A few months back, I was up to my eyeballs in the stress of a Huge Opportunity*.
It was the kind of thing one alternately hopes for and yet fears, one of those “that would never happen to me, but what if it did?” things. This Huge Opportunity took over my life for the better part of two months and brought out some of the best and certainly some of the worst of me.
In the end, I didn’t get there. I made it part way, but I couldn’t quite grasp the brass ring. As crushed as I was amidst the lingering self-pity and embarrassment of defeat, I was actually relieved. I knew that I’d done all I could do, that I’d worked very, very hard, and, in the end, that maybe I did not really want the Huge Opportunity after all. Maybe, as cringingly cliche as it sounds, it was the taking part, the experience, the journey that mattered.
It’s funny, for a long time, I looked at my experience in Ireland as the ultimate failure. I moved there with such a hugely naive and starry-eyed outlook – so common to young Americans moving overseas. I thought I would be moving up in my career the moment my feet hit the ground, for who, in all of Ireland, wouldn’t want a vivacious girl with film festival and journalism experience? That bubble popped quicker than the housing market as weeks and months went by without being able to do any kind of professional work at all. I became depressed and anxious and very snarky with Frank, who had dragged me over to that rainy godforsaken island in the first place.
As you probably know, I did find employment, and made friends and built my own kind of precarious life in Drogheda. But even as we left Ireland in 2013, I think my inner voice still said it was my fault we had to go. It was my fault our babies had to be wrenched from their grandparents and my husband forcibly detached from him home. I was the one who hadn’t been good enough, smart enough, resourceful enough, “Irish” enough to be successful. Sometimes I wondered if I had ever been good at my previous American life at all, or if it had merely been luck (sadly, this feeling did not improve too much our first year back in the States, either).
But now, I’m on the other side. I’m back working in a professional career and am enjoying the new challenges, feeling a little more confident each day that I do have something to offer, it was there all along, and Ireland was not actually a failure in time. True, we never had money or success in the traditional sense, but we had little triumphs, and they were many.
If I hadn’t “failed” at a career in Ireland, I may never have…
Worked in the medical field.
Worked in the law field.
Learned how to discern good wines, good cheeses, good fish.
Learned about crime, poverty, racism, sexism, violence and hate in Irish communities.
Learned about love, acceptance, humor and enormous generosity in Irish communities.
Experienced the welfare system.
Walked nearly everywhere for over 5 years of my life.
Been told off, to my face, and stood my ground.
Understood how important good journalism and ethical practices are to me.
Realized the value of extended family around every corner.
Appreciated Catholic tradition.
Become a mother.
Learned how to cook well.
Learned how to relax.
I don’t really look back on Ireland as a waste anymore – not at all, actually. And I’m so happy to say we’re getting to go back for Christmas this year!
I think more than anything my time in Ireland, and our first year back in the US, taught me that failure should not equal shame. At times I still live in fear of screwing up at work, tense and ready to be drawn and quartered for making mistakes – but why? I have already learned that my self worth is more than where I work, no matter how great that job is. And even if the very worst happens – the bottom falls out, I get fired or get sick or get knocked down – I’ve already survived. Thanks to my husband, friends and these varied life experiences, I’ve learned how strong love can be. God did not create the human spirit to be a wisp of candy floss.
As for that Huge Missed Opportunity? Well, maybe some dreams aren’t meant to be. Maybe better ones are just around the bend. Maybe it requires more work than luck! At the end of the day, I’m thankful for the journey and the risks.
(And speaking of risks, here we go again!)
Much love to you all. xxx
*Sorry I have to be so cryptic here. I signed about 100 pages of confidentiality documentation so I can’t divulge the details. I know! Don’t hate me. #sorrynotsorry