharmacy or even a walk. Although we can't do a lot together, we can check on each other, reach out to each other and encourage each other during this troubling time. We can listen to each other and hear each other's concerns and worries and we can also laugh at the absurdity of the entire thing. We can laugh at the memes going around the Internet. We can try to ensure we laugh at least once a day - laughter is the best medicine and it can help a lot of people cope while experiencing loneliness and we can also reach out to the elderly and people at risk if they need help. We can be there for each other like we weren't before. Now is our chance to build real communities and uplift each other.
I was going through some old photos last night and came across some of my photos from the time I wrote a blog for the Great Limerick Run in 2013. I was writing daily updates on my training in order to help others as I was going to participate in my first half marathon. I posted up a photo of myself and Brent Pope (the famous Kiwi Rugby Commentator who I had met in Dublin on a night out). I remember going to the race and having such excitement that I was going to do this. I was so happy and at the same time I felt the utter dread that I was going to run 21km.
It came to the race and the atmosphere was electric. I loved it. I enjoyed every minute and as the people of Limerick stood out and gave free jellies on the way I was so happy with the warmth and friendliness of the city and surrounding suburbs. It was electric. My first half marathon and I loved it. I was hooked! I had been running since school and participated in a lot of sports events. On one of the school sports days I took home 3 gold medals and a bronze for running in different lengths but they were all mostly short and under 800m in length. I was on the hockey team and I did sports daily after school and on a Sunday morning there was also hockey training. I lived so close to the school that I always walked to and from training and never thought anything about it. I never expected people to be there. I never thought about inviting people. Parents would come and go from the hockey matches and I would gather my stuff and walk home. That was normal!
This was different though I had written a sports blog. I was living in Dublin. I came home to do it so that I could join family and friends at the finish line for that very purpose. It meant more to me than any other race and any school race. No one was at the finish line so I made my way home. I had asked them down to see if they would come and they said no. I went home and celebrated there - as you can see from the photo above. That was grand. That didn't bother me. What bothered me was the utter disappointment that I felt that no one was there to support me - that it meant so much and that I wanted someone at the finish line even if it was just to go for food afterwards. It was such mixed emotions, I felt such elation at finishing and yet disappointment that no one was there. It was lonely.
I repressed that feeling though, I undermined it and thought to myself - better look at the silver lining. I finished the race. I am happy that I finished it. I bundled up the negative emotions and stuffed them down deep because I didn't want to feel them. I wanted to be happy and knew I should be. I also felt guilty for feeling like I should be happy when I was mixed. I got home to a mixed reaction too. They weren't happy or not happy - they just were. I had the elation of the race, the adrenaline still pumping inside my veins and felt so mixed.
I showered and told myself to be happy and that I finished the race. I didn't express the anger and disappointment and let down that I felt that no one was there. I just decided to push it down and ignore it. I know now after burnout that this was also a lesson to never ignore your feelings. They are what they are even if they are painful. Explore those emotions, feel them and let them pass - if you are angry get a pillow and punch it out, get upset - it's good. Ignoring your emotions will only manifest in time to be a stronger emotion and erupt. You will overwhelm yourself if you don't express it. MAYBE A LEVEL-HEADED EXPRESSION OF HOW YOU ARE FEELING AT THE TIME WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT! For instance, expressing that you are disappointed that they weren't there and that it meant a lot to you! This doesn't always happen if you are in survival mode so be compassionate towards yourself - we make mistakes, we are human, freezing happens! I didn't erupt in this instance but I did avoid asking anyone or telling any family members about races. I just did them by myself. The excitement I kept to myself and would not share. Appreciating them as they are will give you ease. You can respect their choices and respect yours and the life you want to live.
I eventually joined a club (Blackrock Athletic Club in Blackrock in Dublin - below is a photo of myself and the coach Patricia and also another Patricia in the club as well) and shared celebrations with people that understood me more and that running and sports were there thing too. I made teams of people that would be happy to run alongside with me. I found my people! I found the elation and joy without the disappointment. I also learnt that you need to find the people that like the same things as you do in order to find that joy. In 2016 I met Maeve at the end of the Dublin marathon and in 2017 myself and a small team entered the Berlin marathon, it was through the lottery entry system and got in. Build the community, join the club, make the connections that matter when it comes to the sport you love. If it means something to you and doesn't to someone who doesn't have an interest in sport, that's okay. It's a case of surrounding yourself with the right people with the same interests. You'll meet people along the way too and run a race with people. I met Andrea on the Rock and Roll half marathon and we had a great time. Celebrate with team members and enjoy, it'll be a joy and it was a joy! Never let anyone dull your sparkle!
