Coming up to the eve of my 31st birthday and I can’t help but look over the last decade of my life and wonder, how did I end up here

The Celtic tiger was my youth, we were promised a life of magic. Jobs were plentiful, wages were high and for my 20s I could do whatever I wanted. It was an employees market, I could easily leave my job and know I would find another. In this decade of prosperity I partied and travelled and bought anything I wanted.

I had been brought up in a household that eschewed the traditional materialistic needs, with parents that taught us to follow our dreams. I am one of three siblings who are independent, adventurous and excitable. We left school and went into university to do what are now affectionately called *Celtic Tiger Degrees*. Art, music and theatre were our choices, we followed our hearts and our dreams.

In a country where education was almost free and part time jobs abounded we were joined by thousands of others who would later join me and my sister in getting retrained for something slightly more workplace oriented. I left a job where my employer had offered to double my salary and returned to study in UCC.

In the four years I was in university the recession took hold, what was at first a mild annoyance and topic of conversation soon became a looming presence that poked at us through our university shield at each new budget.

But everything was going to be ok, my life was filled with abundance and gratitude, I chose how I spent my days and was surrounded by all my friends. And then I started climbing.

Climbing, within a month or two became the centre around which I organised my life. It was the last semester of my final year and I started to get distracted. I chose to go away to the Gap of Dunloe climbing instead of staying at home studying, I handed in my dissertation early to climb in Wales.

In the end I cancelled my masters degree and decided to work in climbing. Although the recession had hit, my core belief in following my dreams stayed strong. And for a while that was all I needed, but as the protection of university life disappeared along with all of my friends as they jetted off to study and work, I became lost. Bills became more expensive, food prices and electricity prices rose, I got injured and couldn’t climb.

This year, after climbing for about 2 years, plauged by injury and frustration I reached the heady realm of the *statistically average climber*. The joy I feel while climbing well reaches into all areas of my life, the sadness when I don’t does the same.

In the last decade I learned so much about life, but in the last year I have learned to worry. This constant worry of paying bills, of wondering for the first time in my life, where the future is going. And this worry has permeated every part of my life.

I am coming into my 31st year, the new year is coming and I have a choice to make. I can give up on my dreams and try and make money, or I can follow my dreams and learn not to worry.