We tend to see life as a journey on a winding road with twists and turns, ups and downs over which we have little if any control. All we can do is keep going. However, along this road we sometimes find ourselves at a cross road. The path diverges, the road splits into different, sometimes opposing directions, like the boreens and roadways of West Cork, which baffle visitors when I drive them around.
Some crossroads are self-evident. They are the ones we acknowledge and celebrate: going to school, getting your leaving cert, moving house, starting a new job…all the baptisms, communions, weddings and funerals that publicly mark a life change. However, along the way are many crossroads that we don’t mark. They are not as evident. They creep up so slowly that you don’t realise that you’ve spent months just standing at that intersection, suspended in unresolved decisions.
It seems to me that many of my friends and family found themselves at a crossroad this year and many have decided to ‘choose the path less travelled’. My daughters have all decided to travel afar, some for an extended period, some with no definite return date. To my chagrin they have chosen to go to South East Asia and beyond. For the first time, no one will be home at Christmas. It is sad, but also exciting to see my daughters move on along their own chosen paths. I am very proud of them.
Friends have gone off to work in far-flung places, or have stayed home, but decided to run for office, start a business, or go back to education. I have been particularly inspired by my friend Anja Bakker, who after years of telling me that she wanted to walk from Clonakilty to Rome, strapped her harp to her back and did just that in 160 days. She is the first woman in recorded history to have crossed the Alps with a harp on her back, and I am as proud as punch to call her my friend.
I was lucky that in my early thirties I had the chance to ask myself where I was going and why I was going there. The job I had as a television news producer came to an abrupt halt when the company I worked for closed down, just as I was leaving on a long family holiday. As my colleagues raced to secure a new job, I sat back and had a good long think. That started me on a new road, which led to having a fourth daughter, moving to Ireland and becoming a writer. I have been on that chosen path for the last 28 years…
Now I find that those objectives have been achieved. In fact, it’s been a few years that I’ve been standing at a crossroads wondering what to do next. As I stood there I’ve become involved in local projects, political causes, and a more active activism than I could do when my daughters were small. It has been uplifting, life affirming and has led me to push through the stagnation and take my life in a different direction.
Long story short, getting to know people in our local direct provision centre has highlighted the pressing crisis of displaced persons on our planet, campaigning to repeal the Eighth has shown me the power of getting involved. Both made me want to put the skills I have to a higher use than writing another historical romance novel. Having completed a TEFL course, I will be going to Northern Greece for five weeks to work with ‘We are here’, a community and recreation centre in Nea Kavalea Refugee Camp. I will be teaching English and working in the Women’s Space they have created to provide a safe space for the women of the camp to learn, relax and socialise.
And so, dear West Cork People readers, my next column will be very different from my usual November moans about the miserable West Cork weather. I will have been where the road less travelled takes me, and I will have new stories to tell,
If you would like to learn more about WE ARE HERE and make a donation to help, please go to the link:
In the meantime I’ll leave you with Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’