Slán to my twenties

I turn 30 at the end of this month. Thirty. How is that possible? Even just typing this opening line, my heart is hammering in my chest at the thought of no longer being in my twenties. I know “age is just a number” and “you’re only as old as you feel”, but I’ll be dealing with my greatest life challenge just days after my birthday for the next year and, well, the timing is pretty bad.

I won’t get into the specifics of my challenge now, but it is common knowledge that everyone strives to get their act together and be settled in many aspects of life by the age of 30. I was on the right track: I secured my dream permanent job, live in my favourite city in the world, finally found an apartment that I love, am surrounded by an incredible group of friends and I feel settled in pretty much every aspect of my life. I finally feel like an (semi) adult, for the first time in my life. This is all being taken from me, five days after I turn 30. This is why I am having such a hard time entering a new decade, and such an important decade at that. I never dreamed I’d have to start over at the age of 30.

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Let’s turn to the positive: I will be celebrating my 30th with a very dear friend in Copenhagen. Why did I choose Copenhagen? 1) The majority of Europe is too hot for my liking at the end of August. The weather in Copenhagen should be (fingers crossed) perfect. 2) Copenhagen is where the Little Mermaid was born and I am a mermaid, so it is only logical! 3) I have always wanted to go to Copenhagen and didn’t want to celebrate my birthday in a place where there is an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. I think Copenhagen will be the perfect place to relax and just be for a few days.

My twenties have felt as fast as the blink of an eye, honestly. I remember turning 20 and 21 like it was yesterday. The twenties is a tumultuous learning decade for everyone, but I feel I handled my twenties very well. I graduated with my B.A. at the age of 21. I went (and moved) abroad for the first time at the age of 22 and immediately found my place – Ireland. What a year that was. I travelled around the world solo at the age of 25 and I think back on that trip with pure amazement every day of my life. I secured my dream job and graduated with my M.Ed at the age of 28. I’ve had so many beautiful adventures in my twenties and really hope I will continue living this way in my thirties, to an extent.

“We are born not all at once, but by bits.” – Mary Antin

“Uncertainty will always be a part of the taking charge process.” – Harold Geneen

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Søren Kierkegaard

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Reflecting on 2016

As I write this, I have been awake for 33 hours straight and my head feels like it is swaying from exhaustion and jetlag, half of my heart is broken into a million pieces, while the other half is whole and my hands are so cold I can’t feel them. But I am still feeling so very blessed. 2016 was a year full of blessings for me, so I would like to take some time to reflect on my year.

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Flying over Florida

I feel like a lot of people feel that 2016 was a rough year, but I am not one of those people. 2016 was overwhelmingly positive and quite literally life-changing for me.

It didn’t start in a great way. I was in and out of agony from gallstones for 13 months and was scheduled to finally have my gallbladder removed on the 11th of January. I stupidly did not have private health insurance in Ireland (I do now – I learned my lesson!) and the public system is awful here. They cancelled my operation. Thankfully, a new team took me on and my surgeon fought for me and I finally had my gallbladder removed on the 24th of January. I never thought I’d be so excited to be taken in for an operation. Life without a gallbladder is glorious and I am so lucky I have not suffered any repercussions.

In April, I was very busy interviewing twelve guidance counsellors around Dublin for my Master’s dissertation. I thoroughly enjoyed this process and feel I learned an incredible amount from them.

In May, I surprised by sister by flying home for her college graduation. It was a very quick trip home, but so worth it. I will forever be grateful that I was there for this special day.

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I started Sean Nós dancing in July and in less than two weeks, I am moving up to the advanced class! After a 6-year hiatus from dancing, my soul needed it again. I missed tapping the most, so I figured I would try something similar (but also very different) and a style that would allow me to dance to beautiful traditional Irish music. Now I never want to stop!

I went to the Fleadh in Ennis. Enough said. (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a traditional Irish music competition)

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I celebrated my 28th birthday in Oxford with my life wife – an unforgettable, perfect weekend!

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I visited my dear friend H in Galway for 24 hours and we went swimming in the sea – my first time swimming in the sea in Ireland!! The water was 14C/57F.

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For Thanksgiving, my favourite day of the year, my life wife and I celebrated with 21 friends in our apartment. This was our 3rd annual Friendsgiving that we’ve hosted together in Dublin and our hearts were warmed more than ever with the turnout and enjoyment that was had that evening. In 2016, Thanksgiving helped me realise that, more than ever, the support system I have here is truly incredible. (I still can’t believe we squashed 23 people in our sitting/dining room!)

