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.

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Winter Thoughts

It finally happened. I never thought it would.

Every single Irish person I know repeatedly told me it would eventually happen to me, but I was adamant in my denial.

I am dreading the Irish winter.

I had to write this brief blog post for two reasons: 1) because I am currently procrastinating my dissertation research and 2) to mark that this is the exact moment my feelings about the Irish weather changed. I suppose this means I’ve become more Irish in my ways. The Irish love nothing more than to talk and complain about the weather. I used to love the rain and never minded the fact that we rarely see sun in winter. (Clarification: I never enjoyed the extreme, heavy rain – but, compared to Florida, it rarely rains very hard here. It’s usually a very light, misty rain and I used to find it refreshing.)

I took this photo this morning and didn't edit it at all. Beautiful autumn day in Dublin!

I took this photo this morning and didn’t edit it at all. Beautiful autumn day in Dublin!

We’ve had the most enjoyable weather the past two weeks (with the exception of the past two days). It has been extremely sunny and I’ve really felt the need to enjoy it while it’s here because I know it won’t last. The past two days were a reminder of that. We had the typical misty “Irish rain” and last night when I was walking home from my bus stop, a 10 minute walk, I arrived home with a soaking wet face from the very light rain. This was actually the first time I didn’t enjoy it.

I loved winter my first year in Ireland. I adored the rain, the sun-less days, the cold and even the wind. I suppose I enjoyed it because it was so different from Florida. Couldn’t be more different, actually. During my second year in Ireland, I didn’t mind winter at all. I mostly loved it. Now, going into my third Irish winter, I am not looking forward to it. The combination of the crazy, bone-chilling winds and the rain and no sun is what (finally) gets me about the Irish winter. I don’t mind the cold. Being away from Florida for so long has made me realise I really love (and need) the sun, but I do not miss the heat or humidity at all. I know I never will.

I hate to be full of complaints and would like it to be known that winter isn’t all bad. Among the things I enjoy about winter: tea is more enjoyable, wearing living in my onesie, sweating less, less tourists (therefore Dublin is less crowded, with the exception of holiday shopping time), wearing sweaters and cosy outfits and having an excuse to eat more “because I need the extra layer of fat to keep me warm”. I simply wish I had a fireplace at home to enjoy.

Having said all of this, I still love Ireland as much as ever and it still feels like home. I’m just hoping for a record-breaking sunny winter. I know my odds aren’t good!