The Gnome

Green Plane

I arrived to Dublin early in the morning.

I remember seeing the earth getting closer and closer to me as we drew near landing. It looked like a million puzzle pieces of green from afar. As we got closer, the pieces turned into designated farmlands.

I was really here.

As we waited for the plane to park I noticed all the Ireland airline planes had big clovers on the wings.

 It made me smile. I instantly felt good being here.

I had no idea how to get to the inner city. I found a taxi directly outside of the airport and simply asked the cabbie if I could get a ride into inner city Dublin.  

It was easier than I expected.

The day was overcast. Dreary. We hopped on the freeway going on the opposite side of the road as we would in the states. It was a little crazy at first as it felt like the cars coming towards us were going to hit us head on.

Now, I wouldn’t say I expected horse drawn carriages and dirt roads or anything, but I never expected Ireland to be so modern. Growing up in the States, I think people sometimes fantasize Europe as being a completely different world than it really is – still living in the 1700’s or something, even though you know that probably couldn’t be right.

He dropped me off in front of what he called the Temple Bar area. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I thanked him and he was on his way. I think at that point I got a bit panicked. For the first time, standing there on that sidewalk, I wondered what I had really gotten myself into and really what the hell I was going to do from here. It was all exciting until now.

A rush, pure emotion. Adrenalin.

 I thought about my family. I was worried that they were worried about me. Should I contact them at least to say I was ok and where I was?

A part of me wanted to, but I wasn’t ready for that. If I told them where I was, I felt like it would almost make my journey tainted in some way. It is hard to explain.

I was so embedded in my fascination of being in Ireland I suddenly realized I was starved so I started walking.

The area the taxi driver had left me in was completely dead. It looked to have many bars and what looked to be more active at night.  

Nothing was open. It was 7:00 a.m.

I kept walking and finally found what looked to be a very tiny breakfast café in the bottom of an old building. The café was connected to all the lined up pubs. The place was called “Oliver’s Lodge.”

It was a quaint little place. It seemed out of place in the middle of such a lively area in the city. It was quite small with very high ceilings. There were about 5 little tables set about with 2 chairs to each.  This place DID looked like it was straight out of the 17th century- The old wallpaper, the creaky wooden floor, the elaborate gold frames on the wall and candlestick holders on the tables.

 There were two curio cabinets in the corner full of trinkets. The place reminded me of an antique shop.  There was an old thin man sitting behind a small, wooden counter. He had gray hair and a gray beard. Reading glasses on the tip of his nose as he read the paper ever so casually. He slightly leaned on his chair. He had an unlit pipe in his mouth and a cup of tea sitting next to him that looked like it had come straight from a little girl’s tea set. He reminded me of a garden gnome. I smiled at the thought of him sitting in a pretty little Irish garden, less than a quarter of his current size.

There was a little buffet bar with meats, cheeses, croissants and other little pastries sitting out.  I thought it was interesting they would be serving meats and cheeses for breakfast. That was not common in the United States. 

It was all very simple. It felt nice. Pleasant. Calm. Slow paces. Quiet.

I liked it.

 It was just the old man and I. I picked the seat by the window. I arranged my bags on the floor next to me and took off my jacket. After staring out the window for a few minutes I wondered if I was to help myself.  The man hadn’t looked up from his paper.  I wasn’t sure what the restaurant protocol was in Ireland. I didn’t want to be offensive. I stood up and went over to him and asked if I was to help myself.

“Yes mam”. He didn’t look up from his paper. After I ate I sat staring out the window. There was still no life of anyone on the streets.

I was startled when the gnome pulled up the chair across from mine and took a seat.

“So, young lady, what is a pretty, young American girl like you doing in Temple Bar all by herself and sober this early in the mornin’?

I was taken a back.

It took me a second to respond.

“I’m touring.” I blurted out.  He looked at me skeptically. Touring? It’s not wise for a young lady like you to be touring all by herself with that American accent of yours. You best be keepin’ your head on straight.   

I first felt defensive but I also felt comforted, like I was speaking with my grandfather. There was a certain warmth in him, in his eyes. I loved his accent. It was a strong old Irish accent.

“I will be.”

He looked out the window. “Temple Bar is a gritty area of the city. Full of nightlife. People are up all night around these parts.”

I hesitated for a minute, not sure what to say next. I figured I’d ask him if he knew of a cheap hostel nearby.

He just looked at me.

