Moving to Ireland / Year of the Sloth

The last time I wrote for this blog was in the fall of 2018, immediately after I moved to the magical city of Winston-Salem.

A year and a half later, I can confirm that Winston continued to be the most magical, healing place I’ve ever lived. I connected with incredible resources and communities there: an all-female co-working space, a validating support group, incredible insightful grief counseling, simple low-stress volunteer opportunities that fed my soul, a liberal church community, the BEST gym, the best coffee shops, the best everything. After years of navigating depression and feeling like a shell of myself, this place brought me back to life, basically.

And the people! I have a history of getting attached to people quickly, but Winston was especially magical in the friend department. I made friends who are genuine and hilarious and thoughtful and trustworthy. Our conversations guided me through life experiences that felt so isolating for so long, and I loved being able to text someone for a last minute drink or movie or pop over to someone’s house in my sweats for dinner or TV watching. These kind of easy, comfortable friendships usually take years to build – in my experience – and I feel very, very lucky that I connected with people in Winston so quickly. They’re the kind of people who I want to do life with, basically, and I miss them already.

All this is to say, if you had asked me last year where I saw my life in 5 years, I would have said, “Right here in the magical city of Winston-Salem!” without hesitation. I imagined buying a house there and being very, very, very happy for years to come. But instead, I just moved to Dublin, Ireland. Why? I’ve asked myself that question about a thousand times.

Truthfully, Bret and I have been talking about making an international move ever since our 2016 UK bus tour.

We spent a week with 40 people from all over the world (we were the only Americans!) and we had the best conversations and the best time exploring new places. It made us want to have experiences like that all the time.

Bret would have moved to pretty much any city he’s visited since then: Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; Montreal, Canada. I had reservations about all of those places, mostly because of the language barrier and my limited career options, but when we found an opportunity in Dublin, it felt like the OBVIOUS choice. There is no language barrier. It’s relatively close to home. It has Guinness and castles and beaches and $20 flights to pretty much every European city. It’s honestly THE place I would have named if you asked me where I hoped to move next, even though I’d never visited. And I know if this opportunity had come up while we were living in Boone, I would have jumped on a plane and never looked back.

But then, Winston happened. And that makes this SO MUCH harder (for me).

When Bret got the Ireland job offer, we were both so surprised, it felt like a life-changing decision. The idea of moving so quickly overwhelmed me logistically and emotionally, but the idea of missing this opportunity crushed Bret, so we did what we both wanted: Bret moved to Ireland in August, and I spent the past six months living in Winston, savoring the time, and further digging into my routines there.

I figured out the next steps with my job and began sorting through what we were going to ship and sell and store… but mostly I just enjoyed the extra time living in my favorite city (you didn’t think I was done talking about Winston yet, did you?). I worked 8:30-4:30, and video chatted with Bret, and then I went to the gym every afternoon and spent the evenings hanging out with friends or taking myself on a date or cooking dinners that lasted for three meals at a time. I didn’t feel lonely. I adored my solo evenings. It was such a comforting feeling: being secure in my identity and feeling like I belonged exactly where I was.

Truly, I never wanted to leave. And I considered staying in Winston longer. Bret and I were both thriving in our own spaces and we were comfortable with the long-distance. We have a few friends who are also in international long-distance marriages or relationships so this concept wasn’t weird for us. And it’s not like we were always apart: we spent two weeks together in Oct/Nov, and a whole month together around Christmas. We probably could have kept living independently for the next three years, but I also knew I would regret not ever having the experience of living in another country.

I kept saying that I wanted to give Bret time to make sure he REALLY loved Dublin enough to stay before I uprooted my whole life – which is true – but at some point I accepted that even with his glowing endorsement of Dublin (“the work culture is so much more laid back!” “Everyone is happier here!”), I was never going to feel ready to make this move. I was never going to reach a point where I wanted to leave Winston. And so, I did the uncomfortable thing. I booked the ticket. (Actually, I handed Bret my credit card and he booked my ticket – I really couldn’t bring myself to do it haha.)

I felt like I was going to throw up when my friends drove me to the airport, but I got on the plane. And after some painful weeks of packing up our entire apartment and saying goodbye to my bed and my couch and my desk and other material things I was way too attached to, I was ready to completely zone out from exhaustion on that flight. I did, but only after having a sweet conversation with a single woman in her 60’s who moved from England to New Jersey when she was 30. It was reaffirming, to hear how her experience was challenging but worth it.

