I am an old woman in a not-quite-25-year-old’s body. I will take a night in by myself, wearing PJs and watching a movie – or, if I’m honest, re-watching a movie I’ve seen dozens of times – over a night out in good company.
I am friendly to a fault. I will chat to baristas, to waiters, to post office clerks. I will stop strangers in their tracks to pet their dogs (I have no shame). Then I feel that I am “done with people”, and I crave solitude.
I am a Francophile, dipping in and out of the language as if it were my mother tongue; longing for the banks of the Canal du Midi. I am a Hibernophile, deeply sympathetic to and moved by the shameful tale that is Anglo-Irish history. But when the Six Nations comes around, no one will shout louder for a French or an Irish downfall than me.
I was once a music-loving teen, somewhere between emo and punk, who thrashed around angrily at music festivals and concerts, getting shoved and trampled by strangers, screaming at the top of my lungs and loving every minute.
But no more. I am a mother; I am a grown-up; I am responsible. I would move mountains for my child; I make daily sacrifices for my child. No more concerts for me: what about her? Who will watch her? Am I allowed to treat myself, when I could treat her to something instead? Rugby comes second to my child. The Six Nations, the highlight of my year, will get switched off if she gets bored of it. I watch my movies and I write and I study when she is in bed, sacrificing sleep, because I can’t do these things when she is awake and needs me.
I do not let them go, however. See, I am a mother; but I am an unapologetic mother. My child comes before everything else in the world, but she is not my whole world. I am a complex person, like anyone else; my identity does not begin and end with “mother”. There are other pieces of me which make me whole: a piece which loves rugby; a piece which HAS to write; a piece that loves history; a piece which socialises with strangers and a piece that needs solitude.
Last night, I re-connected with a piece I thought I had lost. Three years and eleven months ago, Red Hot Chili Peppers came to Duluth. Three years and eleven months ago, I was pregnant, so I skipped it: my favourite band, right on my doorstep, and I passed. That was the end of my concert-going days; the end of moshing; the end of being soaked in blood, sweat, beer, and piss, and calling it a good night.
Last night, whenever Flogging Molly played their faster, punkier songs, a pit formed. I looked at the wall of flailing bodies, and two pieces of me were at war.
Oh no. You could get hurt.
You’ll be fine. You’ve done this before.
You didn’t have a child before.
But it will be fun. What’s the worst that could happen?
Um, you could get badly hurt and not be able to work, and then how will you care for your child?
I migrated to the sidelines a little, propped myself up against a barrier so that I couldn’t be knocked down. Still at the front, still in the heart of things; protected all the same. Compromise. When the band came back onto the stage for their encore, I started filming: I didn’t want to be ‘that person’ who goes to a show and watches the entire thing through a four-inch screen, but I wanted to capture all of If I Ever Leave This World Alive and show it to Roo. Compromise.
Instead, they broke into the ragey, fast, furious Tobacco Island. I kept filming, at first.
Lillian loves this song! You have to film it and show her.
No; you have to just enjoy it. Forget the video.
She’ll forgive you.
In the end, I captured Flogging Molly walking onstage and chatting to the crowd in crystal clarity. I captured the first few seconds of Tobacco Island shakily, and then the video goes dark when my phone is returned to my purse. I didn’t want to film. I wanted to raaaaaaaaage.
If, years later, Lillian asks me why a) I left her at home with a sitter while I went to a concert, and b) why I didn’t even film Tobacco Island for her, I will smile. I will tell her that we are all made up of little pieces that we hide or we present, and for just one night I chose to present a different piece.
The real world sometimes gets in the way of who we are; of the little pieces that make us so complex. It is bound to happen, and it’s okay.
Just make sure that you bring them into the light every once in a while.