Perhaps it is that I am now on the cusp of my fourth decade as Daragh O Brien that I am getting a bit sentimental. Perhaps it is the early onset of a mid-life crisis that has me pondering how I have come to this point in my life as the person that I am. At least I hope it is an early onset mid-life crisis; the alternative means I’d need to get the finger out pronto and start achieving things.
Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Talking Heads and I am wondering “who am I and how did I get here”, a question we all ask at least Once in a Lifetime. Perhaps I’ve too much Beatles going through my head when I think of the title for this post.
So who am I? It seems that I’m a nice guy, who people respect and trust to do important things. Like being a husband, or a friend, or a manager of complex and sensitive projects. I’m someone that people come to for advice and to try and help them solve problems. At least, that’s the sense of me that I have gotten in the last week or so since I crossed over into a new demographic. My friends or family will surely comment below and deflate any ego that I may have here (that’s why they’re my friends and family).
I seem to have wound up a noted (and possibly respected) contributor to the global community of Information Quality Management professionals. I am a teacher. I am a student. Above all else I am one who seeks to learn and seeks to understand the why and the root cause of significant outcomes.
I may even play my music on the run, who knows.
From my point of view, my life as it is now is a significant outcome. And how did I get here? How have I travelled from being the nerdy jock (I vividly remember in my 5th year of high school running from captaining a national league basketball team in crucial game (that we won) to captaining my high school debating team in a national semi final debate) to being the person I am today?
It has been, in the words of Pete Townshend, “an amazing journey”. I’ve meditated and pondered on this for a few days. I realised I was doing that when the answer popped into my head – a bit like spam from the Universe.. “You have won a nugget of enlightenment and a soupcon of self-awareness. To claim your prize…”. The answer isn’t quite what I would have expected if I had expected to have asked the question and had a concious expectation. I know that that last sentence is a bit Rumsefeldian and could rank as a known unknown (you know I’ve said it but you are buggered if you know what it meant). I apologise.
Who I am now and what I am achieving boils down to a few small things, and one or two big ones. Most surprisingly to me is the layer of connections between things I am and I do now and experiences, events and people from my past. And the overwhelming urge I have is to say thank you.
I could start right back at the beginning with my parents in the early spring of 1975 (I’m a January 1976 baby). But that would make me the Kevin Costner of blogs with a production rich in detail but lacking in toilet breaks. ‘Dances with Nerds’ how are ye. 😉
Instead I’ll start at the now and work back. Right now, I have a network of friends and acquintances all of whom have helped shape me as much as my family might have had. I have ‘strong ties’ and I have ‘weak ties’ and a sizeable number of ‘middling ties’. Not all of these people are my generation. Some are older. Some are younger. All of them are precious to me as people because of the gifts they have given me.
Interestingly, many of these people have come into my life and hung around in circumstances that link them to some big stresses and traumas in my life. For example, the friend who encouraged me to first publish writings on the Web and who constantly challenges my thinking on things in good ways is a guy I met through a mutual friend who I went out with for a while in college.
Through that person I started hanging around in the office of the college newspaper that Simon wrote for. That relationship ended….hmmmm… awkwardly. Due to other baggage in my life I didn’t take it too well and became a less nice person for a while and, in hindsight, abused people around me as much as I abused myself with drinking and acting the bollox and basically not being someone you could rely on.
However, the friendship with Simon endured because we had hit it off. Simon eventually went on to set up Tuppenceworth.ie and encouraged me to publish my first piece there back in 2001 – “The Celtic Tiger Ate My Chocmallows“. I then went on to bore Tuppenceworth’s readers with guff about the impact of poor data quality in the electoral register elections and referenda in Ireland back in 2002 – a theme that has dominated this blog since last summer.
I think it is unlikely that Simon and I would have become such good friends if we hadn’t had that link. Although we share many interests, I was a proto-hack’ in college – immersed in the shallow end of college politics, debating societies and the petty chicanery that that entailed. Simon was more honourable than that and would probably have (rightly) dismissed me as yet another gobshite if we hadn’t had the chance to share a few million laughs in a tiny office under the stairs in the Arts Block.
So thank you to that mutual friend who linked us, now long gone.
Anita was a young woman I also met in College through two muppets I had known from school (one from primary school and the other from high school). Anita and Simon. met, fell in love, and I had the pleasure of being a groomsman at their wedding a few years ago. Now they’re awaiting the arrival of their first child.
And all because Anita met two guys who knew me and as a result bumped into Simon who I hung around with. So, thank you to Trev and Sully for seeking me out as some sort of Oracle of knowledge about how college worked. I think I pulled that off for about 20 minutes and then it just became coffee and smokes in the common areas a dozen times a day.
The best man at the wedding was Fergal. He is another guy who challenges my thinking. He has written some stuff with me and has presented at an international conference on Information Quality with me. He has helped me refine my understanding of the law as it applies to the management of information quality – a theme that I keep coming back to in lectures, articles and conference presentations and which is taking me to the UK (again) and possibly the US later this year to present. He is Simon’s best friend since childhood. While Fergal was a debater from another college, without Simon vouching for me as a friend, he probably would have dismissed me as just another L&H gobshite hanger-on and gotten on with his life.