And now I’m here! It sort of feels like a dream. I’m excited to reinvent our routines and grow in ways I wouldn’t otherwise, but (as I’ve mentioned several times now) I’m legitimately heartbroken to be leaving my Winston community behind. I never want to make decisions out of fear, but after some pretty painful and turbulent years I finally felt comfy and settled and the idea of changing EVERYTHING feels overwhelming. It means it’s going to be a while before I feel settled here, and that’s hard. But sometimes being uncomfortable is the only way to grow. As my therapist said, it’s going to be devastating, but it’s going to be worth it.

So, I’m settling in. I’m teleworking for DC during the day (for now) and daydreaming about what my Dublin life will look like in a few months.

The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is slowing down. My hope is that I find some non-profit work that I love, but not right away. I’m going to take a ‘sabbatical’ to write in Irish cafes and build my weight lifting routine and continue to work on my own healing and growth before I add too many new stressors. I’m going to find a new therapist and a new gym. I’m going to do yoga, like, every day. I’m going to bake bread and cook good food and spend a lot of time reading on my new balcony. I’m going to explore my new city in a very slow-paced kind of way. It will be the total opposite of the DC work culture I’m used to. I’m calling 2020 “The Year of the Sloth” and I can’t wait to see what it actually feels like to take a break and LIVE that way. I know it’s a huge gift to have this option and I don’t want to waste it.

Some days I feel really grateful and excited about it all. Other days I’m scared to be giving up my work identity. Every day I’m heartbroken over leaving my friends and I’m afraid of feeling that Boone-level isolation again. Because I’ve made several moves as an adult (Harrisonburg –> DC –> Florida –> Boone –> Winston-Salem), I know it takes time to connect with new people and find new routines. Winston was the exception so I’m keeping my expectations low for the first few months.

All in all, I think this kind of change will be good for my mind, body and soul. I am giving this place a chance. And I hope I love it here. But if a year or two goes by and I don’t feel those things, I’ll leave because everything is optional and everything is temporary.

Winston Salem is Magical

Y’all. I still can’t believe I get to live here.

So far, living in Winston Salem has been nothing short of magical. In a span of a few weeks, I found the communities I so desperately needed: a grief group made up of incredibly thoughtful and resilient people, an amazing gym full of kind, encouraging, and motivating group fitness instructors, and an awesome liberal church community that actively supports social justice issues. I’ve met new friends with shared passions and life experiences, and I get to see them on a regular basis. It’s amazing and exactly what I’ve been searching for. Continue reading “Winston Salem is Magical”

Summer & Whole 30

This summer, partly in a morbid way and partly because I felt stunned by the state of things, I kept catching myself saying, “what a weird time to be alive.” I was feeling the tug of personal pain and utter frustration with the shifting values of this country counterbalanced with some amazing, fulfilling interactions and adventures that opened me up to so much. I LIVED this summer, and, in doing so, I often felt caught between feelings of guilt and gratitude. For example,

Continue reading “Summer & Whole 30”

A MUCH NEEDED Transition

I watched a TedTalk a while ago about the power of community which essentially said that when you share your dreams and challenges within a community, someone there can help you succeed. As humans, we need to feel like part of a community in order to feel safe and grow and thrive. Community is everything, basically, but for a while now, I haven’t really had one.

For the past three years I’ve lived on the side of a mountain in a town that I feel only a small connection to. I went to a church here once where the sermon derailed into a declaration on how you should eat something wild (i.e. a weed growing in your yard) every day. Also, I went to an upmarket farm to table restaurant and while it was lovely and delicious, I discovered a live worm crawling around in my salad. When I gently brought attention to this, our server brought me another salad, but I wondered if the typical customer would have just eaten around it. And finally I went wine tasting at a popular vineyard and was told by the owner that getting a fruit fly in your glass  is good luck. Lucky me, I got three in my first pour. I never went back there. Continue reading “A MUCH NEEDED Transition”

Five Years

This March, Bret and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary with a trip to New York City!

It was such a fun and memorable way to mark 5 years of marriage.

We loved eating authentic NYC bagels (especially with lox and cream cheese!), wandering through a bookstore in Chelsea Market on a weekday morning before the crowds, seeing an original Vincent van Gogh at MOMA, strolling through Central Park, frequenting the M&M store in Times Square, and checking out the view from the Top of the Rockefeller Center.

It was cold, but so fun. I loved sharing a giant, perfect slice of oreo cheesecake which reminded me of the cheesecakes I used to sell as a fundraiser for my middle school orchestra. And I loved listening to Bret point out places he remembered from his trip marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Continue reading “Five Years”

Life Lately

I haven’t been actively posting to social media or blogging recently and it feels good to “unplug” and spend time away from my phone after work. When I don’t share my life or feelings in some public way, it seems like I have a if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-and-no-one-hears-it kind of relationship with this digital age we’re living in, but most of the things that I’m feeling are messy and uncomfortable so I prefer to share them in real conversations or in grief-related spaces. And I want to document the good parts of my life right now, but if I only share those shiny parts without context, it feels incomplete and insincere. Still, I want to document some things, so here’s a life update that bounces around into all of the difficult and joyful pieces of my life lately. Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one.

