I was born in Bulgaria. I had a mum, dad and an older sister. We were living on the 5th floor of a big apartment block built during the years of socialism. The happiest memories of my childhood are playing out in the big playground in front of our block – I loved being out, it was fun, it was safe.
Surprisingly though, I don’t have many memories. I have some very vivid ones but most of them have been buried down. It wasn’t until recently when I did some digging and came upon a few realisations about my family and early childhood life. Those memories were suppressed for a reason.
There weren’t any particular traumatic events besides my own birth. At the time my dad was pinned to bed after he suffered a car crash (as a passenger), which I only found out about this year. My mum had to handle my 8 year-old sister and the house on her own. And the tank-of-a-couch she had to open up to sleep on every night, made her go into labour about 5-6 weeks earlier. She didn’t remember the exact time of my birth (nor the exact number of premature weeks), partly because she was on her own in the birthing room. I was born around 8 o’clock in the morning when the night shift were on their way out and the day staff were yet to arrive.
She was on her own… And I was coming out.
She was scared and alone in the hospital and my dad was lying in another hospital after a car crash.
…And that’s how my life started. (As if the birthing experience is not traumatic enough)…
Recently I also realised, being a mother myself, that my mother had probably suffered a good deal of postnatal depression after the birth of my sister. And deciding to have a second child 8 years later was her way of getting a second chance to do a good job as a mother. Unfortunately, that was not our karma and we both had to deal with this broken mother–daughter relationship. Until a few years before her death.
On the other hand, my dad had his fair share of monsters and demons to deal with. Throughout his life he has suffered multiple operations on his right leg – perhaps a metaphor for being tripped every time he tried to make a move. He still struggles with being able to provide for his family, having a tremendously hard time to keep a job which is taking toll on his mental and physical health.
Life unfolded and a passion towards foreign languages, particularly English, emerged. I’d never been more sure of what I wanted to study so enrolled in the Foreign Languages School. Then I followed on the international vibe and chose to specialise in Tourism in university. Another passion had been recognized and a few years later followed – the passion to travel. After two summers in Alaska, working on a Work & Travel visa, I knew this is only the beginning of a greater journey.
Ireland in 2008
I disembarked on the island of Ireland in the year when the economic recession hit the world. When people ask me why I came here, I still cannot explain. It was an idea or maybe more accurately an ideal that I followed. I loved the idea of being able to travel freely, earning some money for myself and simply living a life I wanted to. I did not have any long-term goals or any professional ambitions, not even a plan B. As it turned out, I had to grow up pretty quickly and face the reality that simply working and travelling is not a specific purpose in life. Indeed, the universe had some other intentions for me.
The death of my mum in 2010
After a few unsatisfactory years of working in shops and cafes, I was ready to make a step and show maturity. I enrolled in a local college to do a master’s in Tourism Management. I wanted to work in my chosen profession and move away from retail and catering. However, nobody in Ireland would recognise the diploma I had from my home country Bulgaria. I needed a degree from a local institution.
But fate reached its long hand and two months before I started college, my mum had her second operation due to breast cancer. On the first day of college I was in Bulgaria with my mum, spending our last days together. Two weeks in college and she passed away.
I couldn’t handle the stress of having missed the first weeks of college, the students and the teachers already knowing each other, and all of the requirements of the course itself. It was a master’s year and it was such a different reality that I couldn’t possibly fit in, no matter how much I wanted to. The death of my mother made my options clearer and suddenly the idea of deferring the course was a relief. After deferring for two years I had to finally admit to myself that this was never going to happen.
I have to admit that I am not (or was not) the giving-up type. Or, more accurately, did not know that giving up is actually OK and sometimes required. It has nothing to do with your personal value or worth and walking away is indeed the right thing to do in certain situations. This situation was particularly intensified by the fact that I have won a state grant to cover for my tuition costs. It was a great accomplishment and now I had to give it up.
A good thing happened later in 2010
And that was meeting my partner-to-be. The first Irish person who was not scared of the mess I was in. Six months later with a bit of help from the fairies we officially got together. This was the first good thing that happened to me on this island for a long time. I was not forgotten – the universe had my back.
Although my love life was blooming, I still suffered on the work front.
Now I can see how I have trapped myself – wanting the stability of having a job with no regards to what the job is. And not really considering what I enjoyed doing most, thus ending up hating what I was doing. I was feeling a deep dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. I had never questioned what kind of work would really make me happy. I thought simply the regular pay check will be enough for me.
Changing jobs in 2011
I started a new job which put an enormous physical and mental stress on me. As a Bulgarian national in Ireland, I needed a work permit to work. After 5 months of working in waiting for it, I was refused a work permit. That meant I had to leave the job which I already resented. It turned out to be not what I had expected and I was disappointed once again.
You might think that I was somewhat ungrateful and that having any job is better than not having one. This is partly true depending on your life situation and indeed that philosophy worked for me at a certain age. But the stakes were higher now after 5 years of working those types of jobs. I did not have a clear path in my career and I was constantly hitting a wall. And this is because deep down I knew I could do better, that there is something I could enjoy doing. But never questioned myself properly and thus making myself dissatisfied and unhappy.
Losing my job and starting the blog – 2012
The refusal of the work permit came as a surprise but a relief. That was it. In a way, fate took care of me. I did not give up by myself this way. So I didn’t blame myself. I accepted the facts for all the bitterness but said to myself that whatever happens next I am going to take a break first. A break from trying so hard to prove myself to myself. I think I finally got the message – something is not quite right here. Starting the blog helped me channel all the energy into something I actually loved doing.
Getting pregnant a few months later
Fate brought me something that I expected the least. Surprised but excited we were. My partner and I were having a wonderful relationship and it was the only thing that kept me going. And to have a child was the scariest but most intimate thing that could happen to us. It gave me purpose, certainly. I had to get myself together and jump into the deep waters of parenthood.
Our child was born in 2013
A beautiful boy who is also being mentioned in a few posts here.
I keep walking the unknown land of parenthood. And that deserves a chapter of its own. It’s been full of challenges. It’s a very intensive course on growing up and getting to know yourself. The little person is like a mirror to all your flaws and it is great when you’re willing and ready to learn.
My sister dies in 2015
But 6 months ago, the unthinkable happened – my sister lost the battle with cancer. Five years after the death of our mother. So that changed my life again and now I believe – forever. It’s like I didn’t quite get it when my mum died, I was still a bit green behind the ears. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t understand fully. I did start the blog which meant I was on some level aware what the path could be but I wasn’t able to make a change within the material realm.
I am here now, doing what I’m doing, knowing I’m on the right path finally. That doesn’t mean that so far it hasn’t been right but it was really foggy and it was a winding path. I have a greater knowledge and understanding of what’s happening. Although I don’t know what is about to come. And I secretly pray and hope that no more people will die. I do get a vision of what the future might be and it does feel true and inspiring.
So I am grateful. Deeply grateful. And a little bit sad. But that too shall pass.
This was originally written in September 2015