The final countdown…

Next week at this time, I’ll be “The New Dubliner In Paris”. After dreaming about living in Paris for years, after all the false starts over the past year, my feelings are… mixed.

And I blame Dublin.

I was cocky when I decided to move to Dublin five years ago. I thought it was going to be so easy. But I didn’t take the time I should have to process the enormity of what I was doing. So, when it finally hit me (in a hotel room in London the night before my official arrival in Dublin), it shook me to my core, sending me into a months-long spiral of panic, anxiety and depression the likes of which I’d never experienced before.

I like to think I kept it fairly well hidden at work (no idea if I actually did) but I have never felt so completely alone and scared in my life. I had no friends yet, so I would cry on the phone to my sister and my parents everyday. I would wake up in the middle of the night, nearly every night, just gripped in panic.

I finally started to turn the corner when, after crying on the phone to my sister for the umpteenth time, she broke it down for me: “Shannon, the absolute worst case scenario here is that you come home.”

And she was right. That advice, along with a xanax prescription, gave me the freedom to really start living in Dublin. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, no biggie.

Now, five years on, moving to Paris is stirring up the same feelings in me. Though it’s more the anticipation of panic that is wrecking my head right now. Because the anxiety and panic caught me so off guard with my Dublin move, I’m actually having anxiety about the possibility of anxiety – and yes, that is as exhausting as it sounds.

But the Paris move is different in many ways. I’m moving someplace that I know really, really well. I have a circle of friends there already. I’m not moving to start a new job. Doesn’t mean I’m not scared though. Doesn’t mean I haven’t needed a xanax or two as I’ve packed up my Dublin house and said good-bye to my friends. Leaving Dublin makes me, in a word, sad. But I know that I am not done with this city yet. I have too many friends here, I have business ties here, and I do love it here.

The same way I still consider myself a New Yorker more than 10 years after moving away, I will always consider myself a Dubliner. But, much as I love Dublin, Paris is something that I need to do. I do not want to look back on my life thirty years from now and see a chance not taken. I would rather face my fear than live with regret.

And the same advice that my sister gave me five years ago still holds true – worst case scenario, I come home.

Only now, home means Dublin.

 

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Write It On Your Heart…

I tried something new during the course of 2017. Everyday (okay, nearly every day) I wrote down on a slip of paper something that happened during that day to make me happy. I can’t remember where I read about this practice but it’s about finding your gratitude, your peace, your happiness – even if it’s something small. I didn’t turn into a Pollyanna or anything – I’m far too cynical and sarcastic for that –  but I did enjoy reflecting on my day and finding a moment that made it happy. Some days were easier than others, of course. But I think most people would find that even on the darkest of days, there exists some sliver of happiness.

I randomly picked ten slips of paper to see what made me happy this past year. They were mostly small things, insignificant even. Had I not written them down, I probably would have forgotten they even happened. But as I read these scribbles, I found myself smiling and these moments made me happy for a second time:

  • January 23 – AFTERNOON NAP I love naps. They are decadent, they are relaxing, they always make me happy.
  • February 22 –  LISTENED TO “DEAR EVAN HANSEN” FOR THE FIRST TIME This and “Hamilton” have been life-changing for me and I haven’t even seen them on stage yet – that’s for 2018!
  • March 9 – ONLY ONE EMAIL IN MY INBOX THIS MORNING Is there anything more freeing than not having an onslaught of emails greeting you at the start of your work day?
  • March 31 – FIDDLE LESSON I am a truly horrible fiddle player. My lessons didn’t make my neighbors happy I’m sure, but they did bring me joy.
  • April 15 – LIE IN ON A SATURDAY MORNING ‘Nuff said.
  • May 27 – RAINY DAY IN DUBLIN I’m one of the few who actually likes the weather in Dublin. And I love a cozy, rainy day.
  • September 23 – MY NEPHEW FACETIMED ME SO I COULD WATCH HIM PUT LEGOS TOGETHER Yes, it was beyond boring. But I also loved every mundane second of it.
  • October 16 – RODE OUT THE HURRICANE WITH A FRIEND As natural disasters go, this hurricane proved to be just a windy afternoon spent drinking wine with a friend.
  • November 2 – FRIEND SUPPORTIVE OF PARIS MOVE This person is not only my dear friend but my business partner and her instantaneous support of me when I told her my plans meant the world to me.
  • December 10 – FACETIME CHAT WITH FRIEND As I prepare to leave Dublin, this chat really resonated with me. It was with a friend who left Dublin more than three years ago. The fact that we’ve maintained a close friendship despite living in different countries reassures me that my friends in Dublin will remain a part of my life even when I am in Paris.

