Just over two years ago, my friend, Mila and I arrived in Madrid, Spain. The first stop to what would be a life-changing trip. We had planned it for months and I could not have been happier to leave my job and NYC behind, at least for a week. We tried to experience as much as possible – we ate paella, drank amazing Spanish wine, conversed in Spanish with the locals and even went to a bullfight. Ole! It was such a great visit that I didn’t think our next stop, Dublin, could measure up.
Dublin is a world apart from Madrid. The accents, the biting cold air, the free flowing beer, and the understated grit makes it a true city, worn down a bit over the years. Like typical tourists, we visited the Guinness Storehouse where I drank my very first pint of Guinness, Christchurch, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin castle, Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Ireland) and Trinity College where I uttered the words, “I wonder what it’s like to go here.” I didn’t realize it at the time but Dublin left a lasting impression on me.
When our journey ended and I waited for my luggage at the carousel in JFK Airport, I knew that my time in NYC was over. I told Mila that the trip wasn’t long enough. She asked, “Aren’t you happy to go back your apartment? To your own bed?” But, NYC changed for me. I didn’t greet it with the welcomed enthusiasm as I once did. I decided that night that I would leave NYC by the following January. Fast forward to 48 hours later and I was back in my all too familiar cubicle droning away at the mundane recruiting work I had grown to resent. My co-worker stopped by to welcome me back and she asked how my vacation had been. I candidly replied that I was searching for flights back to Dublin for the holidays. We had a little laugh and carried on with our mind-numbing work. I knew I could not go on like this. There I was, 33 years old, well into my fifth year of living in New York City and all I could imagine was handing in my resignation letter and jetting off on a one-way flight back to Europe. NYC and I had a wonderful, romantic interlude but it was time for an amicable separation.
I needed to reconnect with my passions, my sense of purpose in life. I wanted to slow down the highly intense pace I had been living every day for the last five years. It was time to stop everything and change direction. I looked for a master’s program throughout the U.S. and, just on a whim, I looked up Trinity College’s program options. The School of Psychology offered a postgraduate diploma in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a growing practice in the U.S., working with and treating adults and children with autism and other intellectual disabilities. Luckily, the application deadline was a month away so I rushed to get all my materials together. I thought that getting accepted was nearly impossible because Trinity is the top college in Ireland and there would be loads of applicants for a selected number of places in the course. Oh well! I submitted the application with a few days to spare. All I could do was wait so I continued drudging along at work which was getting more stressful by the day.
On the 4th of July, I received an email that would change my life forever. I begrudgingly woke up to the heat and humidity trickling into my compact New York apartment. My parents were in town to celebrate Independence Day. Ding! My smartphone alerted me to an incoming email notifying me of my acceptance to Trinity College Dublin. I could hardly contain my excitement. I shared the good news with my parents and then panic set it. The course started at the end of September. I had two months to pack up, leave New York, get my travel paperwork in order, oh, yes, and move to Dublin, Ireland. No pressure!
After a short stint of Florida sunshine and Disney World mayhem, I was on a one-way flight to Dublin. I was restless and could not sleep the whole flight. I was worried that I had made a mistake and time was too far gone to change anything. I kept reassuring myself that if I didn’t like it, I could always go home. It was only a year, after all.
To say that things got off to a rocky start is an understatement. I had trouble setting up my bank account, difficulty finding an apartment, and problems adjusting to the public transportation system. One month into my new life and I was ready to buy a ticket home. My partner in crime and fellow American, Kelly, helped me through the drama. She was also my Trinity course classmate so I had an instant friend as soon as I touched down in Dublin. I found an apartment in a 19th century Georgian house with three male housemates and started my internship at a preschool for children with autism. Everything was starting to come together. Words could not express the relief I felt for taking this risk. The tension and constant anxiety I felt, just melted away. I found my smile again.
I knew that this move would not always be rainbows and roses. I worked hard, studied hard and had my homesick moments but when those dark times arose, I thought back to that office cubicle and realized that that my saddest day in Dublin was better than one more soul-draining day of sitting in that cubicle. Kelly played a big part in my transition. She had a way of making life in Dublin an adventure to be savored at every moment. As time moved on, I stopped missing NYC. It was like an old flame that I thought about from time to time but the precious memories that I thought would stay with me forever, slowly faded to black. I didn’t know it at the time but Dublin started to change me. I moved at a slower pace, my vocabulary was changing, I drank more beer than water, and I discovered the wonders of rugby. I was home!
By the following June, my first year at Trinity was over. You would think by that point that I would be used to change and starting over. It never got easier. We had our last class and while I was grateful to leave all the exams and assignments in the past, I also knew that this would be the last time my classmates and I would be together. Kelly moved back to the U.S. a month after the course ended. She and I joked that our journey began and ended on the same street. I remember the day we first met at Starbucks. She helped me with my luggage, got me to my hotel and helped me find apartments. We navigated the streets of Dublin a few days before classes started. It was surreal to both of us that we just packed up and moved to another country. Having her in Dublin made the transition so much easier to bear. It was hard to say good-bye to such a wonderful friend and confidante. Despite everyone deciding to move on, I couldn’t bring myself to leave Dublin after only one year so I decided to stay on and attend the master’s program in Psychology. I had no money to go home so I used to the summer to reconnect with myself, work, and to start dating. Why not?
On a warm July evening, I met Cian for our first date. We had a bit of wine and some laughs and here we are, still together. The past year has been a blur. I made it through another year at Trinity and, now, I am just months away from graduation. This year was much more stressful than the one before but my social circle grew, I found an amazing boyfriend and I started writing again. I think about that cubicle every now and then and wonder where I would be if I had stayed there. But then I remind myself…I live in Ireland! Dublin is not the most flashy or the most exotic place to be but it’s home, my home. I always wanted to live abroad and here I am.
Countless episodes of The Love Boat and Rick Steves’ Europe have led me on this path; the path of curiosity and an unyielding desire to learn languages, taste new foods and experience other cultures. Ireland has been a life changing experience. I have great friends, nice housemates, and a number of job experiences that I would not have gotten in the States. It was never meant to be a long-term move but it is a tough decision to leave my life here behind. I see the world differently. I see America differently. I’m not sure how long I will be here or when I will return to America but I am living in the moment while I am here. I want to reflect back on this time with happiness and the satisfaction of knowing that I took advantage of every opportunity to make this a remarkable journey.
Now that one chapter of my Dublin experience is coming to a close, I am excited to discover the next journey….