Truthfully, I feel disconnected from a lot of people right now. I attribute some of that to my own social isolation but I’m also just tired of explaining that I’m still grieving. When someone asks how I’m feeling, I never know how to describe it. I have a giant hole in my life where my dad is supposed to be and I can’t even begin to put into words how much I miss him. Or how homesick I feel when I think about the version of myself that I got to be whenever I was around him. Winter darkness and cold temperatures reignited a lot of my pain and trauma so Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas and now this winter just feels like a weird place lodged in time that doesn’t fit into a normal, chronological calendar year. Continue reading “Life Lately”

Modified Gratitude

It’s November. Gratitude season. It’s also November: ten months after my dad died.

Holidays are painful this year. I don’t feel like celebrating a year that has been washed over with grief and pain, but I also don’t want to deprive myself of the traditions that bring me comfort and joy. I’m still deciding what to keep and what to skip.

Every November for the past 5 years, I’ve made a “Grateful Jar” and filled it with lists of things that I’m grateful for. Each one is a tiny time capsule. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a 2017 jar, but I decided to make one that reflects my dad. I decorated it with photos of him and phrases that remind me of him like:

  • stay humble
  • listen more
  • let it be
  • be kind

Continue reading “Modified Gratitude”

Year 4: Life is short & love is forever

Four years ago, while writing my wedding vows, I imagined a future with Bret: traveling the world, writing books together, moving to new cities, and finding adventures. I probably thought about the hardships, too. I figured we’d support each other through challenging careers and hold each other up through life’s struggles, whatever they may be. Maybe in the back of my mind I considered a far distant future after our parents had the chance to retire, travel, and live full lives when we’d have to say goodbye to them, but I never imagined losing my father so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so young. Continue reading “Year 4: Life is short & love is forever”

Stronger Better Faster 30

Well hello faithful readers! It’s been too long. Truthfully, it’s been difficult for me to write post-election. Seven weeks later, I’m still experiencing waves of shock. Every time I begin to feel a bit better, I learn that another under-qualified person with dangerous or degrading messages has been appointed by our president elect. I’ve grieved and allowed myself to feel angry and now I’m channeling that into action. I called my senator and a few offices in DC to voice my concerns, and I’m supporting organizations who still care about women + LGBT rights. I’m also looking for new opportunities to volunteer. I may not be able to change much on my own, but I can’t sleep if I don’t try.

All that’s to say, it’s a good thing that I started planning my 30th birthday before the election because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have had a party at all. And that would have been sad because thirty is a big milestone and I love birthdays and I love parties.

Continue reading “Stronger Better Faster 30”

2016 Election: Shaken

As I watched the 2016 election results roll in on Tuesday night, I was uneasy. Early results trended Trump. I went to sleep around midnight, feeling nervous, but with so many states too early to call, I had a sliver of hope.

I woke up at 3am, checked my phone, and I froze.

I texted some of my friends who were also awake and in shock. I was shaking. I couldn’t get a deep breath. I’ve only felt this way a few times in my life. My chest was aching, and I was too stunned to cry.

When I look at Donald Trump, I see every man who has sexually assaulted me. Continue reading “2016 Election: Shaken”

This is Boone | Starry Night edition

A few weeks ago, I spent a Saturday night on my friends’ back porch. We were rocking in rocking chairs, staring up at the stars, and drinking beer and homemade moonshine while there were guns and/or firecrackers firing in the not-so-distant distance. We were enjoying a good conversation and I had one of those moments like I did when I first put on snow boots or that time I wore flannel to brunch where I thought… this is Boone. This is my Boone life.

And then I picked up my rental car the next morning and I drove up to DC for the week.

Sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled in different directions: working in DC and living in North Carolina. Continue reading “This is Boone | Starry Night edition”

Great Britain Adventure: Loch Ness + Ben Nevis

In June, Bret and I spent one week in Great Britain. I planned on summarizing that week in a few blog posts this summer and I’ve really fallen behind on those (sorry!) but I’m back. Here’s Day 4! (You can catch up on the first few days here).

After a completely perfect day exploring our new favorite city: Edinburgh, Scotland, we woke up early as usual, packed our backpacks, and enjoyed a traditional Scottish breakfast in the hotel. Then, we boarded the bus and began our drive up to Inverness! Continue reading “Great Britain Adventure: Loch Ness + Ben Nevis”