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Two hours after I submitted my dissertation, I got a call for my very first “career” interview – at the best school in Ireland. I didn’t get the job, but the interview went well and was great practice for me. I got the second job I interviewed for and it’s the perfect job for me. I am so happy. I am so incredibly proud of myself for beginning my career in another country.

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I took this photo right before I went in for my interview – St. Stephen’s Green

I went to northern Germany for a long weekend with my dear friend H in mid-December. She is from the small town of Schönberg, where we stayed with her loving parents. They welcomed me and treated me like one of their own for the whole weekend and I had a wonderful, relaxing time. We explored 3 different Christmas markets together and this was my very first time in Germany.

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Weihnachtsmarkt Stockseehof

I recently found out that I passed my dissertation with no corrections… meaning I am officially finished with my Master’s degree! I was also invited to present my results at the annual conference for guidance counsellors in March.

I was able to spend Christmas at home with my family. After spending two Christmases away, it’s not something I ever want to do again. I am so grateful that I was able to fly home this year, especially since I just started my new job in mid-November (perks of working at a school!). I had the most beautiful time at home, though it went way too quickly. This was a family focused visit; I unfortunately did not have enough time to see any friends on this trip.

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Christmas in Florida – Shephards at Clearwater Beach

To elaborate on my opening paragraph: I returned to Dublin yesterday from Florida and it was a longer journey than it should have been. As always, I had to take a red-eye flight, which I despise because I cannot sleep on planes, EVER. Half of my heart is broken into a million pieces because I had to leave my family. All expats can relate to this – it never gets easier. Ever. In fact, I think it only gets harder every time. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, but currently do, big time. I miss my family desperately and especially miss the little moments with them. The other half of my heart is whole because I am back in my favourite place in the world. I never thought I’d say this, but I am really missing the Florida sunshine and beautiful weather because my hands are so cold I cannot feel them. How quickly I forgot how perpetually cold my bones are here thanks to the dampness!

2016 was a year full of blessings for me and I am really excited to see what 2017 brings. Definitely on the list: enjoying my last guaranteed year in Ireland, hopefully travelling somewhere with my sister, graduation in April (and my parents are coming!), long weekend in Italy with my parents and enjoying my last months living with my life wife/best friend. The rest is still unwritten.

Emerging Adult

I am no longer a student.

I cannot believe I just typed those words! I submitted my dissertation exactly one month ago today, on the 12th of September. I am only just now starting to feel some relief and am quite surprised it took this long. I was extremely busy immediately after submitting but as soon as I could, I spent four days in a row doing absolutely nothing. I literally spent each of those days lying in bed and staring at the ceiling and out the window… and it was absolutely glorious. It is exactly what I needed to reset myself mentally and physically because, as expected, the last two weeks of writing my dissertation were extremely intense.

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Exactly two and a half hours after submitting my dissertation, I got a phone call and received the news that I had my first guidance counselling job interview. My very first interview for a career-focused job… my very first interview for a job I actually wanted, not simply needed. I could not even believe the timing – I was on the most incredible high that day. The interview went well and I am very proud of myself, even though I did not get the job. I know there is something out there for me and I still have a very positive outlook on my job search. I’ve been spending my days applying for jobs, relaxing, spending time with friends and generally being excited about autumn’s arrival in Dublin. I’ve already enjoyed multiple pumpkin and butternut squash dishes with my lifewife/bestie and we started officially planning for Thanksgiving on the 1st of October.

Since I have finally had some much needed downtime, I have had a lot of time to think. I feel like I officially became an adult over the last month. It’s of course been a gradual process and much of it has been evidenced in my blog, but I feel it really happened sometime between the 12th of September and today, the 12th of October. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an adult, and, while I’ll never really grow up by choice, I’ve thought about these changes in myself and it’s fascinating to think about. On my 21st birthday, I tried various alcoholic drinks and hated everything I tried and remember thinking “I will never drink alcohol” (this obviously changed). The same goes for coffee. I remember, in my early and even mid-twenties, my dad telling me that I would enjoy coffee one day. I smile to myself thinking that one of his greatest joys in life is enjoying a coffee with some sort of pastry or sweet. This is now one of my greatest joys and consider myself to be a coffee connoisseur. I used to laugh at my dad and shake my head when he told me this. I am also officially tired of not knowing where I will (physically) be in one year’s time. I am ready to settle somewhere and have a place I can call my own. I want to be able to buy things without thinking about how I will transport it across the Atlantic Ocean if needs be. I am also very eager to begin my career and look forward to the day that I am hopefully settled in one job that I love. Another very adult thought as of late: I have realised I generally do not believe in soulmates (though there are exceptions). When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t think there is only one person on this earth you are meant to be with. I think it depends on timing and where you are in a particular moment of time. And I have realised that friendship, companionship and compatibility is more important to me in a relationship than romance.