Germany has been a whirlwind. I came here in 2017 and it came as a happy surprise. I was living around the corner from work on Burlington Road in Dublin. I was a little over 300 steps into the Kobo offices from my apartment. I was at the point where I was living with a girl who was going to move out. She was a mature student and had gotten into medical school and was going to live with fellow medical students. I was sent to Germany in June for the first time for a week or so to help out in the Deutsche Telekom offices and move Tolino into our new offices. There were four in a department that needed to pull all the information from and take with us as we were going to be down to only one of those employees when the take-over happens. While I was there my flatmate in Dublin told me she was moving out and when I got back I asked her about the postbox and bins etc. She replied that she had handed in BOTH of our notices and that I had, in fact, only one week to move out! At the time I was going to travel in July to Serbia to a music festival and so that meant I had three days. I went into the office the following day and decided that I would take the vacancy that Kobo tried so hard to fill in Germany.
The concert in Serbia was a blast and you can see the photo below! I had a great time and we were a bunch all together going to see Paul Kalkbrenner live along with many others as part of the EXIT festivals. I managed to pack up all my things and left them in the offices in Kobo and took a backpack which also included an entire week's worth of office clothes as I was going to travel via Frankfurt so I thought I'd stay put for that week. Kobo had offered to pay for flights to and from Germany for six months and also cover my accommodation.
The start was rough, I was in an AirBnB and three Brazilian men answered the door half naked when I was expecting to stay with an old couple. There was no accommodation in the summer of 2017 in Darmstadt and I was a little afraid to stay with them. I stayed a few nights and survived unharmed thankfully. Being a female going into an apartment full of men that can overpower you at any moment your safety is always on your mind naturally!
The first few days at the office were surreal. I came in with my backpack straight from the concert and started organising, planning and looking at the Oracle databases that were there. I had taken down notes of all the processes (old and outdated processes using email to send excel sheets) and decided that when my colleague was back that I would update some of these outdated processes. We worked together over the following months to update some of these and allow her to slot into the Kobo way of running things which was far more fast and efficient than the old DT way.
I had no German so it was a little strange being in the office and some were unwelcoming asking 'what are you doing here anyway', some even labelled me as a spy from head office when in fact all it was was a simple opportunity that I had taken due to my lack of having somewhere to live! I kept my head high and pushed ahead with everything for the six months that I was there. I started German lessons to learn my first couple of words and as people got to know me they also warmed up to me a little more. They took me to the Christmas markets, out for dinners, drinks, showed me some places and I experienced real snow for the first time.
The time flew and it was time to head home after the six months but I enjoyed it and gained an appreciation for all things in Germany. I had learnt French in school and the part of Germany that I did learn was from our history books which was brief as we had our own rebellion going on at the same time so the focus was more on Irish history. I hadn't really thought of Germany as a place to live although the funny part was I rang in the new year from 2016-2017 with Germans. I had a book on my Kobo account about moving to Germany so maybe there was something calling me there.
Mam told me that our ancestors came from Rheinland-Platz and there was even a museum in Limerick with their name (Fitzell) on the website. http://www.irishpalatines.org/about/name.html The funny part was I felt like I fitted in more here than at home. The people loved camping and so did I, running and so did I, fitness and so did I along with a love of nature and even music tastes were similar. I was happily surprised. I felt more in-tune here than at home. I love hiking and was already a keen hiker having climbed over 5 mountains and the funny part about 2017 before I moved was that I had already set up a team (all the way back in 2016) to travel to Berlin to complete the Berlin Marathon under the Blackrock Running Club in Dublin. I had organised it and thankfully we all got in due to the team representation - all other individual entries were refused so we were really lucky. I guess something was pulling me to Germany all the time and I didn't know!
