What has changed?
Saturday 6th October 2018 @ 3:22 pm
While starting my 11th year working in Trinity College Dublin, I asked myself what things have changed most since I first walked through the hallowed Archway. Some of those things are personal and will probably come out over time. But a couple of things struck me immediately.
1. Positive mental health in young adults is a battle worth engaging in.
When I began in TCD, I was massively impressed with the facilities which acted to support students. A counselling service, a health service, and a tutorial service are just a few of the magnificent avenues that care compassionately for students health and well–being. I was so impressed with these services that I thought, ‘in ten years all will be well … we are getting good at helping students, and henceforth, less help will be needed because we care better for the humans in our care.’
We do care better. We do provide more resources for wellness in all it’s forms.
And yet … at the same time, over the last year in TCD I have been witness to more heartache and brokenness than I have seen previously. Students and staff, broken in painful ways as they have harmed themselves and those they love, as they have lost faith in themselves, or have ultimately ended their journey.
Our care and attention to anxiety, depression and other illnesses may be helpfully rising – but there is more to do. Much much more.
There is of course no single answer – but from this chaplain’s perspective, inviting people into a fullness of existence is not something that is done to frame a ticket to heavenly bliss – it is something that is done to save life.
Life in the deepest parts. Honest, authentic, beautiful life in all its fullness – dark corners, as well as bright shimmering edges. This invitation to life is not an invitation to escape to another realm, it is a joy of living and breathing in this realm. In such a stance, the actual becomes sacred – imbibed with rich meaning purpose and dignity. Mystery ceases to be something held, and becomes something which holds. Meaning becomes an adventure of ever increasing circles. Observation and thinking become limitless – one will never get to the end of all answers stumbled upon, hence one is invited to live with eyes and heart wide open. Sensing life in every pulse.
Positive mental health and wholeness are vital, and are being given the conversations they deserve.
2. More students than ever want to work to live, not live to work.
Ten years ago I had conversations with students who talked about how difficult it was to get work in nepotistic Ireland. The right family name, the right geography, the right school was always a part of the conversation … especially if a young adult thinking about their future did not have the socially accepted right family name, right neighbourhood or right private Jesuit schooling.
It is different now.
Now I hear more young adults having the confidence to ‘give it a go anyway.’ Entrepreneurship has increased exponentially, and social enterprise has increased along with it. It seems that the big bucks promise of a successful business driven by one highly driven entrepreneur does not hold the gold it once did. Young adults now want to care about what they devote their life to. They want to work for meaning. making positive change in a positive world seems to be a mantra being brought alive by a new generation of change–makers. Working for success is outdriven by working for purpose. Healing the planet, building networks that minimise the distance between need & ability, creating sustainable work practices, cutting work days to help be part of a healthy family… all these things are now what the conversations I’m having contain. It’s inspiring.
These are value judgements leading to how an individual does life.
And is there anything both of these brief comments have in common?
We’re better together.
Wholeness and health is best achieved by sharing life’s experiences with trusted folks and family – people who will share your joy and hold your hand to share your pain. This is not a willy nilly call to offload yourself onto every stranger walking by … rather it is more dangerous than that … it is a call to proper relationships. Honest and mutually trusting relationships where humans can flourish.
Social enterprise is becoming big business, and no big business can exist without partnerships, connections, networks and teams.
What have I seen change as I weave my way into an eleventh year in the fabulous Trinity College Dublin?
The need for real community relationships, where we as humans are treasured by and for each other, remains as critical as ever. Maybe even more so now than ever.
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