This may very well be my year.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions and I definitely didn’t make any this year. I had no set plans or goals. I had nothing that was weighing on my shoulders that I felt I needed to change. I remember being told once that the way you spend New Years will be the way you spend your year. I spent mine hanging out with my family, my best friend, my yet-to-be-born nieces and not losing my mind partying. I spent New Year’s Day working at 6 a.m., scrubbing the kitchen at work clean and listing off things that were wrong with how my work was being run to a new friend and yet-to-be Manager to my yet-to-be Assistant Manager role.
Fast forward a month and I was promoted, that friend was promoted, and we were still working at 6 a.m., scrubbing work kitchen cleans but making progress on how things were being run. I also happened to have two nieces now and a desire to spend as much time with the people that I called family as possible.
I guess whoever said that was right.
To a point.
I turned twenty-four in a haze of scotch eggs, Guinness, and whiskey, surrounded by people I adored. I had a new tattoo on my arm to honour the passed family members I was still, often, very sad over. I was leaving for Ireland in just over a month.
When I had originally made the decision to travel, I made it purely on the basis of having always wanted to go to Ireland. I hadn’t planned it to be life-changing, soul-searching, or in any way a discovery journey. I wanted to see green hills and drink Guinness in its home and learn some history. That was it.
I think the thing about not planning for something, not searching for something, is that, if you need it, it searches you out. I spent that month in Ireland finding out exactly who I was and exactly who I wanted to be.
I laughed, I sang, I danced, I cried, I learned.
I can’t begin to explain to you the way I felt throughout that month, the way my chest felt increasingly fuller as the days passed and my heart swelled. I can’t explain to you every thought that occurred to me, every moment of self-discovery that I encountered. I can’t even explain to myself what happened over there. All I know is that I came back a better person for it.
I remember the last night I went out in Dublin and its perfection. The bar was full, the music live and loud, the people dancing. A woman from where my grandfather was from (one of the reasons for aforementioned tattoo) befriended me and gave me a hug when she left. When I walked home, the sun was setting and it was one of the most brilliant skies I’d ever seen. It was as if the entire world had aligned itself for me over Ireland to give me exactly what I needed.
The next day I went back to Trinity College where I had first felt that chest swelling sensation to say my thanks. I sat on the steps of one of the buildings near the green, my legs stretched out, feet resting on cobbles. I held back tears as my mind told me, repeated to me, “Remember this feeling, remember what this has done for you.”
I came across a picture of my feet on those cobbles a couple of weeks ago that I had taken on that last day and recalled those tears, those repeated, inspiring thoughts. I felt it all come back to me and I let myself sit and daydream for awhile, leading myself through the streets of Dublin, down its alleyways and over the River Liffey. I remembered that who I was there was exactly who I am here, and I can be just as fulfilled and inspired without the cobbles.
After all, you never forget your first love and Toronto is mine. So what else was I to do but to find that love again, move out of the suburbs, and plant myself directly where I’ve always wanted to be?
Within three days of searching I found an apartment exactly on my budget, exactly where I wanted to be in the city, with everything I could have asked for. And again I thanked the world for aligning for me and wondered how I ever deserved to be so lucky.
At this point in my year I had met two new babies, missed my family and friends so terribly that when I got back I never wanted to leave them again, took myself on an unintentional self-discovery mission across an ocean, and left home. I had also cut all of my hair off. It may not seem like a big deal but if there is anything more telling of someone who has just had or is about to have some sort of life change, it’s a drastic altering of appearance.
Then I did what I thought was unthinkable before I left for Ireland. I found another job. On top of that, I found another job in the baking world, a world that I was convinced that I had left for a very, very long time. A world that I was partly sure I never wanted to enter again.
And I never felt more sure about a decision than I did about this one.
It is the perfect job, practically made for me. I thought for awhile that when my grandma died, my love of baking died with her. It was an odd thing – to suddenly realize how intertwined the two things were for me. People asked me to make them cakes and my revulsion at the idea made me want to vomit. People asked me when I was going to start baking again and I just wanted to cry. I could have said something but what could anyone have said when I told them that the thing was, was that even though they’re asking me for cakes, one of the most important women in my life wasn’t anymore? How do you battle that?
You don’t, and that was the problem. I needed to battle it myself.
I’m not sure how it happened but I eventually found that love again. Well, I guess if I’m going to hazard a guess I would say that the whole month alone with nothing but my own thoughts was probably a pretty big player in the situation. Without consciously thinking it I realized that by denying myself the one thing that has always made me, and other people in my life, so happy was a disservice not only to myself, but also to my grandmother. To somehow blame her for my lost direction was unfair and ultimately a false accusation.
I just realized that sometimes people get lost. And sometimes they get found. Sometimes, they find other things.
I thought for awhile that I has just found something else – a life in the hospitality industry in a management role. I thought that was my new thing and that I was happier with it than I was with baking. Then one day I saw my parents, my sister, my rock-solid best friend, and my two nieces and remembered how loved I was. Then I cut off my hair and found an apartment and walked down the street into a bakery I used to work at and caught a glimpse of those ovens.
Those ones in particular weren’t calling to me but I suddenly knew others ones were.
Thank you to everyone who has ever sent me words of kindness, hugs of strength, and stood by me through every single decision I’ve ever made in regards to my life. Your patience has been enviable and your belief in me has been more than I ever asked for.
I thought I had come home when I got off that plane in Toronto.
I hadn’t yet. Not fully.
But I have now.