I decided to remain in Germany after the 6 months as it was too short. I was only starting to explore and see the area. I had been offered an opportunity to program in Android which was in Java and that was my dream. I had loved Java as a language since my masters and wanted to keep going with it. I had previously worked as a Java programmer and decided to take the turn into digital resources so that was short-lived. All the experiences that I have had has made me me and I am so grateful that I had such opportunities to live here in Germany. Between hiking, travelling and meeting the people that I have met, I have found a real home and a place where my heart is.
Germany is wonderful. The people are practical but so am I. I never wore much make-up or drank a lot especially compared to Irish women. I was usually the driver at Christmas for my parents too. I love the quiet and the sound of nature. I love hiking and I want to stay here. I guess I am drawn to the place. It's funny how I hadn't a word of German in 2017 to working fully in German by the end of 2019 and feeling at home here has given me a different perspective in life. I have fallen in love here. I love the language, the people and the way of life. I love the food like the fresh bread, the fact that people take off their shoes when they come into a house, the value placed on family and community and a deeper connection to others.
I also lived with the most wonderful man who is ambitious and quiet and kind. He is forgiving and loving and although this was not meant to be, he has taught me so much about love and life that I will forever be grateful. It was totally unexpected, I had been single and loving life for two years before that and also in the middle of heart surgeries at the time. At the time when I needed someone the most he helped me move into a lovely apartment, taught me so many things. I never thought I could open my heart and love someone so much. Everyday was a pleasure waking up to see him and be with him. He is gentle, caring, kind, generous, sensitive, personable, attentive, fun-loving, compassionate and considerate and although we are no longer together, I wish him health and happiness. He is and will always be forever in my heart. I am truly grateful to meet such a man.
When we'd kiss, it was like our souls were connected and our spirits danced in the clouds. It was like he lifted me into heaven and my heart yearned for more. It was as if we were the only two beings on the planet and no one else was on earth. It was like we were two jigsaw pieces that fit into each other and clicked once we were together. I was 22cm shorter and I would click in under his arm perfectly as if it was meant to be. We connected on a level that felt like it was out of this world. Our bodies engaged but our minds intertwined in a relationship that can only be described as perfect. Even with all of our imperfections, it was perfect, it was magical and it was as if someone lit a fire in my soul. The experience is unparalleled with what any words can describe surpassing all expectations, his essence intrigued me like no other. It was captivating and almost spellbinding. I can only thank him for such an experience. He has taught me what love means and to be loved.
I have made friends for life that are more like family now. I organise hikes and explore the history of Germany while doing so. I love the fact that there are cakes for occasions and people prefer to bake them instead of buy them. We had birthday cakes where people brought in their own for their birthday which I found a strange concept as it was the opposite at home. It's a lovely community and it is respectful, people give each other space and yet afford them the opportunity to express themselves too. There is a separation between work and life that I never experienced previously. Perhaps in Ireland it has been taken over by American multinationals where we spend 60 hour weeks working together and have to make fun to last that long every week. In Germany people have more boundaries and I would say healthy boundaries compared to Ireland. I appreciate the way of life and way of working. It is slower and more precise. There isn't a rush to get it done for America at 2pm the next day. It is a case of getting it done correctly and precisely, however long it takes!
In the classrooms I have been in, it is also more open. People are called upon openly to read their homework aloud. That would never happen at home! I have gotten used to that and let go of the shame and embarrassment associated with it. I had a very different classroom environment where we would hand up our homework and not speak as much. There is an openness here and a brash boldness to this that I had been initially really uncomfortable with. I appreciate this now - so what if it's wrong. I used to use the trick of sitting up the front of the class at home as a good way the teacher would avoid you and your peers wouldn't see my red-rosy cheeks when asked a question or the shame of embarrassment - that didn't work in Germany. The teacher calls on you more! It is almost like 'yes you can do it, get on with it' and I did and I appreciate that now.
Germany you are wonderful and inspiring and respectful all at once. The landscapes and forests are incredible and I have even had the opportunity to camp and sleep in a hammock in the forest overlooking the Rhein. I felt like this was a dream. It was like I was in a film. The views were magnificent. I was there in a hammock and looking to my right I could see the meandering Rhein valley and see the boats go by while seeing the green rolling hills on the other side. I feel at home here like I haven't felt anywhere else. I want to grow my own vegetables and have my own place and when I want to travel I will rent this out. I want my own place that is quiet and I can read, run, hike and look out onto the green and also enjoy the wonderful surrounding area and beautiful countryside that is Germany.
