First Published August 2022
AISLING’S BIG NIGHT IN TRALEE DRAWS NEAR
“She’s just so lovely, honestly. And she’s cool as a breeze, like! When you hear ‘fashion designer’, I was thinking…what’s that movie with Meryl Streep…? ‘The Devil Wears Prada’! I was like, oh God! But she was sound-out, she’s just so lovely. It was genuinely an easy process. I’ve heard of other people getting wedding dresses and things like that made, and coming out in tears from whoever they were working with. But it’s nothing like that at all with Charlotte, she’s so lovely to work with.”
High praise indeed there from this year’s TIPPERARY ROSE AISLING O’ DONOVAN as she spoke to us about her link-up with Offaly fashion designer CHARLOTTE LUCAS for this year’s ROSE OF TRALEE Festival. Aisling will stand before the nation in one of Charlotte’s gorgeous designs, a bespoke gown brought to life especially for Aisling’s big moment on stage with Dáithí Ó’ Sé not long from now at all. So while Offaly will be without a Rose this year, we definitely – thanks to Aisling and Charlotte – have one big moment to look forward to at least!
No matter what happens in Tralee, though, being the Tipperary Rose for the year won’t be Aisling’s only reason for always remembering 2022 fondly, with it also being the year that she got engaged to her finance, Colm…
“I met Colm in Mary I (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick) when we were in college, I was in my second year of college and I was twenty years old. We met down in Limerick, around and about the town. It was instant, just mad about each other. They say when you know, you know. I didn’t know at twenty years old if this was forever – I don’t know if you can say that at twenty – but I did feel like it was something special. We haven’t looked back since, he’s an incredible guy. I’m very lucky to have someone like him in my life, I’m grateful for him and his support always. He’s been fantastic this year, when there’ve been evenings when I’d have so much on you’d nearly forget to eat [laughs], so he’d have the dinner on the table for me. He’s a really lovely person and his family are amazing. I’m so close to all of them as well. We’ll be together eight years at Christmas time, seven and a bit years. And he took a notion to get a wobbly knee there when we were in Italy on holidays a couple of weeks ago! And it was an automatic – and a very, very easy – yes! I didn’t have to think, it just fell out of my mouth [laughs]. He’s brilliant.”
In Part 1 of our chat with Aisling – also the founder of The Athás Academy – we spoke about her being a positive psychology coach, a subject we came back around to again…
“Yeah, the Athás Academy, that’s my little Instagram page that I’ve been neglecting a small, little bit this year [laughs]. But I’m hoping when I’ve a bit more time I’ll get back into it. I use it as a platform to connect with education centres and that kind of thing. And I’ve done some coaching work through it as well. Becoming a positive psychology coach, I stumbled upon it – as I seem to do [laughs]. I was looking up Masters that I thought I would be interested in, different leadership courses, things like that. I always knew I wanted to do further studies, I’ve definitely got a life-long love of learning instilled in me. I suppose it comes with being a teacher, the books are never really fully closed! When I went about researching what I might like to do, I stumbled upon this in UCC. I was actually looking at their Leadership Masters and I came across this, and I said, ‘That’s the one for me!’ I sent an email to the lovely Doctor David O’ Sullivan down there, he’s the coordinator of the course. I went down for an interview some time later and was offered a place. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, that Masters has molded me into a much better version of myself, I believe. It was an incredible thing to study. If everyone could study positive psychology, I ‘d recommend it [laughs]. It’s a really powerful approach to life. It’s the science of what makes life worth living, that’s what positive psychology is defined as. And who doesn’t want to live a really good life? I love bringing it into my classroom and talking about it with the boys, I teach in an all-boys school.”
Aisling is an assistant principal Bishop Murphy Memorial School, Fermoy.
“They love it”, continued Aisling, “and I’ve seen what it’s done for my students, it’s incredible. It’s a brilliant tool to have in the classroom, that’s for sure, and even to share with staff. That’s something I’m passionate about, staff well-being. We’re the best in the world at minding everybody else, and sure often you’ll put yourself second. It’s easy to do that when you’re in a busy school day. But I think, for the kids, it’s really important that we do prioritise our well-being so that they get the best version of a teacher all the time. That’s something that I really care about, and I’m interested in doing far more work on it in time to come. But baby-steps, and one thing at a time! [Laughs].”
So does Aisling have a couple of everyday tips or techniques for us, maybe ones that she uses herself to stay positive?
“I suppose so, yeah. I mean, the big thing with positive psychology is that it doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time. Understanding that is hugely important. I think that was something that I had to wrap my head around when I first started studying it as well. Nobody is happy all the time, that’s part of life. Something I learned a lot more about during my Masters was resilience, I researched that for my Masters thesis. The big tip is that when you’re feeling not so good, remember the phrase, ‘This, too, shall pass’. That’s a phrase I came across. And that’s really important to tap into, because it might be a bad moment but it’s not a bad life or a bad forever. Maybe you’re having a bad five minutes, or a frustrating five minutes, or an angry five minutes. But things don’t stay like that forever, things change all the time. There’s great power in knowing that. And a change is as good as a rest, they say! I focus on that when I’m having one of my moments [laughs]. ‘This, too, shall pass’, that’s my go-to phrase, and I learned a lot about phrases and affirmations that you can say to yourself, and that’s definitely one I use when I’m having a bit of a wobble. It won’t last forever!”
