I love the start of the academic year in Hall. I’ve just been in the Laundry, where one of the new first years started putting his dirty clothes in a tumble dryer, until I showed him which ones were washing machines. He loaded the washing machine, closed it and then looked around. He hadn’t thought about washing powder. I gave him some of mine and told him where he could buy some for next time (i.e. every shop in Ireland).
I think I could die happily if the rest of my life was spent watching 18-year-olds using washing machines for the first time. It’s like watching kitten videos on YouTube, only the kittens have alcohol problems and are studying Italian and Philosophy.
Friday was arrivals day. 1000 teenagers! Yay! The place hasn’t stopped buzzing since everyone arrived and I love it! There were tearful mothers, and proud grandparents, but it was the fathers who I noticed the most. There were dads who were determined to put a brave face on it. I saw a man who probably only had two shirts of his own, both white, carrying two entire armfuls of colourful shirts for his son (who I have no doubt is a bit of a “character”). There were dads who were told to wait while Mammy went in to say goodbye. There were dads who were told to give their daughter an extra €100. Just in case. There were dads who were unsure of whether or not to hug their eighteen-year-old sons goodbye. There were dads everywhere talking to other dads in solidarity. And there were dads who met people they knew and didn’t expect to. My own favourite quote of the day was: “Jayz, Tommy, I didn’t know you’d be here too! Half of Offaly is here today!”
Four new assistant wardens started this year. I watched one of them in action. He was kind and friendly and jolly. He tried to learn the students’ names. He tried to get to know them. His laugh is loud. And everyone responded well to him. But I watched in horror. I love him because he is absolutely adorable. But I did find watching him terrifying. It was like watching a parody of myself.
It was a ridiculously busy weekend. I can’t remember the last time I was this tired. On Saturday, I heard two pieces of news from outside Hall. One was that my brother’s wife had given birth to a brand new baby boy. The other was that Zayn Malik told Top of the Pops magazine that One Direction have been skinny dipping together. Because I am the worst uncle ever known, the second piece of news made a bigger impression on me and when I finally got some time on Sunday to sit down and commune with Facebook, I posted the One Direction story a full sixteen minutes before remembering and announcing that I had a new little nephew. OH. THE. GUILT.
The night before the students arrived, the Warden took me aside and had a word. He’s had a look at Project Connor. Gulp. Of course, as soon as he said this, my brain started making noise and doing backflips and I didn’t really follow what else he said clearly. “Boundaries” were mentioned. But overall, he was positive. He said he didn’t want to cramp my style. And he had a twinkle in his eye. He didn’t want me to stop blogging, but he did mention a few things that shouldn’t be in the public domain.
However, I’m using this as an excuse.
This blog has become more and more of a challenge as time went by. I’m fairly sure that Project Connor went pretty viral around Hall towards the end of last year, and this could have led to a very awkward situation. It didn’t. But it could have. Equally, trainee teachers have found the blog at least twice while I was in the process of training them. Again, this didn’t lead to anything bad. But it could have.
On Friday, as if to highlight the point, I was helping to load drunk teenagers onto a bus (a harder job than you might imagine) when a student, who I had never seen before in my life, came up to me and said “I thought you were in Rostov.” This is annoying for two reasons: 1. He hasn’t kept up-to-date with the blog. I’ve been home from Rostov for over a month. 2. I’ve never even seen him and he’s been reading the blog. This could well mean trouble. As it turns out, he’s a second year, and he lived in Hall last year. He was very complimentary about my blog. And he seemed like a lovely guy, but I do have to be careful. The last thing I need is to hear strangers flinging facts about my sex life around while I’m dealing with a disciplinary situation.
And don’t say “I told you so”, because I’ve told myself so a hundred times. I’ve considered shutting down the blog many times.
I thought about what to do over the weekend. I considered password-protecting the blog. I considered taking down the old posts and putting a time limit on each new post. I considered doing nothing. A friend suggested that I rename the blog “Project Ishmael: the adventures of a fictional Assistant Warden in an Israeli university”.
I’m going to stop blogging in public, for at least two full months. I’ll hopefully continue writing about my life, but I’ll do so in secret for the moment. And I think there are publishable portions of what I’ve already written, and I will definitely pursue publication in some shape or form.
I’m looking forward to this. Being accountable to EVERY SINGLE PERSON in your life can be exhausting. Failing in public wears you down. And maybe this will make my work life easier, take some pressure off some of my friendships, and finally, finally allow me to pursue getting myself a sex life and a love life and fixing my relationship with my body and with food without an audience of everyone.
I’m terrified too. Blogging is me. I am the blog. I struggle to see an identity for me beyond that. I am afraid that I’ll disappear. Project Connor and its 378 posts has been the most significant achievement in my life. I now believe that I can write and that I am funny, two things I always hoped, but never believed before I accidentally started publicising my life on what was meant to be a weightloss experiment.
So, I’ll leave this post, and the rest of the blog, up for the next week. Then, on Tuesday, I’ll take it all down. I won’t delete anything, but it’ll all be private.
And I’ll live my life. I have a bewildering number of exciting plans for this year, and if you’re my Facebook friend, I have no doubt that I’ll overshare there.
Thank you all. Thanks for reading. It’s been a rollercoaster and I’m proud and pleased and embarrassed and entertained and touched by this blog and the reaction it has got. If people hadn’t read and responded, I wouldn’t have written more than the first two posts.
Thank you. Thank you all.