I woke on the morning of the devastating earthquake in Japan in March of 2011.
The reason this stands out in my mind is because I awoke and, by that night I’d made up my mind – I had realized it was necessary to shake things up in my life in a majorly important way. I wasn’t taking the life-changing step lightly or making that decision lightly at all.
This was a big deal to me, who had moved in with her first serious boyfriend, less than three months prior. The fact that I was ready to leave, not to try and work on the relationship, this was significant. I wasn’t making my mind up to pack it in, on just some sort of spur-of-the-moment whim.
I hated doing what I was about to do.
Although I loved him, I wasn’t sure I liked him most of the time. How did I get here? Just what did I think I was doing? This was my own fault, not his. I had allowed myself to end up in the wrong place, rather than just admit it was the wrong thing to begin with.
It’s hard when you don’t know how to stop the momentum of a certain situation. Rather than speak up and end it, when you know something’s not right, you (that is to say “I”) let it go far longer than it should have gone.
Now here I was, in a strange city, hours from the home I had always known. I had to get out before things progressed any further. Finally, I had the courage to admit it. I don’t know, still to this day, where I found the nerve. It certainly wasn’t like me, timid as I could often be, to do what I did.
I ended a nearly two-year long relationship and I came back home. I was back where I’d started from. I had failed. I was terrified. What next?
But yet I was elated too. I could live on my own, for the first time in my life. I could figure out who I was and what I truly wanted, for the first time. Would this include travel as self-discovery? Who could say at that juncture?
The tears and the adrenaline came and went, rotating shifts, as the following hours and days commenced. I didn’t handle all of it as well as I could have. I regretted that, but I was optimistic for my future.
I saw, in my mind’s eye, what that future might look like. I was single and the possibilities were endless. With mega amounts of support from friends and family, I stepped forward, into a summer full of fun and new experiences. This would end with a surprise snap decision of a different kind.
One of my oldest friends had been home for the summer, from her education abroad, and we were having a blast catching up. Years earlier, many a teenage phone conversation between, we had included long talks over our future plans, our dream to one day visit Africa and Ireland.
To this day, neither of us has made it to the former, but the latter was where my friend had ventured off to, after being accepted to medical school in the land of green and Shamrocks.
She was the adventurous, free-spirited sort I’d always wished I could be. She was the one whom I’d long since admired for all those things. Now she was heading back to Ireland a few weeks ahead of schedule, with a friend from her early college days, to tour around for a few weeks before classes started up again.
At the beginning of one of our final phone calls she just happened to mention this and by the end of the call I’d jumped at the idea of joining them on the trip.
I had two weeks to get everything together, to be ready to join them on this once-in-a-lifetime journey, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by. There was nothing holding me back.
We love many different things in our lives: people, places, things. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in loving another person, and before we know it we’ve lost the familiar thread of what it means to love ourselves.
I needed to see the place I’d loved, for so long, even as I could not explain why I loved it so much. Ireland, for me, was where I would find myself again – I knew it. I would soon fall in love with the friendly, warm, open people and the wild, vast, incredible landscapes, cities, and scenery of that island.
Upon my return, I would be better able to love, not only myself but another person, for better or for worse, all the more unafraid to open up my heart once more.
Love and travel, for me, go hand in hand in all this. And so I firmly believe things happen for a reason and we are in charge of our destinies, all at the same time if we have the courage to use it to our advantage.
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