I don’t know what I will be
I remember I was 13 and choosing my junior cert exam subjects for school, trying to carefully select the subjects that would help sculpt me into the young woman I always wanted to be. Art, history, english, geography; they were strong subjects for me. I was never really into maths, hated science from the get-go and didn’t even get to touch base with business.
I remember the day we got our junior cert results and crying in the hall ways of St. Andrews College because I was so disappointed. I remember taking my books from my locker at the end of the day and there was a geography class going on behind me from the older year, the door was open, my face was red and puffy. Mr Walsh was taking the class and he asked through the door, in front of his class, how I did. I made a joke of myself as I normally do when embarrassed and blubbered something, which was received with laughter from the older kids, but deep down I was really disappointed with myself. I have been competitive since I can remember, in sports, in school, in family relations, friendships and competitions. I always wanted to win. Sports day was a day on my calendar that I looked forward to months ahead. In secondary school I swept up every award I had my eye on, tennis was my sport but I was brilliant at so many.
In 5th year, we all got put into different classes for our various subjects. We were always told that these different classes weren’t dependent on your grades or strength on the topic, aside from maths and Irish, however it was always clear the smartest were always mysteriously together with the most desired teacher. I was put into an english class lead by Mrs. Fitzimons, a teacher nobody had really ever heard of, albeit she was relatively new. But what concerned me most was that more than one of the pupils I would end up sitting beside were notorious messers. I knew I had been left behind in the one class I wanted to excel in the most.
Never the less, I read all the books, did all my homework and wrote each of our Friday short stories like my future career depended on it. Quickly enough my teacher and the rest of the class noticed I had an act for storytelling and Friday english classes became exciting again because for the first time all week, there was silence as I read out my short story for my fellow pupils.
Once I wrote a story about an old man who lived on a lake in Maine New York. His wife had died years before him and he had never been able to mend his heart. He would spend his days and nights reenacting dates he had had with her; going to their diner, walking in the park, fishing on the lake, driving through the city.
One day, he died on the lake in his boat fishing, he fell over board and the rope entwined his neck and he let himself die in the water, happily, knowing that he would finally be with his wife again. After I read that story out loud to my class, Mrs. Fitzsimons asked me to wait behind. In her very awkward and reserved way, she asked me if I ever wanted to be a writer. I told her yes, that it was my dream, that I wanted to be a famous writer and tell stories for the rest of my life and she was the first person that told me that I could, that I should and that if I worked hard enough, I would.
After secondary school I went on to University College Dublin to study English Literature and Philosophy and I had a five year plan. I wanted to complete three years in University, travel for a year and then settle down in Dublin where I would write for a newspaper or magazine as a travel writer or columnist and be engaged by the time I was 27.
I am now 25, working as a waitress for a restaurant in my home town, living with my parents, with no real plan whatsoever.
After University I went to live in San Diego California for the summer with some of my best friends. After that I came home and saved to go to Africa and do some volunteer work out there. From there I travelled around North, Central and South America and before I knew it I hadn’t been home in nearly three years. I ran out of money twice, I got robbed three times, I got scammed more times than I can remember, I cried more times than I can remember and I felt more scared than I ever have in my whole life once. I also worked as a chef twice, cooking up to 60 meals a day without any experience. I lived on an island in the Caribbean and caught lobster from a dug-out-canoe, I worked as a volcano tour guide and trekked up three different active volcanoes over 80 times, I swam with sharks, I saw endless amounts of ancient ruins, I took drugs, I partied hard, I had my heart broken, I felt lost, I felt strong, I felt loved, I felt alone and then I felt home sick.
When I first came home I felt very unsure about nearly everything. Everything had changed yet nothing had changed. I was waking up on a Monday at 12 not knowing what to do with myself. I wanted to see my friends but they had 9-5 jobs, they were living in town, saving for mortgages, planing lives with their long time boyfriends. So I got a job in Dublin in the service industry, an industry I will always love and appreciate because it feels the same about me. I worked for another four months, saved up money and bought a one way ticket back to Central America again. As I clicked confirm and pay on that flight, I remember the feeling of relief; I was going to escape again, back to my world where not really having a job or working was accepted and getting by on odd jobs was the norm.
After a fairly incredible experience in a yoga retreat in the Mexican desert I was feeling inspired and fresh from my toes to my soul but it slowly disappeared as I returned back to my comfort of living loose and travelling around without a plan or an end goal. This final trip back out saved me from my worst self. I knew I had to leave or else I would fall subject to something I have always feared; a completely lost being as a result of too much travel and instability.
I have since returned to Ireland and this time it’s been completely different.
Yes I am living at home with my Mum and Dad, working as a waitress and freelance writer when given work, yes I don’t exactly have a plan and yes my week days are still my weekends. But this time, I realised that the first and foremost important thing in my life and in anyones life is that you are happy. Happiness is something everyone in the world wants, but somewhere down the line I think the true essence of the word has been lost. I don’t know what I will be, I don’t even know how I will ever afford a family right now, but I laugh everyday and I meet wonderful people everyday.
Some of the people I work with right now have children that are turning into teenagers and as parents they are struggling to deal with that, trying desperately to sculpt their babies into strong independent thinkers with dreams and goals. But how hard is it to do that when we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people, to other parents, to other 16 year olds with bigger boobs, to more successful writers, to our friends that are making more money and have a car, to people that have a normal lifestyle and a 9-5 job with prospect of a promotion. How can we possibly concentrate on ourselves when we are trying to be what we think is the best choice, the normal choice and the most desired choice of being.
Life is an incredibly beautiful thing but it can be seriously hard sometimes, and I say that sitting from my kitchen table in my wonderful parents house with food in the fridge and a warm bed to crawl into, but it’s true. Life is hard for everyone, no matter what the circumstance, but it’s a hell of a lot easier when you stop worrying about what you’re going to be or whats going to happen, and just try to focus on being happy.
I had this kind of a conversation recently with a parent who was talking to me about the various issues they and their child was going through and I asked if he was worried. He told me that he didn’t care what his daughter became in life as long as she was a nice decent happy human, because nowadays it seems we have forgotten what that is.
I am sure I will figure it all out, I know I will figure it all out, I’m not freaking out about it or watching the clock tick by as I head into my late 20’s (eeeeeeekkkk), I’d rather enjoy the life I have been so lucky to have been given and live it all up, continue laughing and spending time with the people I love the most in the world and I think that is an alright plan for now.