Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about age. Just this past week, I turned twenty-two – an aggressively unremarkable milestone, if you’d even call it one. I joked with my family about dreading the day – “sure any year past twenty-one is a year over the hill” – but if I’m to be truly honest with myself, there wasn’t much joking involved at all. Birthdays, at least nowadays, aren’t all red-faced smiles, melting Vienetta, skinned knees and goodie bags. Coming full circle on another year of your life and hauling yourself up to the next rung, unaware of where exactly you are being led, is not always easy.
This time last year, I was on the other side of the world – celebrating my 21st with friends I’d only known for three months on a Study Abroad year in Toronto. I sat engrossed obliviously in a heated game of Mario Kart, sipping occasionally on a home-mixed vodka Fresca as the crew who were steadily becoming my inner circle rendezvoused outside, having gone to the effort of surprising me with a cake. Life had velocity to it then. I was bobbing carefree in a sea of the new – new faces, new ideas, new life – and it meshed deliciously with the milestone that was twenty-one. As far as I was concerned, things were only just jetting off.
The funny thing is, that birthday – a year ago already – feels like it’s barely gone by. I suppose it makes sense; the changes brought by 2020 have created a feeling of suspension in our lives, with things as we know them put on pause – resumption promised, but too airy for us to sink our teeth into. We’re kind of just floating around the place, but then again, when haven’t we been?
I didn’t even really have much time to dwell on my birthday this year, thanks to it being plotted almost impressively smack-bang in the middle of the covid calendar’s Winter exam season (I’ll take the caffeinated marathon of beginning an assignment on its due date over a mere thirty seconds of glassy-eyed existentialism, thank you very much); and in the week or so that’s gone by since, my mind has been elsewhere.
The past week or so has surfaced the latest in what seems destined to be an ongoing failure of the Irish state in protecting its women. Files containing multiple thousands of nude images and videos of young Irish women were found circulating in online forums. Some were underage, none were consenting.
At the state level, we unquestionably need a criminalisation of image-based abuse; As a University, our SU needs to be mandated in supporting this. A change.org petition is still doing the rounds online, and is well on its way to 75k signatures at the time of writing. Sign it, share it and tell people about it. Mná na hÉireann dragged this country up to speed with Repeal the Eighth in 2018 – don’t doubt that they’ll do it again.
Over the hill at twenty-two? Afraid not, there’s plenty of climbing to be done yet.