It really wasn’t hard to come up with a happy moment every day. Some days, many days, I had a hard time picking just one. It was a nice way to spend the year and I plan to keep up the ritual in 2018.

I hope that all of you have started 2018 with at least one happy moment – hopefully many more. As we all embark on this new year, I’ll leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emmerson:

Write it on your heart that everyday is the best day of the year.

Au revoir, Dublin…

Exactly five years ago today I set foot in Dublin for the very first time, and so began my expat adventure. I’m not sure if it’s poetic or merely coincidental that it’s on this anniversary that I announce that I am leaving Dublin. For now at least. And most of you will not be surprised to hear that I am leaving Dublin for… Paris.

Over the past several months, I’ve been confronted with my own personal “housing crisis” here in Dublin – my rent got knocked up to €2100 per month (for a place that doesn’t always have running water and where I currently do not have heat) and, regardless of the price, I have to be out by January 31 because my landlords are going to “sell” it. I looked at buying, and even put offers in on two places, but it didn’t work out. And in looking at rentals, I could either pay somewhere in the neighborhood of €2000+ or live in a shithole. The Dublin housing market has gotten a bit too big for its britches, frankly. And I’ve been backed into a corner with very few options.

So, it’s time to go.

It’s no secret to those who know me that Paris has always been the dream. Heck, a million years ago, my BFF and I named our production company “Apartment in Paris Productions” because that was the end goal, the dream. I’d come close to making the move to Paris a couple times this year and when those opportunities fell through I was beyond disappointed but I figured what was meant to be was meant to be and the time just wasn’t right for Paris and me. So, I had resigned myself to it not happening.

But then I was in Paris again in August for a quick holiday and I was overcome with such a feeling of contentment and being at home that it was almost overwhelming. I emailed my parents from my hotel about how I was feeling and they called me right away and basically said “just effing move to Paris already.” That little push was really all I needed and a plan started to formulate in my head. Some pieces still needed to fall into place, and surprise, surprise – they actually did this time! So now, come February, I’ll be “La Nouvelle Parisienne” instead of “The New Dubliner”.

I didn’t make this decision lightly and I’m not leaving Dublin because I don’t like it here anymore. If I wasn’t in this housing pickle, I might never have made the decision to go. Over the past five years, Dublin has become my home. I’ve had an amazing time here. I have people I love here. There is so much that I am going to miss. It will NOT be easy to leave. And there are things about moving to Paris that absolutely terrify me. But in my entire life I’ve never NOT done something because I was afraid. And I don’t want to look back on my life and regret never taking this leap.

So, I’m going. For now. Since thinking too far into the future gives me a panic attack and sends me running to my Xanax, I’m only committing to a year in Paris and then I’ll see how I’m feeling. Maybe I will love Paris and stay there, maybe I’ll return to Dublin. Who knows?

The only thing I know for sure is that five years into my crazy expat adventure, it’s still an adventure and it’s still crazy.

 

 

Cheers to The Hill…

I can admit when I’m wrong. It isn’t always easy, but I can do it. A little over a year ago I wrote a post lamenting that my local pub, The Hill, was under new ownership and I feared that it was going to turn into a pretentious hipster mecca. I worried that, while it was no doubt a good business move, it might not be the best thing for my little tucked-away corner of Ranelagh.

People, I was wrong. SO WRONG.

I liked the old Hill but I wasn’t a “regular.” Frankly, to be a regular you had to above the age of 70 and also, male. I was always met with stares when I entered – not sure if they were because I’m a woman or because I’m not 70, but there you have it. But still, the Guinness was good.

This past week, I was at The Hill on three separate occasions. Last Saturday, me and a couple girlfriends had an impromptu evening out. My friends worked their way through the entire gin cocktail menu and I had roughly seven proseccos (but who’s counting, right?). Then on Tuesday, I took one of those same friends there for her birthday – we had a nice dinner and capped the proseccos at two this time. And on Friday, my boss was in from Paris for a weekend away with his husband and I met them there at 4pm for an early start to the weekend. We stumbled out five or six hours later, well-fed and “hydrated”.

So yeah, now I really am a regular. And I love it.

The Hill has become my go-to place. Sure, the bearded hipsters do indeed go there for the craft beer but on any given night, the place will be filled with 25 year-olds, 75 year-olds and everyone in between. It’s truly become a neighborhood gathering place.

The pub culture is one of the first things I loved about Dublin. The pub really is an engrained part of the social fabric here and to now have a pub that I truly consider “mine” gives me that much-coveted sense of community and belonging.

When one is an expat, the notion of community and belonging can be hard to come by. We so often feel like we are on the outside looking in, a part of things yet set apart because aren’t from here (wherever our “here” happens to be). Nearly five years into this Irish expat adventure, I do still sometimes feel like an outsider, but not when I’m at The Hill.

