If I imagined my work was not my life, I could not do what I do.
What I do is my life. I don’t believe in work-life balance, but I’m very good at managing stress.
If I could change one thing in Irish society, it would be the whingeing. Moaners suck the energy out of life, they drag me down and I have no tolerance for them.
When I was growing up, my passion was for animals. Hardly surprising as I grew up in the middle of Phoenix Park, where my father was a gatekeeper, with Dublin Zoo on my doorstep. A love of biology and nature is still a strong undercurrent in my life.
I trained as a nurse in Scotland when I left school. My mum and lots of other relatives were nurses but I think I did it just for the hell of it. At 18 I wanted to escape Ireland and thought well, Scotland is only across the water. I took to it with a passion and spent three years in a general hospital in Loch Lomand. The only thing I found difficult to deal with were burns, so I went to a burns unit in Edinburgh to confront this fear.
That was my undoing as it made me realise that nursing was not going to be for me long term. That in turn lead to me working as an adviser at The Royal College of Nursing and then getting trained in journalism.
In my twenties I was lucky enough to get to work in radio and television, as well as print. I did shiftwork at LBC and Sky, but my first love will always be print.
Being a dragon on Dragons Den was an extension to my life. When the offer came, I’d been around the magazine industry for a while and I didn’t see it as a television opportunity as much as an investments opportunity.
Then, my husband Richard died of cancer and it made me completely re-evaluate my life. I had to work out my next chapter, as it certainly wasn’t going to be what I’d expected. At some point, I’d presumed Richard and I would retire and have years to spend doing so many things together.
Work, and knowing I had a young life relying on me, was my saviour. My son Dara was 12 when Richard died, so I had to crawl out of my black hole and back to the normality of work and school, for his sake. We are into the second year now and hopefully things will begin to feel a little less raw.
I felt it was time for me to do something different, to develop myself in new ways. Coincidentally, I was asked to fill in for Vincent Browne on TV3 and thought, gosh, this is fun. I’d forgotten how much energy you can get from live broadcasting, and then more opportunities came along.
At the moment I’m doing Breakfast on Newstalk, it’s over three hours of fast moving material and you have to be on your toes. My co-host Chris Donoghue is a great journalist with a forensic memory and I rely on him enormously. On Fridays, after the show I travel down to RTÉ Cork to present Today with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. I’m also doing a full television series of The Takeover — and I have the magazine business to run.
The most challenging thing about juggling so many jobs is the sheer physical effort — getting up so early every day — and cramming in so much information.
I never thought I would enjoy afternoon television as much as I enjoy our Fridays on Today. I’m able to kick back with the girls. We have a live studio audience which makes a huge difference and creates a very warm atmosphere. Myself and Bláthnaid really feed off their energy and love the banter.
I’ve learned a hard lesson: that your life can take a swerve and point you in a very different direction to the one you were expecting. But one positive thing that has come out of it is that I am closer to fulfilling my potential. And I’ve learned that, no matter what, I have a great capacity to enjoy life.
* Harmonia CEO Norah Casey presents Newstalk 106’s Breakfast daily and RTÉ TV’s Today each Friday. Contact 021-4805805 to be in the Today audience — and to be in with a chance of winning a surprise makeover.
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