This time last year, I was stuck in Belfast, at the mercy of Sneachtageddon, writing about daffodils – and, like many others who campaigned for Repeal, I was looking forward to May with a mixture of trepidation and hope. Today, it’s unseasonably warm out – although it did just start raining – and I’m once again looking forward to May with a mixture of trepidation and hope. But this year, it’s because I’ve to finish building a new person in the next two months – and in May will be faced with the terrifying task of naming them (as well as the whole pushing a rugby ball sized thing from my vagina, but let’s not think about that too much right now). But I also have bodily autonomy, and that’s pretty amazing too.
These “on this day” flashbacks from social media are strange beasts. Part of me likes being reminded of fond memories. Like most people, I don’t tend to post about my sad/bad days on social media – so if I’ve uploaded a bunch of pictures, I was probably having a good day. But sometimes there’s just a weird disconnect too – like something doesn’t feel like it was a year ago, or you don’t remember being the person who wrote that, or something just feels odd.
Five years ago, I spent early March getting ready to move to Seattle – madly submitting shipping paperwork and university assignments before heading off. I was also still going to Aware for support, and was a strange combination of excited and terrified at the idea of the whole thing. (I was even more afraid when I saw their bread.)
Four years ago, I was getting ready for our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska, heading to drag brunch for the first time, and still facing assignment deadlines.
Three years ago, facebook tells me that I was still laughing at the idea of Trump running for President. That just doesn’t feel funny anymore. I can bet that three years ago I thought the idea of a Brexit referendum was a joke, which is pretty fucking depressing as we now face a potential no-deal Brexit at the end of the month. But I was also finishing my undergrad psych dissertation, which honestly is still one of my favourite things I’ve ever written (it’s a feminist discourse analysis of women’s identity construction in tabletop RPGs and I got to use this amazing image on the cover).
Two years ago, I was getting ready to monitor another set of Citizens’ Assembly discussions, and unusually did *not* have any university assignments, but was going to Irish classes (my Gaeilge briste is still very much briste :-/).
And last year, I was facing snow, assignment deadlines, and the general panic that preoccupied most of the people I know in those INCREDIBLY LONG weeks between finding out a referendum was coming and the Glorious 25th of May.
And this year, I’m still facing university deadlines (eternal student yay), but also the new Captain Marvel movie, an expanding waistline, stretch marks and sore legs.
It’s bizarre to me to think that five years ago I didn’t know all the wonderful folks I met in Seattle, or that three years ago I didn’t know all the fabulous people of ARC. And it’s strange to think that someone I’ve not met yet is currently poking me in the ribs, wanting me to know they’re awake and bopping around.
It’s also strange to look back and think about all the things I’ve learned over the years, and how I keep changing and growing as a person. People often talk about learning as something that kids do, or something that’s linked to formal education – but I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met and the things we’ve done. Some of those are huge and important (like that whole changing the constitution thing) and some of those are personal or small (like learning to live with myself, or how to spell Oireachtas). Every time I learn something new, I remember how interconnected we all are. Of all the things I’ve done over the last five years, I couldn’t have done any of them alone. Even achievements that are largely mine – say exam results or essays – couldn’t have been done without friends and family offering supportive cups of tea, revision chocolate, and a friendly ear when it’s all too much. When I was younger, I used to be proud of my self-reliance – as a kid who didn’t have a lot of friends, I understand why I did. But now I’m proud of how connected I am, how much support and strength I get from the people around me – and how much support and strength I give in return.
I know the next year is going to involve learning a lot of things I simply can’t prepare for now. Every parent I know seems determined to tell me that the single most significant thing I’m going to learn is how little sleep I can survive on. They’re probably not wrong. I’m going to try and resist turning this space into a mummy-blog – honestly, of all the things we need in the world, another white middle-class English woman gushing about parenting is definitely not one of them. But I am going to share with you one of the things that pregnancy has taught me so far. It’s taught me how important free safe legal abortion is. I know, that sounds weird. But honestly, having a little parasite growing inside you is hard work. I’ve been lucky enough so far – I’m getting the usual aches and pains, and tiredness and I’ve had my share of nausea – but I’ve had a relatively easy time of it. I’ve also got a comfy home, supportive partner and friends, and so on. But this is still emotionally, physically and mentally draining. I don’t think I understood so viscerally how important abortion was until I was pregnant. I cannot express how reassured I am that some people can now access abortion here in Ireland, or how it feels to think of the pregnant people from Northern Ireland (and Malta and Gibraltar) who still have to leave their homes to get the care they need. I know this little parasite will have a lot more to teach me in the next year or so – but today, thinking back on this last year, I’m grateful for what I’ve learned so far.
I wonder what I’ll know next year.