Even as a non-American, Inauguration Days are just one of those things you remember. You remember where you were, who you discussed it with, whether you were excited or appalled. And what about the days in between? There are three out of four January 20ths that don’t have any significance. What were you doing on those days? As the Trump era comes to a close and the Biden era begins, I decided to chart my life over the last four January 20ths to see where I’ve been on this date each year since Trump became President…
It’s a Friday and I’m hungover, I guess. I had some grim Thursday night adventure of which only one evidential photo exists, but it involves a Pitbull joke, so it surely wasn’t the worst. Whether or not I attended my easily-skippable 10am Web Design class in the community college (or rather “further education college”) I was reluctantly attending, who knows. But I showed up to record my weekly college radio show (in a different college, the university across the river) that afternoon with my friend Killian, and be all audible evidence I was in perfectly fine spirits. January 2017 was a turning point in my discovery of depression as a very tangible thing that worms its way into your life when you have no short-term goals and nothing to do most days after 2pm. That Friday came at the end of a pretty bad week that had begun with the saddest Monday of my life. But there was excitement in the air. A new American President. Pity it had to be this one. After my radio show ended I walked across town to meet my mother and get a lift home. My parents grumbled through my insistence that we watch the Inauguration live. This was a grim day in political history, but it was nevertheless historic. I, as you saw above, threw up some unctuous tweets about the end of the Obama administration, blinded by my still-fervent love of The West Wing liberalism; blinded, indeed, to war crimes. This was the last January 20 I ever spent in Galway, and there’s rarely a time when I less regret leaving the city than around this time of year, when it’s undoubtedly at its worst.
I can’t tell you much about January 20, 2018, but I can tell you loads of January 19. I went to the Museum of Modern Art to meet my friend Lauren and we ended up on a 24+ hour adventure involving a group of acquaintances from school and crashing in some spare hostel bunkbeds. It was a few months since I had moved to Dublin and it was that deeply uncomfortable January stretch — which you’ll hear more about in subsequent years — between post Christmas exams and the start of a new semester. The most hostile period in the academic calendar, when most of my college friends were out of town, I was out of work and the city was incredibly unwelcoming. I had returned to Dublin to attend an early screening of The Post, then sit my exam, and this side quest with Lauren bumped my intent to return to Sligo back a day. So I did return home on January 20, before returning the following week to head away to Copenhagen on a college trip.
It’s a Sunday, and I’ve just had the ideal first date. Her name’s Hannah and she’s from San Francisco. We went to a bar that only plays vinyl and only serves craft beer. She, too, was obsessed with the cinematic curio that is Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children. We got on so well and my mood has improved tenfold following a week of moping about someone else ghosting me. It’s the day before I head off on my second college foreign trip, this time to Budapest. I’m less close to the people going, so I’m a bit more unsure of myself, but still excited. I have to pick up a new suitcase in town, I figure, but first… to see the most exciting film of the month! M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass! I have determined that despite looking forward to Glass, it does look pretty depressing, so I’ve waited until a day when I’m in a good mood to dive in. This post-date Sunday is the perfect time. I wasn’t wrong; Glass is depressing, and I see it in Dublin’s most depressing cinema, the Savoy on O’Connell Street. I then dart across to Penney’s to pick up a suitcase and run into two people from the college newspaper who are going to Budapest separately but on the same return flight as my group. Then I go to the record store, because one of my favourite co-workers is working her last shift ever today, and I want to get her a goodbye present. I’ve checked if she owns a record player. She does. I buy her a copy of Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible” on vinyl, and a Muppets themed “Sorry You’re Leaving Card”. I label each Muppet with the name of one of our various co-workers. I drop the new suitcase home, then walk down to the shop where we work to give her the present and card. 12 hours later I’m in Budapest.
It’s a Monday and I’m heading abroad again. That’s what late January has been for me these past three years. Isn’t it great? I have one long day of work before I go, but it’s a nice one. I’m down in the smaller branch of our shop working with my friends, who are a married couple, and are delightful company. It’s the easiest job in the world. I finish up at 5pm and head home. I try to get some sleep because we’re heading to the airport at 3am. I have a taxi pre-booked to pick up my friends who I’m travelling with, and then me, and then go to the airport. But, of course, when the taxi driver rings to tell me he’s outside my friend’s house, my friend is nowhere near ready to leave. Queue middle-of-the-night stress on my end. But it gets sorted and we get to the airport to fly to Barcelona, which is experiencing torrential storms. We get rained on so aggressively on our way to the hostel, which proves impossible to locate. Then we nap for a few hours because, hey, when in Spain. There’s thunder and lightning when we go back outside, but we go for Indian food for dinner and then to a nice bar where everything is red.
And now it’s January 20, 2021. Ireland is in a level 5 lockdown for the pandemic, I’m working from home in a job I fought really hard to get but am struggling to enjoy under these conditions, nobody is really going anywhere on a foreign holiday, and Joe Biden is being inaugurated. It’s the end of the Trump era, a four-year stretch of my life which flew by, despite seeing me move house multiple times, make more new friends than I can count and grow up quite a bit. Four years from now, on the next Inauguration Day, what will I be writing about?