TEENAGE REFLECTIONS (As published in Irish Independent, 2016)
I remember them well; those awfully gawky teenage years when trickles of self doubt bubbled inside me- “who am I and what do I want to do with my life?” Almost overnight I crossed that threshold between child and young woman, going to bed one evening with not a care in the world and waking up the next wondering what exactly I could do to save it.
I was brought up to always follow my heart; to strive towards my biggest dreams and set goals as high as the sky. Even in the toughest times when money was tight and a grey cloud of uncertainty over our heads, my parents supported my dreams wholeheartedly, determined that “no” would never be the answer and that no matter what, we’d “find a way.”
It’s them I have to thank for everything. For encouraging me, guiding me, supporting me- for repeatedly building me back up when the rollercoaster of teen-dom wore me down.
Author of Skulduggery Pleasant, Derek Landy, understands too well. A phenomenally talented writer, the teenage years left their mark as he suffered with a sometimes crippling stammer that would often stop him in his tracks.
“The stammer was debilitating. I went through about a year where I couldn’t answer the phone; I didn’t want to say the word ‘Hello.’ It was hard to buy tickets on the bus because I couldn’t say the name of my destination. Throughout my entire twenties, up until Skullduggery happened, I was very much a victim of my stammer.”
“In life, each of us has our crosses to bear”, he continues.
“It might not be as obvious as a stammer or a physical disability, but we’re all messed up in some way or another. It’s about the people around you. Not just your family but also the people you choose to allow into your life that will make the difference. To a certain extent it’s about attitude and so long as you have the people who will support you, your attitude can help you overcome most of your problems – not all, but most.”
I suppose my Moldovan background was the equivalent of Derek’s stammer. With a thick Eastern European accent, my early years were defined by my “foreignness,” making me shy away from public speaking. Certainly the odd ignorant comment from adults didn’t help, “Broadcasting? That will never happen for you here, sure you’ve got a foreign name, you don’t see many foreigners on the telly.”
And so as my journey into fully fledged adulthood took me on a hide and seek game of identity, I relied on my family’s support enormously. They believed in me and that was all I needed.
It wasn’t always easy and I certainly faced my struggles but there’s a beauty in adversity and it’s much more crucial in our life journey than perhaps a teenage mind can appreciate. After all, it’s in the most testing times that you really discover who you are, what you want, where you want to go and who you want to bring along with you on that crazy journey.
Broadcaster and journalist Miriam O’Callaghan understands.
“You wouldn’t think it to see me now, but I was a very shy child. I was extremely quiet and I lacked confidence. I didn’t think I was ever going to go on to achieve very much for that reason. I worked hard on myself to gain confidence and to stand strongly on my own two feet. I definitely had to push myself at times to come out of my shell, especially during my college years. Having come out the other end, I’d like to think that I am an example of how somebody can go on and achieve quite good things without being the star of everything during adolescence.”
“Coming from a law background, I was learning as I was going along in my early TV years. Sometimes I felt out of my depth but I think you kind of feel out of your depth all the time in life. The difference is when you get older, you just get better at acting like you know what you’re doing.
"It’s quite good to doubt yourself sometimes. I always think the most interesting people and most successful people, and the people that I respect, are people who do doubt themselves.”
These are the nuggets of wisdom you’ll find in my first book, The Pursuit of Awesome which I wrote as much for myself as for anyone in search of some guidance, motivation and inspiration. My teenage self would have relished it because let’s face it, sometimes we all need that extra bit of reassurance that we’re on the right path, that it’s not supposed to be easy that that, hey, one day, it will all work out.
"One thing I’ve discovered is that nobody out there has the answer to everything; we are all human beings trying to work it all out. Whatever that ‘it’ may be, doesn’t matter. We’re all united in our yearning and desire, and our journey of discovery."
“It takes a lot of long nights to make an overnight success,” says Kodaline frontman Steve Garrigan.
Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol agrees, “The fashionable wave of our ‘reach for the stars’, self-help culture has perhaps done some good. People should believe in themselves. What else is there to believe in? We are all we’ve got."
“Our desire to reach for the stars, the arc of where we’ve been and the struggle and beauty we experience on the way, whether we get there or not, feels infinitely more important than just ‘getting there’ or ‘making it’."
"When we acknowledge our limitations, we know where we stand and we can decide where we want to go. If we bathe in delusional grandeur and think we’ve already arrived, why would we care to go on a journey? For me, the journey is what it is all about.”
From Miriam O’Callaghan to Ryan Tubridy, Cecelia Ahern and Laura Whitmore, Rob Kearney and Rory McIlroy, Hozier, Paul Costelloe and Evanna Lynch, each of my interview subjects in the Pursuit of Awesome has an important lesson to share.
Like you and I, they were all once young boys and girls with high hopes and big ambitions, dreaming of a future that could be.