I remember when I used to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
Back in university it was a Big Fucking Deal. The city came alive in a way I’d rarely seen. Queen Street, the Auckland CBD’s iconic centrepiece, was thrumming with bustle. Less on the hustle side, and more blatant revelry. Businesses seemed to knock off early, and pen pushers flooded the footpaths. It was a mass of humanity walking from bar to bar. Cheesy green beer flowed freely, and everyone was Irish for the day. A bunch of us had early classes, so by midday we were free to run wild. Weirdly, for a day filled with so much liquor, it’s all still pretty vivid. I had a characteristically oversized bag, and it became a conversational lodestone. Of course we were all looking to meet women, and we’d take anything we could get. One of our friends happened to be pretty fucking “studly”, and a ton of women talked to us almost exclusively because of it. We hardly complained. Frankly, it was just nice to meet people who were in a good mood.
I remember this bar that’d paid a little person to dress as a leprechaun and descend from the roof. It was a spectacle, to be sure, but we all felt a little uneasy about it. We talked to the dude to see what he thought. He was over the moon. Got paid around $300 to do it once or twice over the course of the day. Otherwise he was free to mill about and hang with others. He was a pretty sociable bloke, so we bought him a couple of beers and spent time learning more about him. He was a student just like us, was going to veterinary school. Sarcastic guy, a real charmer. He also gave me shit about my gratuitously sized bag. We left the bar buzzing, and joined the throngs of wandering souls looking for adventure down Queen St. We eventually made our way down to the Viaduct looking for hookups, but ended up chatting with a bunch of businessmen who bought us pints of Kilkenny and told us stories of their glory days. It was better than it sounded. St Patrick’s Day became one of my favourite holidays. Why not? To us it was just an excuse to drink. A lot.
This was over ten years ago. Still teenagers. The day has become less and less noticeable/desirable each year. There’s something about it that just seems hollow. I don’t have Irish culture. I don’t really even know Irish people. Why would I mindlessly jump into a day headfirst that has no real resonance for me? I know it’s not a big deal, but I do feel like a killjoy. I feel that with subsequent years, I lose something of myself. Whether naivety or a willingness to go with the flow. It used to be so easy to let loose, my hackles weren’t up about everything. I was still learning about the world, and it seemed rife with opportunity.
I don’t know that it’s all changed as substantively as it seems. Much as we’re on a 24 hour doom and gloom news cycle, the world probably has as much suffering as it ever did. As much joy and meaning as it did too. I don’t know when I stopped believing that the future was something to look forward to, that utopia was within the grasp of our lifetime. I did though. I thought that as the world grew, we’d grow together. United by purpose, to elevate humanity because we all saw a brighter tomorrow. I was raised as an idealist. To look for the good, the potential in everything. I still want to believe, to look past what we are, and think of what we could be. Because we could, and deep down I know it. We have more than we ever did, and we’re doing a lot less with it. But we don’t have to.
I’d raise a glass to that.