Did Aisling find that everything she had learned and knows about positivity helped her a great deal over the last two or so years, as we all came to grips with having Covid in our world?
“Yeah, I suppose I was in the thick of studying it during the pandemic. I started my Masters in 2019, then I was writing my thesis all during 2020, so it was kind of the perfect time to be studying it. I was studying all about resilience, how you bounce back, what people do. What was really difficult for people during the pandemic was the power of community, connecting with people. It was kind of ironic that this was so useful to me. I was very lucky that I had such a supportive family around me, a lot of people didn’t have that during the pandemic and they were so isolated. So I was very grateful and practising gratitude all the time that I had my parents – Breda and Sean – at home, and my sisters – and our dog, Rossi (‘the best dog ever!’) – that we all had each other during that time. We just made the most of the time. My sisters – Teresa and Sinead – are similar in age, just a little bit older and a little bit younger than me, so to go back to being in the family home again for months was something that was never on the agenda. We’d all gone off doing our own thing, then we found ourselves at home again. We tried to use that time to enjoy making memories together. There was one evening that me and the girls did a paint-and-prosecco evening, and we painted the worst bunny rabbits that you’ve ever seen [laughs]. We’re not one bit artistic, like! But we had such a laugh with it. And now, even two years later when we get the memory on our phone it’s just a giggle again that we did that. So yeah, learning about it at the time helped me stay focused. It was actually a really good distraction for me from everything, studying for a Masters, while I actually had no distractions at the same time. I couldn’t have had more time to put into it.”
Something else that has become a big part of Aisling’s life is running…
“It is, yeah, fell into that, too [laughs]. I was really sporty growing up, I played football and basketball, up until the end of college. Then I suppose life got busy, I started working, I was doing a lot of driving because I worked in Kildare and Dublin for a while. So it was really the pandemic, when we only had the 5K to exercise in, it started with a jog and built up to longer runs. I didn’t have very much else to do and I couldn’t access a gym. I loved going to the gym when I was living in Kildare, and when I was in Cork as well studying for my Masters. I’m a bit of a wicked competitive person in sport, I suppose. I always liked to do my best. Not wicked competitive either, but I liked to put my best foot forward! So I did a few 10Ks and then a half-marathon, and then a few friends of mine, we just started running together once a week down in Cork. That turned into, ‘Ah, we’ll do the 10K together’, and built on that to do the half-marathon. We did the Regeneron Run in Limerick and then the Cork half-marathon with my friend Aoife as well. It was a nice way to spend time together in the evening after a day of work. And we’d talk the whole time while we’re running, people would see us and be like, ‘They’re mad!’ [laughs]. We don’t run very fast but we do have time to talk! It was a pandemic hobby that just never really stopped, I got the bug for it and bought the snazzy runners to go on the long runs! I love it, though. And what I love is the flexibility, that you can go for a run anywhere, anytime. It fits really well into my lifestyle. When I’ve been so busy, booking into classes or tying yourself to a schedule can be difficult, so it’s been great that I’ve had the running to keep me going.”
If Aisling hears her name called out on the night of Tuesday, August 23rd, and she becomes THE Rose of Tralee for 2022 from that very moment… is there something very close to her heart that she’d like to use her platform to highlight as much as she can during her year?
“Well! That’s a good question! [Laughs]. Yeah, I suppose there’s a couple of things that are close to my heart. A big focus in my life is the kids I teach, and Barnardos is who I did my half-marathon in aid of. If I could do something to look at maybe care for children, maybe disadvantaged children, that’s something that’s really important to me. That would be one thing for sure. Other than that, I suppose, just to make sure that I’m upholding the values of the festival because they’re very close to my own heart. Womens’ empowerment, and supporting women in our society is something that I’m really passionate about as well. I’m in a very female dominated profession, and we do a good job at what we do. The men are equally incredible. Those two things, the kids and the ladies, are two that I’d like to work on promoting in any way I can. Barnardos do incredible work, they’re an unbelievable charity. There’s some truly wonderful kids out there that maybe don’t get the support that they need all the time. If I could do anything to help them in any way, I would love to. I watched Matilda as a kid and Miss Honey was my idol [laughs]. If I could do a Miss Honey on it for some people, that would be incredible. Kids’ minds are so special, and they’re so honest, so creative in how they think and how they do things. So doing anything to help a child in need somewhere, that would be amazing. To give them opportunities like I’ve had would be unreal. Because I’ve been very lucky in my life, and I’m conscious of that. I was born into a really loving family, a supportive family, and that has continued throughout my life, but not everyone gets the same stroke of luck.”
GOOD LUCK, AISLING!!!
~ THE ROSE OF TRALEE Festival 2022 takes place from FRIDAY, AUGUST 19th to TUESDAY, AUGUST 23rd. You can follow Aisling’s Rose journey via the TIPPERARY ROSE OF TRALEE account on Instagram, and CHARLOTTE LUCAS at CHARLOTTE LUCAS STYLE on that same platform.