Belfast was once a place that struck fear into the heart of most individuals, sending shuddering electrical signals of anxiety thundering through one's mind. It was a land of terror, a divided and backward place, with men in masks acting ruthlessly under the cover of night.
This place of unimaginable pain and intractable differences is where I call home, albeit with a jaded sense of national identity.
When one takes a look around society today, a landscape comes into view that is dramatically different culturally, politically, economically and socially than the one experienced as a teenager. Once bombing and shootings were a daily reality, but now seem like a speck of dust on the horizon.
Predictable partisan diatribes were chanted on the news by educated bigots in suits, now the same bigots are sitting in government together, sharing sofas and smiling for the cameras.
Belfast city centre was once the Beirut of Ireland, but now big business has replaced the checkpoints.
On the ground there is now less talk of 'sides' and distance between individual's eyes, but new forms of hatred have been substituted in place of the traditional, such as xenophobia and overt racism.
People appear on the surface better off economically, but has this quantative rise in living standards ushered in a happier and more stable society?
Is the country really advancing, or is Belfast just a modern pretender, lagging predictably behind the pack?
Something to think about.