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DJ Basket Case

Colm O’Shea

Rob McGrath

I'm autistic.

And if you're fortunate enough to not know what that means, it's basically a neurological condition that's given to loudmouths and freaks.

There aren't that many traits that all autistic people share. But the majority include having a certain rasp in your voice, hyper fixation on particular topics and often being very overwhelmed by tasks that could take anyone else a minute to do.

Because of that, a part of myself, specifically my head, can feel about as hollow as a large chocolate egg and twice as fragile. Unable to do anything without smashing into a million, tiny messy pieces. 

Almost as fragile as the majority of connections I had before third level.

I still have good friends, and some connections, when they did end, were as peaceful or as natural as was possible.
But just as many of them fell apart because of my being. 
The unsettled, chaotic version of me that ended up winning out more often than not, trying to appease the type of people who’d play rugby in their spare time or have a nice cold one as they wait for exams to blow over.

Not even talking about music from Sonic the Hedgehog or the fact that the spiritual successor to Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, was turning 15 that week helped. 

I was hopeless.

Then a certain virus started spreading in 2020. None of us wanted it but we were going to get it anyway.

Because of that when I eventually got into UCD that September, my entire first year was spent in Zoom classes. 

Between nearly suffocated by the amount of books I needed, the only impression I had of the campus was of a place I couldn't visit. 

Which meant I was stuck looking at my cracked magic mirror of a laptop screen, talking to people that could have just as easily been voices in my head, while the neighborhood around me got smaller and my hopes just as much.

Then in Year 2, finally spending time at the college, I heard through the grapevine that a radio station, Belfield FM, was looking for DJs for their new term. And I put my name down because if I didn't like the people there, I could at least share the music that I did like.

A year and a half later, that one decision made me feel needed at UCD.

The music was one thing. 

Being the award nominated host of Writer's Block with Colm O’Shea, (the only place where you'll ever hear Bo Burnam’s depressing soliloquy "Welcome to the Internet" in the same conversation as the feel good rock of Picturehouse), I was able to fully flaunt my music fanaticism on live air.

And more than anything, whenever I spoke to the fellow staff at the station, before or after recording sessions, they often supported and asked about my various interests in my life. 

I was gobsmacked I tell you!

My manager for example. The person who keeps our entire station from collapsing overnight. A woman who is always grateful for my preparations for each episode made one week in advance with my playlists and scripts, often eager to see how out of left field my song picks are.

My weekly producer, Taylor Swift representative that she is, who works hard at keeping schedules for more than 20 different radio shows a week. When we aren’t talking about Stardust as an underrated fantasy film from the 2000’s, we’re often debating politics and sociology in a way that respects our different beliefs.

My off and on producer. One year younger than me and one year older academically. Does the exact same course as me and a fellow proud gamer who I can talk about the joys of karaoke in Yakuza or the interweaving stories of Mass Effect. If I mention a game, he's either heard it or played it himself.

And that's not even mentioning the number of guests that I've had on my show or the several billion other producers that make the pledge to help out every week.

And if there's anyone wondering why I stuck around at the station for so long and the college in general, it's because of them.

No man, unstable as they are, is an island. And the only thing you can do to fight against it is by finding people like you to share with, those with common ground similar to yours and who can all work together to help get each through the long days that university life is known for.

It will take a while, especially if you feel that what defines you may be a lot more quaint than what you see on Toktik or BookFace, as the tweens say.

But take it from me. More often than not, there is at least a group or person out there in UCD that will be interested in your likes and dislikes.

So to answer your question again. When and where did I feel like I belonged at my college? 

My answer is when I started working at Belfield FM. And I could finally express myself for who I am.