For a minute, I’d wondered if he heard me. He looked around the room. “This place used to be a brothel, then nothing, then a boarding house. There are 4 rooms upstairs. My wife and I came to own it after this and turned it into a bed and breakfast. It only lasted a few years before we realized a bed and breakfast isn’t very prosperous in the Temple Bar, so we turned it into a restaurant. We have done well ever since. We are open early and close late. Drunks love coming in after a late night.” We use the rooms upstairs for storage.

I’d wondered why he was telling me this so randomly.

I’d let you stay for fifty euro a week if you don’t mind being in a noisy part of the city. It’s not fancy up there, but there is a small bed and running water in the bathroom.

I instantly felt a wide range of emotions.

Relief. Skepticism. Curiosity. Anxiety. Fear. Comfort.

A moment went by and I finally asked him why he would you let me do that.

He told me that I reminded him of his daughter. I looked a lot like her too. She passed away 3 years ago. I was overwhelmed. I really couldn’t believe my luck.

Everything on this unplanned adventure had ran so smoothly up to this point. Even when my car broke down, it seemed that it was all timed so perfectly. Just the way it was meant to me. How it was supposed to happen. I had no trouble at all withdrawing my money from the bank. No questions asked. My journey could have started and ended right there.

Even when my car broke down. I was supposed to meet Bran and learn from him. I wondered if everything had gone wrong up to this point, perhaps I would have gone back by now. Perhaps, I would have felt like I was wrong in leaving and that life really wasn’t better outside of my bubble.


But no, everything had gone well, as it should have and that led me to believe I was meant to be here for a reason.

The gnome led me up to the rooms through a very narrow, old and creaky wooden staircase. It led up to a hallway made of the same creaky floors as the stairs. Dark brown wood, scuffed and scratched from years of use. The same floors, I was sure that were walked on when it was a brothel.

There were 2 doors on one side of the narrow hall and 3 doors on the other. The sun was starting to come in through a big window at the end of the hallway. Three rooms had storage but my room had a small twin bed, a nightstand, desk and some filling cabinets in the corner. I walked over to the window and looked out to the street. “Those open,” he said. He walked over and started tugging at the hinge. “They just haven’t been in awhile.”  They were casement windows that opened like French doors.  There was no screen like there would be in the U. S.  It had a little ledge in front of it that you could sit on. The room was dusty and old, but it was cozy. I think I instantly fell in love with it. “The bathroom is across the hall, you have to pull the string above you to flush” he said with his back towards me.

 “I usually use this room for my paperwork, but I can move that into the other rooms while you are here” he started shuffling up piles of unorganized paperwork lying about the desk.

I heard a bell ring downstairs. Customers were starting to come in. “Morning rush. I better get ..  his back was still to me – his arms filled with paperwork. He gave me an extra key and explained the hours of operation. “Just remember to lock up when you leave. “

“Of course, thank you so much.” He just nodded and headed out the door. “Wait, how long can I stay?

He looked back and said, “As long as you need me lady.”




Up and away


I stared at the outgoing flights on the monitor.

California? Texas? New York? I looked to the next screen; it listed international flights. The first one on the list was Dublin, Ireland leaving in 1 hour.

I realized then that I couldn’t go somewhere close.

I wanted to learn, I wanted to grow. I wanted to see the world with new eyes. I wanted to see different ways of life. What better way than to leave my culture completely? Leave the United States and learn a new way of looking at life through a new culture? And really what better zen place to go than the famous emerald isle? I could go anywhere after that. Luckily I had my passport packed for my trip I was going on with my friends.

I had the option to go anywhere, so I did.


The lights in the plane had been turned off when I woke up. The glare  of a few TV monitors on the backs of the chairs shone. I pulled up the screen to the window.  I looked out into the black sky and then down to the world below. It was my first plane flight and it was truly incredible when I thought about it. To think I was flying in the sky on a giant machine to a far away land – Amazing. The technology of it astounded me and the thought of travel gave me such a surreal sense of adventure to life that I had never felt before.

At that point, I think we were probably over the New York area according to the flight tracker on my screen. The lights of the cities below were beautiful . A whole different world from here in the sky.

I again, felt free.


An excitement I hadn’t felt since I was a child when everything in life was new and interesting.  It was similar to the feeling you get on Charismas Eve. I hadn’t had a feeling like that towards anything since I was ten. When you are little, everything is exciting because its new and for the first time. As an adult, you have to make a point to seek out things that are new, things that you have never done, things that excite you. If you don’t do this, life can get dull, even depressing.

Life didn’t need to be mundane, normal, predictable and average.

It could be extraordinary,  adventurous …

being on that plane in that moment I realized life could be whatever I made it to be if I just had the guts and determination to pursue it.  And that’s just what I was doing.


