People always ask the same question.
Why did you run for election?
Short answer – because I knew I could do it.
But I didn’t always think that.
When I was eighteen, I wanted to study medicine. I remember it being my singular goal. I ignored everything else in my life for this singular focus. I sat my Leaving Certificate exams, and scored 505 points. Statistically I’d done quite well. But in my head I’d failed. Because I didn’t get into the course that I wanted. Nowhere close. I got the 7th option on my CAO.
I remember sitting through exam rechecks, with a feeling of complete isolation to those around me. Nobody was going to ‘pity’ me for my grades, even though I was devastated. This feeling continued for 1.5 years. I was studying Paediatric Nursing in Trinity, and every placement in a hospital was a reminder that I had failed. I hadn’t come out either, I had never even kissed anyone, and I didn’t have LGBTQ friends. In the words of Marianne from Normal People, it felt like my life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without me, and I didn’t know if I would ever find out where it was, or become part of it.
And then things changed. I ended up as a patient in the Trinity medical service. I was prescribed anti-depressants, given a referral letter to counselling, and told that I didn’t have to stay in my course if I was truly unhappy.
So I didn’t. I moved to TU Dublin. I promised myself, that no matter what happened, I would try everything. I would say ‘Yes’ to everything. I would give myself a shot at the life that had previously felt so very far away.
I signed up to be a class rep. I signed up to student council. I joined societies. I wrote articles for TUDSU TV. I can’t even remember if anyone asked me to sign up to these things, or if I just saw a poster somewhere. But I did it. And the more I signed up to, the more I got involved. I met people from walks of life that I never would have met before. I learned about everything from SUSI to HAP to Trans-rights to the inherent inequality of education. It was as if, over the course of a year, my whole world view had suddenly gotten a lot larger, and I was horrified at the idea that I used to ever be ignorant to these things.
So I fell in love with it. With meeting people. With learning about those around me. With the Students’ Union. And most importantly, I fell in love with the idea that things could be different. That my influence, combined with others, could make things better. If we shouted loud enough. If we were brave enough. If we as students did enough.
Fast forward through a pandemic, several medication and therapy changes later, and I was in final year. Psychiatry in St James said that I was in ‘remission’, and I had never been more
involved. Class Rep, College Officer, Chair of LGBTQ Society. Part-time job at Starbucks (I’m so sorry). And of course, a thesis. Sounds awful, right?
But really, I loved it. I remember a time in Trinity, when I would lie in my bed, in the dark, for hours. Unmoving. Feeling like my impact on the world was so imaginary. Like I could just slip away and nothing would change. Nobody would truly notice.
And now I felt inextricably linked to something. Linked to a student movement that had the potential to make the lives of students better. To save students like me, who were now, by every conventional metric, a success.
And I suppose that’s why I ran. I felt like I could raise the profile of the Students’ Union, enough to draw in hundreds of students who could change the world, if they were just given the opportunity. Students like me, and students who couldn’t be more different. And I felt like I change things, whether by referendum or partnership agreement.
And ultimately, I ran because I thought I could do it. I thought I could be strong enough to handle the constant criticism, the accountability, and the expectations.
Months later, I think I’ve managed well. I’ve achieved nearly everything I set out to do (give me a few more weeks!), and our democratic structures are secure.
My advice to those who are thinking of putting themselves forward for election? Do it. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to test you. But it’s also going to be the most memorable year of your life.
It doesn’t matter if you change college courses, or if you’ve suffered with your health. It doesn’t matter what your background is. All that matters is that you know within yourself that you can give it your all.
This is such a beautiful and rare opportunity – so do what I did all those years ago, and start saying yes.