“Does it ever bother you that your life is over?”
My daughter, Kaitlin, didn’t break stride as she looked over her shoulder to ask her question.
We were making our way back to the hotel after lunch. Kaitlin and her friend Jules led my husband, Lief, our 4-year-old son, Jackson, and me slowly along the bayside promenade in Galway. Lief and I strolled arm in arm, smiling as Jackson darted off after another seagull only to return a minute later disappointed that he still couldn’t catch one.
To our left, beyond a low stone wall, the ice-green Irish Sea churned. On our right was the city’s 800-year-old cobblestoned central square, where we’d spent the morning poking around antique shops. For me, it was a day as good as days get. What was Kaitlin talking about?
“What in the world do you mean?” I called out over the stiff ocean breeze. Maybe I was kidding myself, but I wasn’t afraid of my looming 40th birthday. As far as I was concerned, I was just getting started.
Kaitlin turned to face me.
“Well, you know,” she said with a grin, “you’re married. You have two kids. You’ve had the same job forever. Your life is what it’s going to be. Everything for you is figured out. And now you’re about to be 40 years old. What more could there be?”
Ouch. My 14-year-old daughter was putting things into harsh perspective.
On one hand, she was right. I’d found the man I intended to spend the rest of my life with. I had two children. I’d been working at the same company since before Kaitlin was born—from her point of view, forever.
On the other hand, my life on this eve of my 40th birthday was unrecognizable compared with what it had been not that many years before. Kaitlin didn’t remember our days in New Freedom, Pennsylvania—a time when my preoccupation with climbing the corporate ladder I’d set myself on left little time for anything else, least of all leisurely seaside strolls—but, as hard as I’d tried to put it all behind me, I sure did. My life had been reinvented since then, and, taking in the scene surrounding me, I could only imagine more renaissance ahead, both for me and for Ireland, the country I’d adopted as my home.
I’d been an inadvertent immigrant to the Emerald Isle in the age of the Celtic Tiger, a time when great amounts of wealth were being generated, more money than this island had ever known. Since I’d arrived six years earlier with my new husband, my 8-year-old daughter, and my business plan, the Irish had been busy covering their ancient green land with suburban track homes, shopping malls, and fast-food franchises. Local pubs were being replaced by multi-story dance clubs, and discount mortgage brokers were opening offices in every town and village across the land.
Ireland, like me, had a deep yearning for acknowledgement. She, like me, ached to compete in the global business arena. Over the seven years I lived in this country, I watched it race enthusiastically in the direction of its own demise, speeding toward an economic cliff.
But I’m getting ahead of my story.
How did I end up in Ireland in the first place? As is too often the case, the answer to that question had to do with a man.