It was 7:00 a.m. before the first car drove by. By some miracle, they stopped. I was instantly nervous when I saw that it was a man. He could have raped me and cut me up into a million pieces right there on the side of the road and nobody would have been around to stop him.

His name was Bran.

He was a well dressed guy, probably in his mid 30’s and he just so happened to be on his way to the airport. As soon as I learned this I was sure it wasn’t just a sign, but completely meant to be for me to leave and not just leave, but perhaps go farther than I thought.

I left my car on the side of the road telling him I would get someone to tow it once we arrived at the airport, but I really had no intention of doing that.

We chatted for most of the 2 hour drive to the airport. I suppose I was naive, but I was honest with him and explained what situation I had put myself in.

He agreed.

He was a free spirit. Eccentric.

He was a single guy that went all over the world for business. When he got the chance, he stayed in these locations for several days or weeks to soak in the culture. He was an avid outdoorsman, ran marathons and did anything and everything he wanted to. He didn’t have a wife and kids that he needed to rush home to. He explained that he felt lucky he had these opportunities and that nothing was holding him back from taking extra time in these amazing parts of the world.

He explained that he felt as if he was living his life to the fullest and in a way that was making him happiest at this point in his life, just in a different way than most people.

He didn’t feel bad that he didn’t have a wife and kids.

He said it would be a shame to leave the amazing places that he gets the opportunity to travel as soon as his business was over, and had the extra funds to spend this time since it was only him. He also said there was something to seeing all of these great things and not having anyone to ever share it with – only stories to tell his family when he got home and they were never really that intrigued. They just didn’t have the passion for travel that he had. But that was ok because he had met some amazing people on his travels who he had shared some great experiences with and become lifelong friends with.

His parents didn’t always like the idea of him not settling down.

I didn’t understand it.

He was happy.

Why would your family not be happy that you are successful in your career and are experiencing life and culture all over the world? To me, that was incredible. Respectable. Something to be proud of. How was that disappointing? How did that make him somehow lost? Unsettled? If they knew he was happy, isn’t that all a parent would want for their child? No. They want what THEY wanted for their child. What makes THEM happy.

I voiced my opinion to him and I’ll never forget his response.

He said -It’s the people that are ok with society’s definition of a “normal” life (spouse, kids, job) that don’t understand the ones who don’t live it. Because these people are happy with that life, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is or should be.

It was a pretty powerful statement.

It made perfect sense. We sat in silence for the remainder of the drive.

We parted ways at the airport. He left me with his business card if I ever wanted to get in touch with him again, and with that, he was gone …

But then he came back and said, “I truly hope you find what you are looking for and what makes you happy. That is a difficult quest in life that most people don’t achieve.”

And with THAT – he was gone.




I opened my eyes to the sun barley peeking its head over the horizon. I rolled down all the windows and lay back in my seat.

It was peaceful.

No pressure. No expectations.

The air was perfect. It softly swept in and out my windows touching my nose, eyelids, lips, as if saying, “Everything will be ok.”

At that moment I felt absolutely free. It was just my car and I sitting on the side of an empty road in utter silence. My car was my only friend. My loyal companion. The only one who understood me and was here to venture out on this journey with me – no questions asked.

My moment of peace ended quickly when I realized my battery had died.

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t necessarily panicked. It didn’t matter. Anything could happen now so it was ok to me. I would figure it out. I was open to change, chaos- wherever the road would take me. I was actually embracing it and it felt good. Really, really good.

I had accidently left my phone in my room at home before the graduation and I didn’t even think to go back and get it at the time I unexpectedly left the ceremony. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have anyway. I really didn’t want anyone to be able to get a hold of me. How could I truly be away from everything with a cell a phone? I often wonder if I had had my phone how much different my journey would have gone. I now know it was perfectly meant to be.


I drove.

I drove and drove and drove. Two, three, maybe four hours melted by. My mind raced back and forth and then back again -in circles, triangles and every direction it could possibly go. I felt as if I had burst out of a thick bubble that I had been entrapped in my entire life. The worst part was that I didn’t even know I was in it. I finally was thinking about what I wanted and not what everyone else wanted for me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but one thing I was absolutely positive of was I wasn’t going back. If I went back, I may get trapped in the bubble again and possibly never surface. I was terrified of getting swallowed back up in the belly and the film would be too thick for me to realize I was in it once again. No. I couldn’t let that happen.

I found a bank and withdrew my entire account. The teller just stared at me like I was some kid trying to steal. The account was my personal fund I had saved since I was little. My parents were going to take their names of it once I turned 18, which would be next month. I had saved every penny in that account -Birthdays, Christmas’s, chores, part time jobs and little things earned here and there. I had saved a total of $10,000 and I wasn’t about to let my parents take it back.

