I think about Ireland like I would an ex-lover; it changed me, taught me, got to know me, and then, at the precise moment when it became irreversibly part of me, we both realized that we had to leave each other. In the way that a whirlwind romance can alter everything you ever thought you wanted, Ireland took me, tore me up, and pieced me back together in a better, more concrete version of myself. On my last afternoon in Dublin I sat on the steps of a building at Trinity College and cried. It wasn’t dramatic or attention-seeking, they were simple tears running down my cheeks. I was grateful, saddened yet still a sort of happy, and completely in love with my life. And, knowing we were going to part, I thanked that country for giving me all of itself in exchange for no promises of the same from me.
I have spoken about Ireland many times since I have come home. But what I have never dared to mention were the moments when I sat completely alone and completely absorbed myself in everything I had been running from for what felt like forever. Those moments where I stared down at my itty bitty tattoo and felt the meaning catch in my throat, remembering everything it signified. Those moments where I felt like I was standing on top of the world, staring at rolling green hills that seemed infinite despite being in a country so small, and ultimately surrendering to the loneliness I had been feeling for so long. Those moments where the shuffled songs forced me to recognize how I felt, from “Transatlanticism” during my first fight with homesickness, and then, on my last weekend as I sat on a beach staring at the ocean, “Broken Open”.
Ireland made me realize that I wish life had dealt better cards for my uncle so that I could have known him better before he died and so that my mom could have had her brother the way she remembered him as children. It made me accept that my grandparents were gone and no matter how many times I said I was fine or moved on like it was over, it was definitely not over. It showed me that I was worth adventure, and love, and mystery, and pushing past my limits.
In all of this, it made itself the pinnacle of love, the benchmark for all future relationships.
So much has changed since I flew back home. I moved out, cut my hair, made new friends, and started forging ahead.
Then I met him.
And everything changed again.
In the last year I have had the greatest man by my side and he has changed me, taught me, got to know me, and pushed me. He has shown me my true worth and has given me more than I ever thought I deserved. He has been there for so many dreams coming true and, for many of them, was the reason behind them happening.
I have changed friendships and jobs and read better books and finally tried to learn the difference between lay, lie, and laid. I have come back to what I am truly meant to do. I have discovered that love can be the easiest thing in the world and then, suddenly, become so terribly hard.
I have realized that I can make myself really difficult to love, but that the right person will love you anyways and still make you feel that it is because, not despite.
I do not credit him for everything that has changed within me but I do know that, without him, I would be a different person right now and that is upsetting – I really like who I have become.
What I never knew then, when I was on that final plane into Toronto, was that there is a big difference between arriving and coming home. I never knew that sometimes you will come back to where you’re from and feel like you’re not quite done yet. I never knew that travel could break your heart as much as it could heal you.
I never knew until someone came along and proved it to me that I could truly love another person as much as I loved Ireland, and he could love me just as much.
And now, after everything that has happened, I am finally home.