Living Candidly #4: Leaving Everything I Knew Gave Me My Life Back

Living Candidly #4: Leaving Everything I Knew Gave Me My Life Back

What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then.People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

William Least Heat-Moon

One tap. One link follow. Three swipes to scroll. 

That’s all it took to find out about the Working Holiday Visa in Ireland. 

I remember it vividly. I was splayed on the couch in a rental beach house, on vacation with my family just one month after graduation from college. I was coming off the worst five months of my life. After a brutal depression that had cost me friends, love, and a complete sense of self, I found I was back in the pub job in my hometown I had sworn was for one summer back in 2014 to fund my study abroad — it was now 2016. And while I was putting on a brave face for my family amidst the shambling aftermath that I found my life in around me, each day brought a tightening claustrophobia. I felt my air running thin, and my ghosts were hot on my trail. 

Now that it’s 2019, we all know that the internet is algorithmic black magic when it comes to supplying advertisements that prey on our history searches. I’m not sure, however, what I was searching for that dropped Stint Gap Year into my Instagram advertisements — and no, this is not an advertisement. Yet when the image of green pastures and smiling faces popped up, I stalled for .5 seconds long enough to read the caption. 

One tap. One link follow. Three swipes to scroll. 

I sat up a bit straighter, alert that my mother was ten feet away. She had been less than encouraging about my desires to attend graduate school in England — not just for the financial reasons, but also for due reasons after my mental break. I quickly saved the URL in my favorites and vowed to revisit it that night. 

I applied that night in my bed, glow illuminating my apprehensive face as I pressed submit. Three weeks later, I took a phone interview with Aoife. Within another twenty-four hours, I was told I was into the program. The program would — for a fee — guide me through the visa application process, provide initial housing in Dublin, and set me up with a temporary employment agency should I wish to go that route. 

Approaching my parents with caution, I presented the reasoning. It offered maturation opportunities. It would give me unparalleled experiences. It was Ireland, home of my ancestors. I was ready for a battle, but none came. 

On September 28, 2016, I boarded a plane at Dulles International Airport, Washington D.C., with two suitcases and no real idea what I was getting into. 


Over the course of eight months, I experienced more of life than I had in the cumulative of the preceding twenty-two years. From the get-go, it was an immersive experience. I dove into a community of ex-pats my first night, the program providing me a community to in which to envelope myself. The following weekend, I traveled to Connemara and the Aran Islands. I would continue to explore both The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland throughout my time: Kilkenny, Blarney, the Ring of Kerry, Cobh, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede bridge (pictured). The ease of access to Europe and the camaraderie found in my new friends and fellow travelers propelled me to new destinations: Morocco, Spain, Belgium, Scotland, and England, where I would ultimately decide to pursue my Master’s degree. 

I was pushed to challenge the very ideas that I had taken as dogma my entire life, to think for myself in ways that I previously had never given due chance. I was allowed, for the very first time in memory, to be an individual. There was no one to answer to and everywhere to experiment. 

I am not being hyperbolic when I say that being in Ireland, taking the chance on myself to be the traveler that I had always wanted to be, was the antidote to all the woes that had built up around me for so long. It quite literally gave me my will to live back. And while, yes, it was an incredible risk to choose something so potentially — and admittedly, at times, realistically — isolating, it also gave me the chance to determine the exact boundaries, forms, and bricks that build the person that I wanted to pursue being from that day forward. 

I moved back from Dublin, my home, with a certainty of self. I felt confident in my navigation skills, whereas before I would use GPS for everything. I could manage eating a meal alone or attending a concert by myself (something I do all too frequently now because I love it). I learned how to handle myself professionally in many settings, having juggled jobs from medical records to receptionist to copyeditor on varying bases. I gained political opinions based in my own thought, based in my own experiences. I learned to open my heart to more people than I thought I could, and I’m so grateful for it. 

I’m writing this today because I often find that I take this experience for granted. It gets overshadowed by the glitzier things I’ve done since — graduate school, a real career. But the humbler times of living paycheck to paycheck, scraping by to travel: those are the ones that shaped me. And of that I need to be reminded. 

Travel saved me.

Candidly Dating #1: The 85% Rule

We dive into things head first hoping for something more than we knew we could be. You didn’t have any cruel intentions, I thought I mentioned I want more than you.

“85%,” Loote feat. gnash

About three days before Christmas Day 2015, I was told by my boyfriend of six months — my first boyfriend ever — that I could not be a priority in his life. There is something incredibly confidence altering about hearing that from someone whose opinion shapes the way you view your own world. The damage that those words had not only on my own self-esteem but on our relationship and the ways I would view romantic relationships in that moment and in the weeks, months, and (unfortunately) years to come is something that I still feel the reverberations of to this day, despite all the comfort and action my friends and family have tried to instill in reparation.

The short of it is that I was giving 100% of myself, limiting my whole self to fit the needs of someone who realistically was giving an operable 85% in return. While I had no boundaries set, no visible lines in the sand, he did.

Now, it’s obviously been some time since this relationship ended. And while I still feel its effects, it has given me some key skills in negotiating the romantic playing field in my mid-twenties. The first being: always match interest, never over-invest without some indication of reciprocation.