I love my life here, I have a lovely apartment, I am close to all the amenities that I need and also a short walk away from a forest that I can run in. I live around the corner from a swimming pool and I am able to (because I learnt to swim last year) go swimming in it for free as part of my gym membership. I have a little community, I meet the caretaker frequently in my building for a short chat before going to the shop where I chat to the woman in the shop. They are warm and friendly and it's like a small circle that I have joined.
I am so grateful for the opportunities that Germany has given me. I feel like I have grown as a person with some of the challenges that came with moving country and settling into a culture where it is alright to say no to your boss! It's refreshing to stretch to new challenges and also have healthy boundaries in work. I enjoyed the social aspect of Kobo in Dublin but all the while I also love the structured working experience I have had here too. I enjoy working in German and in Germany. I am a level-headed person who is usually very organised and while I have had my tests health-wise in the past, I must say Germany has taught me so much about myself and life that I could not have dreamt of, so thank you Germany. I have built a community of triathletes completing our first triathlon and those that have entered continue to come hiking with us. Due to this I learnt to swim, learnt German and I went on my first ski trip and learnt to ski. Who could have asked for a better life, full of adventure and learning.
I also love the fact that I have dreamt of many things and of doing many things and since I have made great friends here I can do these things with them. I have also adopted a German Mom and she has been the best person to know here, teaching me so many things about German culture and food. I am so grateful to have built a great community that I can keep with me for many years to come. It's the best decision I have ever made. I am looking ahead to the next adventures that Germany has brought me from triathlons, skiing to lots more hiking. Here's to the next chapter!
I dreamt last night of Galway. I dreamt of the time that I was there and the freedom that I felt in my spirit that encouraged such a curiosity of wonder, a stillness in my heart and an adventure in my soul. It enthralled me as a place and invigorated my curiosity. I thrived there and loved the open and free-minded, pure, heartfelt nature of the people. The streets are filled with fire breathers, musicians and dancers. The people speaking in Irish, English, French or German along the main street of Shop Street. The University where challenges are met with enthusiasm and support along with a great community spirit by taking the approach of 'we will get through this together'. The mentality that we can and will accomplish our goals or anything that we set our minds to. The people that I have met with team work in mind and as part of that team work it is ingrained in us as part of the culture that 'no man is an island' that we need the community for support. The magnificent nature and sea front that sweeps along the Wild Atlantic Way and affords the people of Galway a glance into the sea by walking along the sea front in Salthill. The wonders of both the ocean and the landscape that is adorned with green rolling hills and crashing waves when you look out upon the seafront and its backdrop in the distance.
In the University, the place where curiosity minds are met and challenged. The lecturers thrilled to give you an opportunity to ask questions and push their research. I am grateful for the time I spent there. I am grateful for the wonderful teachers and lecturers that I had. I am truly in awe of the spectacular ability to convey the complexity of mathematics and computers in such a clear and simple manner to make learning it fun.
I had wonderful lecturers in my undergraduate I.T. degree, Dr. Colm O'Riordan who I asked questions to about natural language processing and data processing as well as search queries and neural networks and he endeavoured to answer every part in the lectures that followed.
Dr. Sharon Flynn who taught Formal Methods and used unconventional ways of poaching students to come to the front of the lecture hall that seated 250 students and we were usually only about 20.
Dr. Catherine Cronin who taught me to remain calm during presentations (although I have forgotten these once or twice when going through stressful periods) I remember the strategies she taught us.
Dr. Michael Madden teaching us programming and Java for the first time and how challenging I thought it was. He inspired me to keep going and I remember having a meeting in his office when I thought it was really challenging and he lifted my spirits to keep going and that it is there to be overcome.
Dr. Barry Gleeson who taught mathematical physics and made it look easy while translating the most complex mathematical equations to our class in the McMunn theatre.
In my Masters I had Dr. Michael Lang for databases and he made it very easy, so simple in fact that I worked as a functional analyst afterwards and found SQL databases easy to use and program. I then went onto work using Oracle too.