I am excited to see how I change and progress over the next couple months. I cannot believe how quickly October is flying by! Things to look forward to: lots of time with friends, new Gilmore Girls episodes (!), Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving (our 3rd annual and it means the world to us that our friends are as excited as we are!) and hopefully going home for Christmas.

August Thoughts

Dearest blog, we meet again… at the time we usually meet:  when I am struggling to write my dissertation.  I find blogging and writing creatively often helps me to write academically, so here I am.

I simply cannot accept the fact that it is the 1st of August. How did this happen?! Time is flying faster than usual and if it’s true that time flies quicker the older you get, I cannot imagine what life is going to be like when I’m a whole lot older.

I’m not ready for it to be August for a few major reasons:

  • This is my last official month of being a student and therefore, life as I know it will never be the same once August is over.  As much as I am ready to be rid of the stress that comes with being a student, I am not ready for such a big change and will never be ready to give up my ever-changing, flexible schedule that is always full of variety.
  • My dissertation is officially due this month, need I say more?   This is the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed! It is going well but is naturally causing me lots of stress and is eating up all of my energy. Summer college classes are not a thing here in Ireland and it’s getting old trying to explain to people how this summer is the most stressful time of my student life. “But aren’t you supposed to be on holidays?” NO! “Well, you deserve a holiday when you finish!” … If only I could afford one!
  • I am not ready to be 28.  I am very, very excited (and blessed) to be celebrating my birthday in Oxford with my life wife at the end of this month, but I am not ready to say goodbye to 27, my golden year. Twenty-eight just seems so much older. I still feel like a 14 year old a lot of the time. I am currently reading the book “The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Dr. Meg Jay and, while it is incredibly insightful and parts of it make me feel so much better about myself, I do wish I had discovered this book in my younger twenties and find myself wondering and worrying about the state of my life. Having said this, if you are a twenty-something, read this book now!! I cannot recommend it enough.
  • When August is over, I am officially facing the dreaded unknown. I will be in a major transition period and, while I know I will still be living in Dublin, I have no idea what I’ll be doing for work next month and if I’ll even have a job.
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Procrastinating going to the library to work on my dissertation by colouring

I must say, one positive thing about being a Master’s student trying to finish her dissertation is the ability and excuse to justify anything. Even though I’m as poor as they come, I can easily justify a take-away coffee every day and the occasional (but more occasional than normal) treat… because I’m finishing my dissertation and will do whatever it takes. Whatever gets me through!

Who knows where I’ll be in a month’s time. It’s terrifying but also a bit exciting. We all go through these major transition periods and I do have faith that whatever is meant to happen, will.

Are you going through a transition period right now? Tell me about it in a comment!

Moving Emotions

My next blog post will be back on topic about Iceland, but I really felt the need to write this post for myself. I have been feeling a roller coaster of emotions lately and feel my sadness will go away once I’ve written and published these thoughts.

I moved to a new apartment exactly 2 weeks ago. Before moving, I genuinely had never been so excited for an event. I didn’t expect to miss my old apartment as much as I do. Having said that, I LOVE my new apartment. It’s so beautiful, modern and spacious. We have super high ceilings (looks great, though it’s freezing in here!!), large bedrooms, large wardrobes (so large, we could probably airbnb the space for people to sleep in…) and massive windowsills we could literally sit in. I love everything about the apartment except for 1) the small fridge and 2) how cold it is. I am living with my best friend and am very happy here. It feels like home.

Today, I officially have to say goodbye once and for all to my old apartment. My first apartment in Dublin. Actually, my first apartment in general. Maybe that’s why this is so painful for me. I found my old apartment exactly one year ago today, so I suppose it’s only fitting that today is the last time I get to step foot inside of it to collect the last few items I own. In memory of my previous apartment, here’s a list of things I love and miss about it:

– The location. It is located in the city centre and was SO HANDY. I could see the following from my window: a bus stop, the train/DART station, the Luas (tram), the bus to the airport, a taxi rank – aka every form of transport I could ever possibly need. It is also located near everything you could ever need: grocery store, pharmacy, euro shops, great take away food options.

