I’ve never been, and my family has never been— wealthy. There was a brief period of time during my childhood when both my parents made good money, but that ended in the middle of the 90s.
For a long time I think I blamed my brother, because he was born in 1997. Shortly after that, both of my parents lost their jobs within six months of each other and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Our family unit went from a comfortable living to struggling within two years. My mother lost her job and going to take care of my grandmother and my infant brother. My dad decided to start his own business.
Things were okay for a little while, these were my teen years early teen years. But in 2001 my grandmother passed, my dad couldn’t maintain his business anymore; he could’ve expanded, or had to shut it down. My mother’s severance package from the bank she worked at ran out. My parents had to take bankruptcy.
From that point on, we lived paycheck to paycheck. My mom tried to go back to school, but she was so far behind that it took years for her to even be able to take college credit courses. My dad got another job, but his companies kept getting bought out and we were always living in fear of him losing his job again. My mother eventually got a job again too, that was making significantly less than she did at the bank because she only really had a high school degree. In the last decade my parents have been making a third of what they were in the early 90s, and that really shaped who I am today.
I have always been a dreamer, a reader. I read about faraway lands and fantasy things, I always dreamed of going to one of these places. Who doesn’t in their childhood, their adolescence? My mother has always been a beach person, not museums, not mountains, not faraway lands, but beaches. That was fine, but I always wanted to go to Europe. The older I got the more people I knew had started going, and I was very jealous. In my high school years, and early undergraduate career, I suddenly realized that the reason we never went was because we could never afford to go. We only went to a Florida beach when I was a child, before my brother was born, I parents are making a lot more. We only took one vacation when I was in high school, to Florida, where my mother grew up, but that was the last time our family took a vacation and I think they just recovered from the debt they incurred to do that so.
Now, at 24, I am very lucky that my university pays for me to go to graduate school, and I get a modest stipend to live from. I did have to borrow loan money to cover books and fees and those things. I made a decision last fall with the incredible amount of money that I came into from the loans; I I wanted to take a real vacation. (Sidebar: at 16 I began working. I worked full-time in undergrad or as close as I could at a grocery store and went to school full-time. When I graduated from undergrad, I worked two jobs until I was accepted into graduate school. Even if I or my family could have afforded vacation, I couldn’t have gone because I could never take off that much time and still pay my bills.) The beauty of working for university is that you get months off at a time, and my stipend continue through the winter break, so I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to.
So I didn’t. My best friend worked a lot and didn’t have very many bills, so I asked to go on a best friends vacation. She had recently been to Italy for study abroad, and she graduated in December. We wanted to celebrate her graduation and she encouraged me to go to Europe after she had been to Italy. We found a wonderful travel package to go to Ireland for $700. It was amazing. Travel and hotel included. There were so many things that I loved about Ireland, my family heritage, history, the beautiful landscape, I really could go on…
So we did it. In October, we each bought the package and I rush ordered the passport. We would leave in less than three months.
It was an amazing experience. It seemed surreal right up until the day that we got to the airport and flew there. I still can’t believe that I flew all the way to Ireland, and saw millennial old spaces. I had learned about European history for years, and read about their literature. I stared a beautiful pictures, and imagined what it would be like looking at that place. Then I was there! I was there for a whole week. I saw everything that I want to see.
It’s been a year, almost, since my best friend and I made that decision to go and see those things that I never thought I could see. It felt so good to tell my Oscar Wilde professor that I knew what the Georgian homes look like around Merrion Square which Oscar mentions in some of his works. I decorated my home with just a few of the hundreds of pictures I took. I embarrassed my best friend with my camera, but I never wanted to forget. Just in case I didn’t get the opportunity again. As I sit here, in my living room with my huge Oscar Wilde collected works, and look at my cozy little apartment— I remember the feelings of my adolescence where I buried my nose in a book because I thought I could never go somewhere and do something like that. I am proud of myself. I am so incredibly happy that I did that; I had that experience.
I just wanted to share that today. :)