So, cheers to The Hill. Thank you for making me feel so welcome. And I’m seriously sorry for being such a judge-y wanker at first.

http://thehillpub.ie

 

Embracing Impermanence…

Three years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a post about a list I’d found online: 10 Things That The People Who Love Their Lives Do Differently. (You can read the post here.) In that post I talk a lot about not knowing where I would be in two or three years. I had no idea if I would still be in Dublin, and I learned that it didn’t really matter. Nothing about the future is guaranteed so why let worrying about it ruin the present?

And now look, here it is, three years later! I’m still living in Dublin, though I came very close to leaving it for Paris. And even though thoughts of it don’t send me to my xanax bottle anymore, I still don’t like to think too much about what the future may hold.  However, I am now allowing myself to consider buying a place here and I will be applying for Irish Citizenship once I qualify at the end of the year. Those are kind of, sort of “permanent” things and yet, the item on the list I feel compelled to write about today is that people who love their lives embrace their impermanence.

When I was a newly-minted expat in Dublin, I was full of anxiety and panic that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. It wasn’t until I embraced my impermanence that I was able to fully commit to and enjoy life as an expat. I feel that, by its very nature, the expat life is a life of impermanence. Most of us don’t move to our new country thinking that this is where we are going to live for the rest of our lives. I don’t think most of us know how long we will be where we are. I know I sure as hell didn’t. I still don’t. And embracing that instead of fighting it has made all the difference. It allowed me to focus on the present, on the moments. And bit by bit, day by day, I put together a life in Dublin that is rather lovely. If I had allowed myself to continue to fret about the future, about my impermanence, I doubt that I would still be living in Dublin nearly five years after I arrived.

But one doesn’t have to be an expat to embrace their impermanence. The impermanence referenced in the article is, of course, our mortal impermanence – something we all have to contend with. But, just as with my expat life, it’s how we contend with it, how we embrace it, that can make all the difference.

There is a lovely quote that I’ve had pinned to the magnet board in my kitchen for a few years now. It gives me a good reminder when I start to take myself too seriously or let stupid things get me down. I really wish I knew who to attribute it to but the best my research could do was verify that is was not Richard Gere, Keanu Reeves or Christopher Walken:

None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.

Expat or not, this is something everyone needs to remember. There really is no time for anything else. 

 

To Dublin, with love…

I was supposed to be living in Paris by now. My boss is based in Paris and, though I can work remotely from anywhere, all signs pointed to this being the time for me to make the move. It was nearly done and dusted – just needed to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. But for reasons I both understand and don’t understand, that final i couldn’t get dotted and my move to Paris evaporated.

I’m not going to lie. It hurt. I was nearly there, and then I wasn’t. And in between all that there was six months of emotional ups and downs as my boss and several others did their damnedest to make it happen for me. By the time I got the final FINAL word (and that word was “no”), I was utterly exhausted.

So, it looks like I’m staying in Dublin. And that isn’t a bad thing. But, in my mind, I had already relocated to Paris so when that notion went bye-bye, Operation Re-embrace Dublin commenced.

Working alone, on my living room sofa, has left me quite isolated over the past year. One of the reasons I wanted to move to Paris was because I would be able to divide my work time between home and the Paris studio.  But now that I am staying in Dublin, I have made a very conscious decision to really “be” in this city, to get out and spend time doing the plethora of things Dublin has to offer, to do things I had put off because I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying and also to go out and spend time with my people – the friends that I’ve been lucky enough to make while living here, but that I’d gotten into the habit of seeing very rarely. (I’m a hermit by nature, don’t judge.)

The day after I found out Paris had fallen through I went out and bought three things: a new living room rug, a new vacuum cleaner, and… a fiddle. The first two I really needed but it didn’t make sense to buy if I would be moving. But the fiddle? Well, that’s something I’ve wanted to learn to play since I moved to Ireland, yet something always stopped me. But now, fuck it. I’m going to learn to play the fiddle. I’m three lessons in and I’ve mastered “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and have moved on to the “Newmarket Polka”. When I play, it sounds like I am killing cats and my poor neighbors probably want to turn my fiddle into kindling. But I love it. I suck, but I love it.

My hermit-y nature means that I’m usually fine with not venturing out much but I’m actively putting a stop to that as well. Sitting on my sofa, I could just as easily be living back in Buffalo. But I’m not in Buffalo, I’m in Dublin. And I’m going to start making more of that, and really seeing and exploring the things this city has to offer. A couple weekends ago I took myself to the Little Museum of Dublin, a quirky place in a Georgian mansion right across from St. Stephen’s Green. I’ve been meaning to visit it for about four years now. I loved it. And last weekend a friend and I went to the breathtaking Caravaggio exhibit at the National Gallery of Ireland. It was utterly not quirky, but sometimes one really just has to get their art on, and this exhibit did it for me. It was amazing. So, look at that – two distinctly Dublin museums in as many weekends. And so many more to go.