I sat on the bench outside of the bank for almost an hour.

I needed to figure out what I wanted in life without any influences around me. I needed to be alone, I needed to explore myself and who I really was and what I really wanted. I needed to live. I needed … I wanted … I wasn’t sure. How could I figure out anything if I hadn’t really experienced anything? I needed to have real experiences so I could figure out what I wanted out of my life. I couldn’t think of anything worse than living a predictable, society approved life and always wondering what if? Yes, perhaps marriage and kids was something I’d enjoy, but maybe not. How would I know otherwise?

What was I supposed to do to figure that out other than NOT going back home?

As soon as that thought entered my head a couple walked past me and I couldn’t help but hear them discussing their trip they were about to go on.

That was it.

Was it a sign? I needed to literally get away.

Leave. Disappear.

By myself with my own thoughts.

Away from everything and everyone and I needed to do it NOW. Not next week. Not next year. Not planned out. I had to do it now. It was the only thing that made sense.

I got back in my car and drove until I was too exhausted to drive anymore.



John Matthew Jensen, Scott Anthony Jones, Todd Andrew Green … I sat staring at the hundreds of black caps amongst me, listening to the names of our ridiculously large graduating class drown on. It was like any other graduation I’d ever been to; the only difference was it was mine. I thought about my trip to San Francisco that I was leaving for tomorrow morning with my three best friends. I pictured my bags I had already neatly packed in the back of my Volvo. I did a mental check off of each item; I hoped I’d had everything.

I glanced to my family in the stands. They took up a full row, my eyes moved down it in sequence-mom, dad, my three older sisters, their husbands and nieces and nephews galore. They had all followed the path my parents had laid out for them; college, marriage, kids- in that perfect order. My parents were so proud. To the right of my father sat two of the top executives in his firm. No doubt he was trying to impress them with his honor roll daughter. They were trying to do the same by attending his daughter’s boring graduation ceremony. On the left of my father sat my boyfriend Seth. Seth had done a lengthy internship with my father’s firm; he basically picked him out for me. Seth and I would marry after his last semester of law school next year.

Like any other person, I had entertained other paths of life, but those thoughts never lasted too long due to the fact that I knew I needed to live up to my elder sisters accomplishments and the definition of success in my family was to follow that perfect path. Anything but that path would cause me to be the disappointment of the family and an embarrassment to my father. No other path was ever really talked about or encouraged. There was no room for independence, adventure or chances to make any mistakes. It was all controlled and planned out from the moment we left the womb. I don’t know if my parents realized this was the environment they had put us in, after all, they only wanted what was best for us -right? I flashed a smile and looked back to the announcer.

Dave Don Johnson, Amy Lyn Smith… I reached to the commencement program lying on the floor in front of me. The big bold letters on the front read “Today you begin the first day of the rest of your life.” I stared at the statement for a moment. I looked back up to the crowd of people, the parents, the kids, the grandparents. I looked at my classmate’s swarming around me-all the same, all in black, all my age. This really was the first day of the rest of all our lives. It was brutally true. Up until this point, our lives had been consumed of basically getting up and going to school. It was a given, that was our required, society approved life to lead, and now that life was over. That planned sequence of events that we had been living since we were 5 years old was over.

I had never looked at it that way before, and for some reason, following that thought; my body had some sort of uncontrollable reaction. My mind involuntarily plummeted into a spell of panicked confusion. I’d never been so terrified in my entire life. A million thoughts instantly flooded into my brain. I couldn’t control my body, thoughts or feelings. I was frozen, and no matter how hard I tried, the thoughts were forceful, potent, and utterly impossible to suppress.

It was at that moment, with that precise though, and with that precise feeling, that my new life was beginning very quickly.

It was now our choice of what we were going to do with ourselves and the chances were extremely high that the majority of us would end up going to a few years of college, get married and have kids. I frantically scanned the room, how could they all just be ok with that? Predictable – what a horrific way to live.

My frozen body automatically rose like a marionette puppet. I had no control. I frantically stumbled past the seas of students, tripping on feet, knees, and then running… running… running… down the massive sets of stands straight to the door.

I didn’t look back.








The rest starts here

This is my story. This blog is how the rest of my life began 3 years ago. I am now 21 and feel as if I have lived more and learned more about life during this time than I did for the first 18 years of my life. This blog is completely raw and unfiltered. This is my “journal” from day one of my new life. Some days I jotted down a thought. Other days I spend nearly the entire night writing.  I will start from the very beginning – Graduation day.