At last, I am here and I’m getting the chance to write all the things I’ve been mentally noting in my head since I arrived over two weeks ago.
I am very well, in case you’re wondering, and I hope you are, too. Have you got your cup of tea? This first post may be a long one, so settle in and enjoy. Grab a biscuit as well.
So here I sit, in Frank’s house on Scarlet Crescent, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. For a while, I never thought I’d make it. Between the driving, the holidays, the bus, the goodbyes to friends and family, the planes, and the endless re-packing of my limited two suitcases, the journey seemed impossible at times. Yet I got here in one piece and I’m finally settling in to love it all again.From this window, I can see a green hill with an ancient building on top of it. I can hear seagulls and an occasional magpie, and no matter what angle I look from, I can usually spy at least 2 or 3 neighborhood cats…the one with the raccoon tail, the one with only one eye, the friendly one, the natty grey one I hate… Off to the right is the remains of Magdalene’s Tower, and down the hill out of sight is the town, the river, shops and churches and friends greeting each other from behind turned up collars and thick scarves.
From the window in my room, I can see a row of neat backyards, except for the jungle next door. I see wash hanging on the lines and a church steeple a few blocks away. I see homes, families, warm little lives tucked up near peat and coal fireplaces. And today would be a good day for that – it’s blustery, cold and misting rain, not fit for man nor beast. After the initial shock of getting here, I’d have to say I’m doing just fine. Grand. It’s definitely not a vacation, nor does it yet feel like I’ve come “home.” But it’s getting more familiar to me. The first couple of weeks were hard, I won’t lie. It was scary, getting here at last and feeling the pressure to make it all a success! And yet, I realized very quickly that even the small things would try my patience and knock down my ego. Instead of finding things quaint, or even annoying, I felt myself despair every time I found something different, as if I were failing at making a life here. I couldn’t remember my new, long, mobile phone number. I couldn’t get my debit card to work in any machines. I couldn’t draw a hot bath because I didn’t know about turning on the immersion and I couldn’t make pancakes because I couldn’t find the right ingredients. I felt so self conscious, knowing I looked different and sounded different, just wanting for once in my life to sink into the crowds and go unnoticed. I felt completely stupid, and even more so because I could not even get a job interview. After months of preparing to be here, doing any research I could, saving money, going to the Irish consulate in Chicago, and fashioning a killer CV (or resume’), I felt totally lost. The local emigration authorities scolded me for coming without a job and the job recruiters and advisors just shook their heads sadly. My friend Wendy’s mother kept lighting candles.
Luckily, that’s not the end of the story. I did not dissolve in tears, pack my bags, give up and go home. I started by learning my phone number. Still no job, and not even a private residence of my own. Still occasionally burning dinner on the stove. Still feeling a little odd, and sometimes homesick for my old apartment. But I’m feeling a lot more inspired. I’m remembering why I wanted to come in the first place, to be with Frank, to live in a gorgeous, historic country and to find a new way to live my life fully and passionately. I guess I’ve learned that sometimes living fully isn’t about knowing what to do or dancing around in euphoria. It’s about taking risks and trying again.
Funny how I used to think Ireland wasn’t really as foreign as other countries. But I’m finding that it is, and I am indeed very foreign in it. But that’s OK. That’s OK with me.