This is Allens

Paddy O'Brien

Paddy was part of the 2019/2020 Clerkship program and is now a Senior Paralegal in our Sydney office.

This profile was published during Mental Health Month where some of our people shared their stories and perspectives on mental health.

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I was in my first few weeks as an Allens Clerk when I shared with my clerkship cohort my previous battle with Ewing Sarcoma, an adolescent cancer. It wasn't something I'd anticipated revealing to a group of people I had only recently met, but as part of a mental health and resilience session, I shared my story. I still have a rush of adrenaline reflecting on that, but it's something I will never regret talking about so early on at Allens.

In talking about my cancer experience, I've learnt how important it is for me to feel that I can really be myself. This was reinforced shortly after starting my clerkship when my aunty and cousin passed away in a car accident. The support I received from my performance coach, buddy and colleagues, along with my family and friends, to process the news and grieve in the way that felt right for me, was so important.

There's no right or wrong way to make your way through challenging times. Everyone is different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for others. Sometimes I have wanted to talk about how I am feeling, sometimes I have needed time to myself and, at other times, being part of a team and contributing to meaningful work has been critical.

Through all of this, I have had the support of those I work with to be myself. By being ourselves and talking, we can break down the stigma and stereotypes that can be associated with mental health and what it means to be resilient.

I am really grateful to have been part of a clerkship group that formed such strong bonds, through sharing our challenges and supporting each other. I am appreciative for the opportunity to continue that journey as a paralegal and help create a space where everyone can unapologetically be their best open, honest and vulnerable self.

If this story raises concerns for you or someone you know, reach out to your General Practitioner, or call:

Lifeline – 13 11 14 within Australia

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36 within Australia

My entertainment

  1. Dyl & Friends is a fantastic podcast where athletes and personalities are completely open and honest about their career and struggles. The show's motto of 'be yourself because everyone else is taken' really resonates with me, and continues to shape my approach to mental health. The podcast celebrates everyone's individuality, and encourages us all to embrace our weird side (we all have one!). It is really important for me that I can be myself, so when I heard it for the first time, I took it on.
  2. Kath & Kim is an absolute favourite of mine that never fails to put a smile on my face. I watched it originally in primary school, and did not understand all the jokes, so it's brilliant to relive it now. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for my friends, I am a sucker for reciting its iconic lines. It reminds me not to take myself, or life, too seriously!
  3. I have an impressively long playlist (1,030 songs/63 hours long!) which has been cultivated over many years from songs that always put me in a relaxed, stress-free nerd mode for work or study. The playlist includes music from composers such as Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Ludovico Einaudi, Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat. The songs come from a number of films such as The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Gladiator, Inception, The Lion King, Lion and The Batman Trilogy. Favourites are A Dark Knight and Time by Zimmer, Concerning Hobbits by Shore, and Primavera and Fly by Einaudi.
  4. The Intouchables and Good Will Hunting are two films which always humble me, and remind me to check in with myself and others. They're quite touching, funny and provide an honest outlook on the value of relationships when we are facing challenging or uncertain periods. I watch both if I am feeling flustered, introspective or craving some nostalgic goodness.
  5. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, by comedian Trevor Noah, had me in absolute stitches while I was travelling. Noah's coming-of-age biography is a hilarious and honest account of his upbringing, but also a detailed explanation of the complexities and realities of unjust and prejudicial systems, such as apartheid. Noah's story reminded me of the possibilities we can achieve through perseverance and resilience.
  6. The Grade Cricketer is my favourite podcast to chill out and laugh when commuting to work or uni. I completely zone out, and it allows me to catch up on cricket, which I have loved since childhood. It helps me unwind and relax, hearing two blokes on the internet dissect the current game with witty jokes and insights.
  7. Ben Howard's album Every Kingdom was quite significant in helping me get through all my chemotherapy treatment. I would play it on repeat in the 'chemo suite' – it took me away from the unpleasantries of multiple bed wards, needles, surgeries and medical drugs.

10 quick questions

  1. When do you feel happiest? When I am body surfing on an unbroken wave with a glassy face, or snowboarding down a fresh run with friends! I try and do both in as many places as I can from Canada to Cuba – both are liberating and euphoric!
  2. What are you afraid of? I think, like most lawyers and law students, I get imposter syndrome. I am afraid of failure and not being good enough.
  3. What's the best compliment you've ever received? That I am empathetic.
  4. Who would compose the soundtrack to your life? Hans Zimmer and Ludovico Einaudi.
  5. If you could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be? Mick Fanning or Scotty James.
  6. Who's your pop culture icon? Leslie Jordan (@thelesliejordan) – because he is proudly himself; his Instagram account was brilliant from March to June. Gary Janetti (@garyjenetti) – a cheeky take on the lavish life of Prince George.
  7. What's the best thing that's happened to you this year? Being able to spend more time with my childhood friends in Tamworth, and go camping.
  8. How do you practice self-care? Get out of the city and into the sun, or go for a swim with friends!
  9. What does being strong (or resilient) mean to you? That is unique to everyone. For me, it is about being open, aware, vulnerable and honest with my friends, family and colleagues with what is happening. The good, the bad and the ugly!
  10. What one thing do you do to offer kindness to others? Take note of the small things that are special to people, like their favourite chocolate.