Over Newfoundland

I am flying west to New York, stretching five bonus hours out of this bonus Leap day. This flight marks the end of my sabbatical from responsibility, and I am glad to have the privacy to absorb it. Tonight I see my Canadian sweetheart and my Brooklyn pals again. Tomorrow I start work.

Some friends are disappointed that I seem to be sliding back into the slot I left. They feel stifled in their own lives, maybe, and enjoyed my freedom vicariously. What’s the point of time out, they ask me, if you don’t make radical changes afterwards?

I understand their sense of betrayal. My new job is broadly similar to the one I left, and I’ll be living close to my old neighbourhood, seeing my old friends. But the changes are inside. This expanse of time and experiences has shaped me more than a token career or city shift could reflect. I had a privilege that is rarer than a college education, and, to my thinking, more valuable.

(It is very hard to write about this without sounding painfully earnest and possibly sick-making.)

I had the time to grieve a husband who is still dear to me, and to count the million billion mistakes I made.
I learned how to be by myself, and see for myself.
I learned how to sit still. I am bad at it.
I made friends from different lives. There are so many fine people out there.
I discovered how little I need to live happily. Fancy dinners and toys are no longer on the list. Nor is running water, if the lake is clean.
I learned how to pretend to be brave, which is nearly as good as courage.
I saw different ways of bringing up children, and I hope to make bolder mothering mistakes than indoor, anxious cossetting.
I visited old and new friends on two continents, and atoned for years of putting office work before them.
I fell in love.
I made up with Ireland. Now I have a place to miss, and go back to.
I had the time to read hard books.
I started to pay attention to politics and freedom.
I lost my puppyish infatuation with America. (But I still heart New York.)
I learned to be an ounce less than completely selfish. (Occasionally. When it suits me.)
I got to know my parents as an adult. I finally grasped that their lives as teachers are more valuable than any CEO’s.
I made memories of Lake Superior that that will feed me when I’m old.
I felt, first-hand, compassion, grief, love, outrage, anger, and gratitude.
I got the chance to write.
I faced some fears.
I found I had an untold number of assumptions and prejudices. Many more lurk, still invisible to me.
I learned how to trust people to be kind. They mostly are.
I learned that atoms trump bits. Nothing beats face-to-face contact, which is why babies don’t IM.
I accepted that I’ll never be wealthy. It still scares me, especially in America.
I earned some crows’ feet, and the conviction not to Botox them.
Somewhere along the way I woke up as a grown woman.
I want to find a way be a net contributor.

And oh, I will miss my freedom dreadfully. I will miss the space to read and write and think and talk. But we’re over Newfoundland, and a new life waits.

12 thoughts on “Over Newfoundland”

  1. Yeah,
    How dare you settle down! We need someone to live our lives for us.
    I look forward to seeing how you will adapt to Dilbertland.
    Try and treat it as amusing rather than evil.
    Mere middle age is making me cast a jaundiced eye on most of what my contemporaries think of as being important. And that’s without the benefit of spending a year in far flung places.
    I don’t think you have wasted the last years.


  2. All the very best to you Dervala on the next chapter …btw … your introspective posts such as this only just endear you to (at least) me all the more.


  3. Not sick at all. That was lovely. Keep learning the good lessons. Hopefully the rest of us can learn with you, too.


  4. And when you discover the corners of serenity deep in the heart of Manhattan, please pass them along for us to share. I’ve one at 414 E 14th Street but it’s stacked on top of seven floors of primary school students.


  5. Touched somewhere inside me, moved to respond, and wish you well for the next “chapter” in your life.


  6. Bernie, if shes shares serenity she may lose serentiy. Dervala writes a popular blog, these days.


  7. Given your outsize spirit, Dervala, I have no doubt that you’ll be transcending the confines of life “behind the fence”–i.e., the job. As for Meetup, they’ve managed to snag a prize.

    Thanks for sharing your remarkable year of growth so memorably! Looking forward to Tales From The Apple.


  8. That’s a rather bold list of “accomplishments.” Don’t a few of them need toning down just a bit? After all one should be limited in a listing of life accomplishments to three or four, don’t you think?


  9. Who said anything about life accomplishments? 🙂 This is just an unordered list of things I saw and learned over two years of forced wandering. I was glad to get the chance to sum up.

    But even if it were a resume, I’m intrigued that you think “one should be limited” to three or four life accomplishments. By whom? For what? Seems such an achievement to get from babyhood to old age that I hope to pick up more than four things along the way…don’t you?

    I guess if it were on the level of “won the Nobel Prize for x” or “gained a doctorate”, maybe a list of three would cover it for most (and I wouldn’t even get that far). Depends how you define it.


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