It was five o’clock Thursday, rush hour in Dublin city centre. One of those beautiful sunny Autumn evenings we get in early October every year – the Indian summer my kids didn’t believe existed. I was among throngs of post-work walkers – marchers really, marching towards buses and trains and shops and pubs. Women in trainers, shoes in bags. Men in hoodies, phones in hand. Duos and trios and lone walkers, all with equal end of day purpose. Decompressing after long office hours, ready for Thursday night.
I marched with them, along the Liffey, watching the evening sun glint on the water. IFSC House loomed high to my right and as I walked past, I stared at the third floor window that used to be my office. I thought back to the day two and a half years ago when I walked out of there for the last time, with no idea what was ahead; sad, worried, excited, curious.
I thought back further then, to this time five years ago – I was just back at work after my third maternity leave. I was working a four-day week, using parental leave to have Fridays with the kids. Our childminder picked them up from school and preschool and looked after them until we arrived home around half six each evening. Mornings were chaotic, bedtime was bedlam, but work was good. I really, really liked my job. It was busy and interesting and challenging and it allowed me to be the person I was before I had children. It fuelled me – it helped me be the mother-person I needed to be each evening when I came home. I’d had my eight hours being a grown-up in heels and meetings; I could totally slip into mammy-mode at home.
So I spent my days in spreadsheets and fund mergers and system changes and conference calls, and I walked out each evening feeling good or tired or fulfilled or frustrated but ultimately knowing I was in the right place, doing what was right for me. It was 2012, and the funds industry had come through the worst part of the financial crash – I’d kept my job, I’d had my three kids, and I figured financial services was where I’d be for life. So if you’d told me back then that in five years time, I’d be walking past my old office on my way to a Blog Awards event, I’d have asked “What’s a blog?” If you told me I’d be working from home as a freelance writer, I’d have been perplexed. If you’d told me my book would be in bookshops with another on the way, I’d have laughed till I cried. And if you’d said I’d win an award for Best Lifestyle Blog, I’d have eye-rolled and simply said “I don’t have a lifestyle.”
Actually on that last one, I’m still wondering if I have a lifestyle to speak of. But when you look up the definition, it just means “The way in which a person lives”. And it struck me that that’s been the huge change for me in the last five years – my life is completely different now to those spreadsheet days, in a way that I could never have predicted. Sometimes not necessarily for the better – there are afternoons when I desperately envy the old me, sitting in her third floor office, looking out over the Liffey.
But mostly when I stop to think about it, I want to pinch myself. The old lifestyle was good – it was great actually, and if nothing had pushed me, I’d never have jumped. But as I walked past my office last Thursday night on a beautiful Dublin October evening, I realised I very much like the new lifestyle too.