Just yesterday, I was asked on a date by someone who I have reasonable interest in based off of what is admittedly a short conversation on a dating app — it is 2019, after all. We made plans for today at 3:00 PM, with him confirming this morning at 11:00 AM that he would send a location closer to the meet-up. An hour and a half before 3:00 PM, I messaged asking where, only to hear back he was doing errands and be asked if I was free tonight. While this could be completely innocuous, the fact that I likely wouldn’t have heard if I hadn’t texted showed lack of intent. And I was already dressed. Once more, I found myself at a higher interest than the partner.

This isn’t a phenomena limited to my own faults. I’ve watched friends give their all to guys — and girls, don’t worry — who clearly don’t see them as an equally viable partner in the long term. While it could easily be solved with a clear discussion, it often takes a harsh wake-up call in a few unfortunate situations to train a shrewd mind until finding that equilibrium.

So today, I am dateless; and honestly, I’m fine with it. A bit laughing at myself, just because this is something that I try to avoid, but other than that, I’ll just listen to “85%” by Loote a few times and then move forward with my day. It’s a gorgeous Saturday and being spared someone who doesn’t see you as worthwhile is a blessing more than anything.

On the rise of standards and decline of romantic action

On the rise of standards and decline of romantic action

…there is nothing romantic about love. Only the most naïve believe it will save them. Only the hardiest of us will survive it. And yet. And yet! We believe in love because we want to believe in it. Because really what else is there, amid all our glorious follies and urges and weaknesses and stumbles? The magic, the hope, the gorgeous idea of it. Because, when the lights go out and we sit waiting in the dark, what do our fingers seek? Who do we reach for?

The Last Romantics, Tara Conklin

If you were to put a gun to my head and force me to open that hidden folder on my phone, you would learn that I am an active user of five dating apps. You read that correctly: five. How many dates have I been on in the last month? A whopping zero. And yet, every night before bed I sit on my phone and swipe — left, left, right, left — until the profiles blend into one undeterminable blur. Am I too picky? Probably? But is that a bad thing? Or is it just something ingrained in the population when it comes to selecting a “life partner” — a phrase that I have actually come to hate instinctively?

Of course, there’s the obvious option of meeting someone in real life. “Rose, just go out and meet people,” you may say. That, reader, is easier said than done. And it offers the same outcomes as dating apps (in my case, a lot of ghosting). At least with the apps, you have the dependable knowledge of what exactly the other person is looking for: no guessing, no head games.

In late 2018, Match.com released its annual Singles in America study, this year helmed by anthropologist Helen Fisher, with the mildly shocking discovery that Millennials as a whole are actually having less sex than their predecessors, despite all the movements towards “no strings attached” language and norms (see all the data in an article in The Atlantic). I say mildly shocking because this decline has actually been on the data forefront for years among wealthy first world countries for several reasons: shifting attitudes towards in-person approaches (is it creepy or is it flirtatious?); the rise of access to a wide selection of pornography; Millennial discomfort with nakedness (I’m not kidding), etc.

I have been very, very open about my romantic searches and endeavors on The Mindful Millennial. Perhaps too open — sorry Mom & Dad. But growing up spawned (quite literally) from their example, a marriage that never once fractured towards divorce in the thirty years of adoration, continued respect, and puppy love infatuation…well, it sets a standard that makes it hard to not wish for that level of intimacy with a partner.

My trial and errors have led me to a point in my life that often results in sitting on my friend Rebecca’s couch with a heavy pour of cheap white whine in a plastic long-stem wine glass with heavier complaints of falling too deep in infatuation with men who reciprocate less than half of the effort. And yet, she listens and contributes her own mirrored behaviors of her own amorous challenges, leaving us quite honestly fulfilling the cliché of the blind leading the blind.

When we heard of Vanessa Valerio and Anita Flores’ Party of Two monthly comedy show having a spring edition for (cheap cheap tickets) Saturday, we quickly hopped onboard with the tagline:

“If you’ve ever watched You’ve Got Mail, Maid In Manhattan, Kate and Leopold, Serendipity, Hitch (F*CK THAT MOVIE, SERIOUSLY), or any rom-com that takes place in NYC and thought “dating in New York isn’t NEARLY this fun and sexy,” then PARTY OF TWO will be your new favorite monthly show! Hosts Vanessa Valerio and Anita Flores are bringing some of New York City’s best storytellers and comedians together to recount their absurd experiences about dating in the modern world.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/party-of-two-spring-edition-tickets-59145844814#

Perhaps it sounds too much like a “get rich quick” scheme, but for dating. Perhaps it sounds too much like a loosely thought through knock-off Love Actually (first of all, how dare you). But what it turned out to be was truly a reminder that there are people who will gather in the basement of a sex toy shop (I’m not kidding) to commiserate in the fact that singledom and dating are equally brutal but the realities of dating a person ill-suited for you are far more debilitating, although humorous when presented properly. From comedienne Tracy Soren’s honest confessions on why — and I’m not making this up — “getting my ass eaten is my nightmare” to storyteller Susan Kent recounting her two great loves and how she finally, finally moved on, it was a night of humor and depth.

Better yet, when hosts Vanessa and Anita asked people to raise their hands if they’re single, almost everyone in the room obliged and lifted. A shock to this Maryland girl whose parents were at a wedding for a — get this — 22 year old that afternoon (nothing to make you feel like a 25 year old spinster than a fresh faced bride).

In all fairness, at the end of the night, I was back on Bumble, hitting my rhythm of swipes with the same frequency as the nights before. Because there’s still that hope that Conklin talked about. And one day, I’ll have that person to reach for in the darkness. But for the meantime, I’ll have wine on Rebecca’s couch and friendship.

That doesn’t sound too bad, to be honest.