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A winter of discontent

Last update - Thursday, July 30, 2009, 12:56 By Tara Fannon

After successfully surviving my first Christmas alone in a new country, it was time to get stuck into ‘life’ – and it didn’t start well. Following a short stay with distant cousins, I returned to an empty, damp flat with no heat; apparently over Christmas the external boiler gave way (or, according to the landlord, was tampered with).

Nevertheless, we were given the option to stay without heat in what I’m told was the coldest January in years. We slept swathed in layers, donning woolly hats, gloves and socks, and space heaters became our closest friends. It should be no surprise that none of this was enough to keep the flu at bay.
By the end of the month, the landlord had a change of heart and decided to terminate the lease. One might ask why we stayed and put ourselves through that in the first place. But finding an inhabitable flat in the dead of a Dublin winter is no easy feat.
Three of us opted to stick together, and we struck it lucky when we stumbled upon a lovely renovated steal just around the corner. Sadly, a handshake and a commitment to settle the deposit three days later was seemingly not enough for the owner to resist being led astray by another party with cash in hand. So it was back to the rental listings, and the pickings were slim.
In desperation, I went out on my own and took a basement studio in a rundown Georgian building. The mix of floral patterns and motel-inspired décor was an assault on the senses, and the general state of the place was difficult to stomach – not to mention the peculiar landlord living directly upstairs.
This fact didn’t bode well for me in the coming weeks. Installing a landline and cat-sitting for an out-of-town friend – both without said landlord’s explicit permission – apparently indicated to her that I was a sneaky and deceitful animal abuser who should be turned in to the ISPCA and turned out on my arse. But I didn’t want to move again – it was still winter! At my wits end, it was the wise words of my friend Tina – “Pie heals everything” – that prompted a trip to the closest bakery. So it was with the lure of sweets and some minor grovelling that I managed to keep a roof over my head.
Somewhere in all of that, I pounded the pavement in search of a job, found one, lost it a month later because I wasn’t a ‘good fit’, and then searched some more until landing a rather low-paying position. I didn’t stay long, and so to the streets I took once again. Luckily my third job seemed like one that would finally stick – and, mercifully, it did.
It was mid-spring when my transatlantic relocation crash-course, as I like to call it, finally came to and end. The days were slightly warmer and brighter, and so were my spirits. I felt that the worst was most certainly behind me.
We’ve all come up against hurdles in one form or other. Sometimes they are even the same one repeating over and over, disguised in different ways and different settings. But the secret of getting over such hurdles is in the way we choose to react to them.
Maybe our challenges are tailored for us, and maybe we even have a hand in creating them so that we’ll have the opportunity to flex the muscles that make us better, stronger and that much more aware of what we do have in our lives.
Even in the best of times there will be jobs lost, difficult people to relate to and unfortunate situations, or even traumatic experiences. But on the flipside, there is always great stuff like those warm spring days to be had. Good, bad or indifferent, life lives – and it does it for a good reason.

Tara Fannon is a Sociology student at UCD. Her column appears fortnightly in Metro Éireann

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