THE GOOD LIFE: How are you getting on... really?

I feel like the words “how are you getting on?” have become so automated these days. The five words have lost their meaning, drawing an automatic response. “Ah yeah, grand. Yourself?”, which usually elicit something like “not a bother”. I find very few actually honestly answer the question.

I attended my first photo society event this week. I adore this society, where the Nikon/Canon debate is rife, we talk about where we find beauty in the world - people, landscapes, cars, light, darkness. Each of us have our niches and areas we want to improve upon. It’s a space for sharing, practicing, messing up. It takes time, patience and willingness to improve.

I went to the course, not knowing anybody and instantly got stuck into drawing chairs up three flights of stairs with a guy from Germany and another from Thailand who was living in the Netherlands, both visiting students. The photographer hosting the session came and he was amazing, instantly bringing the room to life. He didn’t believe in sitting and lecturing about how to take pictures but rather preferred us to be up and moving about. I usually don’t ask question in classes. However, during this one, I plagued the man. I learned two new techniques based on what I already knew and I was fascinated. Playing around with the shutter speed - these were techniques that had been explained to me before, but I never fully understood.

Sitting either side of me were a girl from Brussels and another from Kilkenny. I really enjoyed chatting to both of them. The Kilkenny girl was studying international business in first year. Upon finding out that I was in my final year, she nailed me with questions about my first year of university.

“Dark days,” I replied with a laugh.

Her face fell. I quickly explained that my first year was spent online - therefore I didn’t get to meet any of my course mates. The year passed in a sequence of black screens and random voices connected to them. At that stage, each of us was too nervous to switch on our cameras. I followed up by telling her about my second-year experience, when I met amazing friends.

The class moved to more practical aspects, lights on, lights off. Do this with your camera, move here, etc. Our conversation got cut off.

At the end, we descended the stairs together and I asked her how first year was going. The girl told me that she was struggling to meet people in the university. She adored her course but just couldn’t connect with anybody. Information on this girl’s life, whom I had met a mere hour ago, spilled out. She was awaiting a diagnosis, her mother was worried about her, she felt so lonely, she wanted to own her own business one day, she needed to go abroad on her course in second year and felt anxious about leaving. The following day was the deadline for deferring and she was so so confused. She felt guilty because her parents had forked out to get her to university. How could she drop all and go home?

My heart went out to her. She struggled with decisions and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t make that decision, however I did remind her that there was no shame in taking a year out, that it wasn’t worth her health and that the next four years shouldn’t fill her with dread.

I gave her my number and a big hug, assuring her that she had a friend in Limerick. I asked her to let me know what she decided and to text me anytime. I wondered if I gave the correct advice.

Later that evening, our photography society meeting concluded with the president reminding us about what joining clubs and societies is all about; meeting people and helping each other. He said he witnessed a person on the committee helping somebody out earlier and encouraged people to reach out if they are struggling. With that, we left.

I walked home thinking about the human responsibility we have to look out for one another.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a fourth year journalism student in University of Limerick


When the ‘I can’t do this’ mentality sets in