Saturday 21 September 2019

Dr. Ciara Kelly: Don't wait for an invitation to start living your life the way you want to

Getting on: Relationships, like most other areas of life, says Ciara Kelly, are relatively simple if you stay true to yourself. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Getting on: Relationships, like most other areas of life, says Ciara Kelly, are relatively simple if you stay true to yourself. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Our 'Change is Possible' participants, photographed by David Conachy, shot at the Gibson Hotel, Point Village, Dublin 1.

As our six writers - Gemma Fullam, Pat Fitzpatrick, Eleanor Goggin, John Greene, Brendan O'Connor and Sophie White - come to the end of their challenges, they reflect on their successes and failures and the life lessons learned. And Dr Ciara Kelly analyses their experiences, adding interesting observations on youth and age, innocence and experience.

This is our last week on this topic and I have to say the Change is Possible series has been one of the most enjoyable things I've been involved in in the paper. Over the past five weeks we've heard often quite moving testimony from our columnists about their struggles to implement change in their lives and the sometimes unexpected effects it's been having on them. It isn't easy to make a change, and it's even harder to tell the world about your trials and tribulations with it, so hats off to all of them for doing so.

What's more, in the real world a huge number of people have contacted me personally to say that reading these articles has really made them stop and take stock and has prompted them to do something about aspects of their lives they've found wanting. And that to me is what life is all about. Recognising that there's only one spin of this wheel and that this is your one shot at life so you may as well make it as good as you possibly can and don't let anything dissuade you from reaching your full potential.

What I've learnt (If I've learnt anything from life) is that there will always be highs and lows. In fact, in a recent study it was found that there is a general low point for most people when they reach their early 40s, but then it picks right back up again from there and generally gets better and better.

That was certainly my experience and I'm inclined to think now that it happens that way because you're moving from one period of your life, your youth, to another period, your prime! And I think we're so spoon-fed the idea in society, that youth is the best thing ever, we fear and mourn its passing. What we don't hear is that being in your forties or fifties is an incredibly liberating experience, freed from the insecurity of youth and that, in my view, is preferable. When we realise that we're actually better off - we get a great sense of wellbeing.

But to be honest, it doesn't matter what age you are or what stage you're at. Change or transition is very daunting. But if you can only view it as possibility-filled and see that you're moving on from your current phase to something better - then that is a very exciting prospect.

I've started to view my life as a bit of an adventure - not something I used to do. I know I felt lost and quite rudderless for years. A bereavement, small children, weight-gain, middle-age and general drudgery made me lose sight of who I was. I know I felt washed up, unattractive, uninteresting and invisible.

I remember when I first started working in the media I got invited to a dinner and I was sitting in between George Hook and Fergus Finley and feeling completely intimidated and inadequate. I remember thinking that night that it was better to say nothing in case I appeared stupid rather than speak and remove all doubt.

I know both of those men now and realise that I never needed to feel intimidated by either of them. That was all in my head and my head alone. But that is true of all of us. It's often what's in our own heads that holds us back and not necessarily anything to do with external reality.

I spent a period of time when I first started media work feeling like I was on a merry-go-round that I wanted to get off because I was being asked to do stuff work-wise that I felt I wasn't good enough for and would soon expose myself as such. But I kept going. And little by little I learnt that if other people can do these things then so could I. If other people's opinions had validity then so did mine. I reclaimed my sense of purpose. My sense of confidence. My sense of self. And if I can do that having lost it - you can do that too.

And remember, there will be set-backs. Life is not always plain sailing but set-backs are not a reason to give up. There are always the string of failures before the success story - determination and persistence are as vital to change as self-belief and luck!

My late father once said to me when I was expressing my fear of taking onsomething new and moaning about how hard it was: "It is hard. But it's no harder for you than for anyone else." Which has always stayed with me. Something being hard is not a reason not to try it. And very often striving to get through choppy waters is rewarded on reaching the clear blue sea beyond.

Please believe in your own abilities. In your own value. If you aren't happy where you're at - start wriggling your way to where you will be. Don't waste your life doing what makes you unhappy, be that in work, in a relationship, or anywhere else. There is no second bite at the cherry of life but the here and now can actually be great if you're not afraid to go for it - what ever it may be.

I'm not a great one for the touchy feely vibe but I know if geeky Ciara Kelly can embrace change and make something of her life - you can do it too. Change is always possible.

TIP: Don't wait for an invitation to start living your life the way you want to - go out and make change happen today.



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