Andrea Mara

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Dear 9-Year-Old Me

Dear 9-year-old me,

It’s that time of year again – that time you used to love. The bit in between the pancakes on the Tuesday and the chocolate eggs on the Sunday. The forty days of giving stuff up. Lent.

I remember how carefully you decided on the rules each year – no cheating for you, no calling KitKats biscuits just to get away with eating them. No saying, “I’m giving up sweets for Lent” then eating all the bars and crisps because they’re not technically “sweets”. No, you were serious about it, and – the bit that’s hard to explain to my kids now – it was fun.

I think it’s because you liked giving things up just to see if you could do it. And that didn’t change much as you got older – you went on to give up red meat for about six years (just to see if you could do it), only going back on it when you moved to Germany and realised there was meat in everything. (Or at least everything you could afford to buy in the local Aldi.)

You gave up butter and mayonnaise once, for reasons I still don’t understand, and as an adult, I make up for that by indulging in those almost every day.

You gave up TV for all of sixth year, so you could study for the Leaving Cert without forfeiting time for friends and hanging around in Stillorgan Bowling Alley.

You gave up smoking one morning on the way to work, and fifteen years later, you haven’t had a single drag. Because you’re an all-or-nothing person, a see-if-I-can-do-this person. No grey areas, no blurred lines. Cold Turkey.

Now. Here’s the thing. It’s a long, long time since I’ve given up anything for Lent. Not since school. (Hard as it is to believe, school will at some future point become a “long ago” thing – and side note, all the people who said school days are the best days of your life were fibbing, the best days are all to come.)

This is a little bit to do with lapsing from religion and a little bit because I don’t want to give up anything – not my morning coffee, not my Wednesday night cake, not my Friday night wine, not my Saturday night cheese-stravaganza.

But in the last day or two, it struck me that I could do with giving up one particular habit – or cutting back at least. It’s a thing called Facebook, which is where you put your photos on a computer for everyone to see (I know, hard to understand back in 1985).

I love Facebook. I love looking at it, I love seeing my friends’ photos, I love chatting in groups, I love asking questions when I need help. But I do not love how much time I spend scrolling aimlessly (you will learn about scrolling aimlessly in about twenty years time). So I’m thinking of cutting down to one dip into Facebook each night, after I finish writing and before I switch on Netflix. (Netflix is… actually you know what, I won’t ruin the surprise, just know that Netflix is AMAZING.)

So that’s my plan. I’m giving up aimless scrolling on Facebook – not for Lent, but forever.

Well, except for that nighttime dip, when I scroll until my husband presses play on Narcos or Dirty John or The Good Fight. Oh, and except for weekend nights, when I can let out a breath and scroll as much as I want. And except when I’m travelling and might reinstall my app for company. And days off and bank holidays and Sunday mornings. And of course I’ll still have Instagram.

And yes, I see that this is just like eating the KitKats and calling them biscuits, but sometimes, at the end of one long day and before the start of the next, you just need to have a break.

Have a break, have a . . .

Love, future me







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