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.

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  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.

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  3. 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.

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

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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?

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  7. 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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