The most inspiring programming lecturer has to have been Martin Hughes, he restored my love of programming in Java. I always thought I wasn't good enough and was very intimidated by the people around me. He took us through .NET and gave us weekly tests to do in class. These were always negative marking and challenging but he made us believe programming is easy.
Dr. Seamus Hill for supervising my thesis in Knowledge Management and it had a large component of statistics of which I am grateful for the guidance that this entailed and the supervision necessary for me to achieve my first class thesis.
In my PhD, I had the best and most wonderful supervisor, Dr. Catherine Paolucci. She is an incredible woman with many achievements under her belt. She has achieved so much already and having received her doctorate at Columbia University was in Ireland and I was lucky enough to have such an inspirational supervisor who got me to believe in myself and that it was possible to accomplish the PhD. I even managed to present in her University towards the end of the PhD in NY and loved working with her. She went back to the States and now is a professor in Florida.
I also worked with Dr. Mary Fleming who pushed me and challenged my way of thinking. She challenged every single word that I wrote and distilled the process in the final chapters.
I am forever grateful to have been to NUI Galway, to have made friends and the community that remains and been surrounded by critical-thinkers that invigorate your level of curiosity like no others and to all the lecturers and teachers that I have not mentioned in this post. I truly am grateful for the upstanding and excellent teaching that you have brought me and my fellow alumni. They are truly inspirational and my love affair with Galway will remain.
Photo credit: @nuigalwayalumni instagram account for St. Patrick's Day.
This year Galway is the European Capital of Culture and for St. Patrick's Day lit up Connemara to show the true magic of the part of the country.
Main Films on Youtube -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-eDoThe6qo - A1 level
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg5P2w_Ro1c - A2 level
https://youtu.be/LkufozluseI - B1 level
https://youtu.be/JPrv_TmmnYg - small film
Main Youtube Channels - 24h Deutsch
Learn German with Ania. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZwegPHTG4gvnR0WLzaq5OQ
Learn German with Jenny
Learn German today
Learn German with GermanPod101
Netflix - The Big Bang Theory has the most accurate German subtitles that match what they are saying. The guys in work recommended watching everything in German with German subtitles to train the ear and I have tried a lot of other stuff and this was the best so far. I usually pause it and look up some words on google translate and as they are only 20 minutes it works out at 30 minutes to watch an episode with stopping and starting. The guys in work recommended https://www.deepl.com/translator over google translate as well as the algorithm is a lot better for translating whole sentences although it doesn’t keep a history. Obviously https://dict.leo.org/german-english/ is the best and most accurate but translating sentences is harder so I find the deepl one better for that.
Podcasts available online
You can get these either on Spotify or ‘tune in radio’ app.
GermanPod101 has all podcasts for free on tune in app. it’s good for beginning but translates too much into English and you don’t have to make any effort in trying to understand anything or pause a thing to look it up etc. You can download the PDFs to read along with the podcasts online and if not I can email them to you as well. I have all 1-9 podcasts on my phone as I got them from work as an audiobook for free so goes from beginner to advanced German. It’s good for vocabulary initially and explaining some grammar but not ideal when you want full immersion and defeats the purpose of immersion!
Songs available on spotify that are popular at the moment
The class structure for the intensive course was always the same -
Start of every class we would repeat ‘Deutsch ist einfach’!
Our homework every week was always one letter to write out and she’d take that home with her to correct and give it back the next day. We were paired with people to do some language exchange daily. Homework was usually the ‘test’ section at the end of every chapter and we’d have all of that page to do or two pages usually the “basistraining” and the test or just the test and a brief to write.
TELC practice tests
We did a practice test for the TELC every week once a week and were told in advance what day it would be on so we could prepare. This was usually the listening, reading comprehension and writing section. She’d mark it and give it to us the next day and go through the answers with us in the class.
https://www.telc.net/pruefungsteilnehmende/sprachpruefungen/pruefungen/detail/zertifikat-deutsch-telc-deutsch-b1.html It’s similar to Goethe Institut and both are recognised the same for work and the work council. The TELC is paid for by the government or a portion is paid for for all European citizens and refugees too.
