Clare view

The other day I came across a notebook that I brought from Los Angeles but hadn’t looked at in ages. It was a journal of notes that started in 2008 and ended before I moved to Ireland, which was on March 4, 2010. The last few pages are my frantic “to do” lists for my move, which included such chores as burn 10 CDs a day every day to iTunes, go to packing supply store, and don’t forget your PASSPORT!!!

What’s more interesting was a list of goals I’d set for myself back in 2008. They ranged from things I wanted to accomplish that day, like transcribe Tahiti interviews (for a story I was writing for a food/travel magazine) to tasks I wanted to finish within a month like clean up patio and buy plants for it. But further down the list were some life goals:

· I want to write a novel

· I want to be in a committed relationship with a great guy

· I want to buy a condo/house in Pasadena

· I want to travel more or live abroad

· I want to earn $100,000 per year

dinner group

Looking back on some of these, I realize that even when I wrote them my heart wasn’t in it. Buying a house in Pasadena, for example, was something I put down because I felt at my age I should own something and I already lived in Pasadena so that was as good a place as any. I figured if I could make $100K per year, it would allow me to do more fun things so I could distract myself from the fact that I’d definitely be hating whatever job would actually pay that much money. I knew I wouldn’t make that kind of dough being a freelance journalist, which I was at the time. So I’d have to go back to online marketing, which I’d done for five years before going back to freelance journalism. When I had that marketing job, I was meeting friends for happy hour drinks three times a week and spending lots of money on weekend getaways…all coping mechanisms for the job I detested.

View from Balcony

But I felt passionate about writing a novel, meeting a great guy and traveling or living abroad – those were dreams I could stand behind, but they all felt silly and unrealistic. I was way too cynical to believe in such tales as Eat, Pray, Love; in fact, I was always quick to scoff or roll my eyes when such chick-lit inspired fantasies dared cross my mind. Still, I would occasionally strategize on how to make at least one of those ideas a reality, mainly the travel option. It seemed the most accessible since I was dabbling in culinary travel journalism at the time.

When I visited Ireland for a story in mid-2009, I took an additional 10 days to visit some old friends in Collon, a small village near Drogheda. I still can’t articulate exactly what it was about Ireland that inspired me, but by the time I got back to Los Angeles I was researching visas and crunching numbers. I applied for a writer/artist permission and within three months, I was approved. Before I knew it, I was on a plane via a one-way ticket to Ireland to live for at least one year. Thanks to the help of my Collon friends (a big shout-out to the Roche family, without whom I would still be cowering in the corner of Dublin Airport), I had an apartment, a car and the makings of a new life within two weeks of arriving.

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What a difference one year makes. I signed with a literary agent three months after moving here. The book deal hasn’t come yet, but it’s a start. A few months later, I met an incredibly kind, wildly intelligent and dedicated man (Mountaineering Man to you all!). We’re approaching our six-month anniversary and I couldn’t be happier. I recently renewed my visa for another year, with an option to renew again. The house in Pasadena is no longer a priority (not that it ever really was) and to be honest, I would be fine making enough money to pay my bills and have a little fun here and there – I don’t need a six-figure income to feel fulfilled.

It hasn’t been easy and of course I miss my family and friends back in America. I’ve had a difficult time finding writing work here and there are days when I throw my hands in the air and threaten to give up (just ask MM!). On the really bad days all I can see is the smeared dog poop on the sidewalks and the bratty little tweens who graffiti my building and I think, “What is this place?” But despite all that and the unrelenting recession and unpredictable and often cold weather, Ireland is my dream come true: a crazy stroke of luck that’s literally changed my life.

One year ago today: A Good Start