And then there are my friends, my people. When I moved here more than four years ago, I knew no one. Now, I have a lovely circle of friends but, as I said, I’d gotten in the habit of staying home rather than going out to spend time with said circle. Last Thursday evening, I had to go out. There was a Women in Animation Ireland event and I’m a committee member – I had to be there. I planned on going, having a much-needed glass of wine and leaving after an hour, maybe two. But then something happened – friends that I had not seen in a really long time showed up. And you know how it goes – everyone takes turns buying the next round of drinks and before you know it, you’re stumbling home at 2:30am.

At one point during that evening, I realized, rather immodestly, that of the five people sitting with me, I was directly responsible for all but one of them being a part of this group. Two I had hired back when I was in my first job as a Producer, convincing one to relocate from Scotland and the other from London. Two others I’d met at previous Women In Animation events – both were just getting started in their careers in Dublin and I actively endeavored to help them get work. They are now both working with the studio where I had that first Producer job. Spending this unexpected time with these five people just drinking and talking about stupid stuff was, in a word, fun. And in another word, needed.

And then a couple days later, I had a Girls’ Day Out with two of my very best friends, not only here in Dublin, but in my life. We started at a pub at 1pm with cocktails and prosecco and didn’t finish until nearly midnight at my house with doritos, beer and warm white wine. Amazing on so many levels. And again, fun and needed.

Both of these events were something I really needed in the wake of my Paris debacle. I needed to be reminded that I have people here. Amazing, funny, supportive, fun people. And I love my people.

I still don’t know what the future holds for me, but Dublin feels more and more likely to be part of it in the long-term. I qualify for Irish Citizenship in November, and I am absolutely going for that. Some people collect magnets, I collect passports (and magnets, actually). I’m even kind of, sort of thinking about buying an apartment or a cottage or something here. That would require adulting on a level I’ve yet to do in my life, but there’s something about the idea that keeps calling to me.

So far, Operation Re-embrace Dublin is proving rather promising. Right now, I am where I am, and more than happy to be here.

 

 

 

 

Deadly…

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 12.44.09 PM

Back in 2013, when I was still very much a newbie to all things Irish, Aidan McAteer, the director of the series I was producing, casually asked me if he could take me to lunch as he had a project to discuss with me.

That project was DEADLY, an animated short that got released online yesterday – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. You can watch it here.

As the writer and director, this project was Aidan’s baby but he brought me on board as producer because he wanted to submit it to the Irish Film Board’s Frameworks scheme and he needed an experienced producer in order for the project to be considered.  Me, being American, had no idea what a “Frameworks” was and when it was explained to me I was a bit dumbfounded. In a nutshell, the Frameworks program awards selected Director/Producer/Studio teams a not insignificant amount of money with which to make an animated short film.

That’s the Irish Government.

Giving us money.

To make a film.

This was my first glimpse into a country and a government that actually respects the arts and understands how the arts and artists are an essential part of any functioning society. Ireland is, rightfully, tremendously proud of its literary and artistic heritage. Any country that spawned the likes of Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce (to name but a very, very few) has every right to be.

There is even a tax break here known as the Artists Exemption, which yours truly is able to partake of. There is an application process and you have to prove that you do indeed earn your living as an artist (in my case, as a writer). If accepted you get a (not so) fancy certificate that proclaims your work to be “generally recognized as having cultural or artistic merit”. Nice bit a validation there, right? But more importantly, having this exemption means that the first €50,000 I make per year from writing is EXEMPT FROM INCOME TAX! A tax break like this means that more artists can actually afford to be artists.

Back in my native country of America, in this age of the orange He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the very existence of government entities like The National Endowment for the Arts are in jeopardy. And so I, more than ever, realize how very lucky I am to live in a country that wants me to be an artist, that encourages me to be an artist, and that has made it possible for me to make a living as an artist.

Now back to DEADLY.  Aidan, myself and a tireless bunch of fellow artists worked their tails off to get it done on time and on budget. Aidan even managed to convince Academy Award winner Brenda Fricker to be Bridie’s voice. DEADLY premiered at the 2014 Galway Film Fleadh (festival) where we won the Don Quijote Award for Animation in a Short Film. And we went on to gather a rather impressive amount of other awards including Best Short at the inaugural 2015 Irish Animation Awards.

It was a labour of love for Aidan and myself. It’s a beautiful little film of which I am immensely proud. Go on, give it a watch. Hopefully you’ll find it deadly.