It includes the ‘Leben in Deutschland’ at the end of the three levels A1-B1 course. https://www.bamf.de/EN/Willkommen/DeutschLernen/Integrationskurse/Abschlusspruefung/LebenInDeutschland/lebenindeutschland.html
Apps in order of rating
https://www.mondly.com/ - the technology behind this is incredible. They use Augmented Reality on your phone so you can see a bird flying in your own room through your phone. It is brilliant. I haven’t used it as much as Memrise but it is impressive and there is an AI person talking to you too.
https://www.memrise.com/ - learn vocabulary with articles - I used this extensively and can say it is the best app I have used so far. I have created my own cards on it as well and you can take other people’s words and add them to your own course. Memrise has 7 levels of their own and a year subscription is 45 euro at the moment. It is great to learn the words with articles.
https://www.duolingo.com/learn & Tinycards zusammen! - for more grammar but no articles with vocab, this gets you talking more as you have to speak aloud but you don’t learn anything with the articles which is really hard then later on when you need to know the four cases. Duolingo has been restructured and the stories are really useful for exercises. It’s been aligned to the CEFR now too so you can see what vocab matches what. I LOVE the Duolingo Stories though - they are great and a separate section on the website. They walk through what happens and it’s really entertaining.
Goethe Institut - they have stories on their app - it’s good but not great.
Drops - it’s good but not great.
DW learn German - A little boring
Tageschau for the regular news, I usually watch that daily
FlashAcademy - not great
For connecting to native speakers -
https://preply.com/en/lessons for connecting online with a native speaker - there are others as well but I find this really good. This is paid for but some are really cheap and worth booking in advance.
Apps for all the books mentioned above - Menschen, Schritte neu Grammatik etc have the audio files for the books. I’ve tried a lot of others but this list are the ones I’ve kept on my phone!
https://www.klett-sprachen.de/sophie-scholl-die-weisse-rose/t-1/9783125560246 was the book leading up to the war and comes with a CD to read along to which improved my German significantly. It is aimed at A2 level and an easy read. I was using this during my preply classes with the same native speaker I have kept for the last while.
A1-B1 level Books for teaching
I had this in my A1 course.
The teacher got us to use this and only this table for the entire course - http://www.graf-gutfreund.at/daf/02grammatik/03adjektiv/gr1_deklination.pdf and it incorporated almost everything - she added that if you use dem then the next word would always be en not em and things like that so you could go with the rules then.
She also gave us this venn diagram. This was the other one that we had and always used the ‘Bewegung oder nicht’ as the rule for using Akk and then she would repeat continuously MIT --- Dativ etc
My letter I sent out to colleagues when I left Kobo last year including the photos of the memories that I made while working in Dublin and Darmstadt.
Today is my last day with Kobo. I remember my first week starting in the Dublin office and I could not believe I was handed a drink on a Friday evening and told I could play pool - alcohol in work is a foreign concept in most offices in Ireland. The photo of me beside a Kobo sign in the old Dublin office with a drink was back in 2015 and I had started as a contractor for a couple of months.
I am grateful to all the open-minded people that I have met. I have made many great memories working for Kobo between having games nights, beer o’clocks, getting deadlines done and ordering pizza, going for hikes in both Ireland and Germany and most importantly making friends while working together.
In 2017, I moved to Germany to help out a different department that was absorbed into Partner Operations. Different role, different country, different language, different culture, same active Ali :-D We managed to introduce some beer o’clock to form some more #teamworkmakesthedreamwork and Kobo mentality adopted from Canada and hikes were introduced as well as runs with good posters (I have to say that as I made that poster myself!). We even did our own Oktoberfest.
I am extremely grateful for the support Kobo has provided to me especially personally over the last number of years. I had several operations that impacted me in all aspects of my life and I am lucky to have worked with a company that provided such outstanding support for that area of my life. Unfortunately the time had to come to an end and I wish everyone the best of luck in the future.
March is looking great already. I have over 20 videos on my YouTube channel. I have started training so am swimming a lot and most importantly I am coding personally which I really enjoy! I love Java and I also love posting up these videos showing others how to code.
After last month's successful hike that I organised, we are off on another next weekend and this weekend will be a visit from my sister where I will show her some of the wonders of Germany and the Rhine-main area. It is beautiful and once we rent the car and enjoy the adventure it's time to code a new app I think... watch this space!