– My SuperValu (grocery store). It was literally a 1 minute walk from the apartment and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I went there 5-6 days per week, every week. It was so handy to stop by on my way home from work or when I was cooking dinner and forgot an ingredient. I got to know a lot of the employees there and the saddest thing is, there is no SuperValu anywhere near me now.

– Pig and Heifer. This is a New York-style deli and they make the best sandwiches in town. They have a few locations but this location is easily the best. The staff is incredibly friendly and knew me and what I liked on my sandwich. It felt like a family and it is located next door to my old apartment.

– Walking upstairs. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I was going to miss this, but I really miss walking upstairs to get to my apartment. My old apartment was located on the 2nd floor (3rd floor to Americans) and the lift/elevator was not reliable at all – it broke down nearly every week. I genuinely enjoyed taking the stairs and my new apartment is on the ground floor. No forced automatic exercise for me anymore.

– My landlord. I could cry thinking about how wonderful he is. He is such a kind man and I think of him as my Irish grandfather. He fixed everything we asked him to quickly and he was there for me to calm me down (over the phone) when I was robbed in June. The new tenants of my old apartment have no idea how lucky they are.

– The floors. The entire apartment (with the exception of the kitchen and bathroom) had beautiful wood floors. My new apartment has carpeting – thank goodness it’s attractive carpet, but I am a sucker for wood floors! I know I will be thankful for carpet in winter, but still.

– The kettle and pots. This list is getting ridiculous, I know. I miss the kettle in my old apartment dearly. It was much more solid and clean compared to the one we have now. The pots were brand new and stainless steel and perfect. I’m a kitchen nerd.

– The random, occasional protests outside of my window. I lived opposite one of the main train stations in Dublin and Dubliners love to protest the water charges. There were multiple times they would begin the all-day protests outside of my window and even though it may sound like a nuisance, it was the opposite of that. They never began early in the morning and it was always good entertainment. It really gave my sister and I a good laugh because they put on quite a colourful protest when she was visiting me.

– I miss the route I would take home to my old apartment when I was coming home from work. It would take me down Grafton Street, past Trinity College and to the Spire. I must say I appreciated this walk every single day – even in the rain. I also miss my walk to Trinity which would take me over a bridge with a view of the Samuel Beckett bridge (the “harp” bridge).

– I desperately miss being only a 12 minute walk from the gym. I get to work out at my college for free and the back gate of Trinity was only a 12 minute walk from my old apartment. It now takes me 35 minutes to walk to the gym, which definitely makes me less inclined to go.

– I miss being steps away from the Docklands – loved walking there.

– Being so close to the IFSC aka Dublin’s “financial district”. I loved seeing men in suits all the time!!

– Having a dryer!!!! In my old apartment, there was a washing machine/dryer combo and it was fantastic. My new apartment only has a washing machine. I only ever used the dryer for sheets, but since I just washed sheets this morning for the first time in my new apartment, I am desperately missing having a dryer! It will be a nightmare in winter when things take ages to dry.

– The warmth of my old apartment. I didn’t enjoy this in summer, but in winter it was great because we never had to use much heat. Cheap electric bills!!

– I had a really nice desk in my old apartment and do not have one now.

– I also miss having Subway (for pre-airport trips and a quick, cheap lunch), a noodle bar and a really nice Thai restaurant next to my apartment.

You are probably wondering why I left my old apartment if it was so perfect. It wasn’t perfect and the reason I left was because of the only downside to the apartment: the noise from the street. The entire apartment (with the exception of the bathroom) faced the street which is a main street in Dublin. Cars consistently drove by 24 hours a day. I somewhat got used to the noise, but only about 50% of the time. Half of the time, I was able to ignore the street noise and the other half, I wasn’t and it really bothered me. Yes, I used a white noise machine to help block out the noise. If my old apartment was located in the back of the building, I’d still be there and probably would never leave. My new apartment is in a very quiet location and I am definitely sleeping better.

In a couple hours, I will go back for the last time to collect a few items I left behind and say goodbye. Now that I’ve written this post, I feel like I can mourn my old apartment and move on. It’s time.

Have you ever moved and felt similar emotions?