Colm had just picked me up from the airport, and yet, it felt as though we had known each other for years. He was practically glowing with positive energy and you couldn’t help but wonder how it was possible for someone to be so-- unmistakably happy.
“You are lovely to be around,” I laughed as we steered towards Galway, “I love it!”
“Oh, do I have a story for you,” he responded with one of the thickest Irish accents that I have ever heard, “I haven’t always been this happy.”
“That does not seem possible!”
“Not long ago, I was a different man. I was morally corrupt and living a very different life. I had property, houses, businesses, money, anything and everything that you can think of... but here’s the catch, none of it ever made me happy.”
I heard what he was saying, but I couldn’t make the connection. Here I was, sitting next to a man who had just driven four hours out of his way to pick me up from the airport saying he used to be, ‘morally corrupt.’
“How were you a different man?” I asked, genuinely dumbfounded.
“I was a washed up mess, in need of help. I couldn't see how bad things were. Full of regrets about my past and fears about my future, but clueless about living in the present. I had been drinking too much for too long and alcohol had become the problem, not a solution. Depressed, angry, sad, full of fear and going nowhere fast... that was me 3 years ago. I didn't know what love, compassion, gratitude, or happiness felt like.”
“Who was it that you were trying to become?” I inquired.
“That’s an interesting question.” He pondered. "I was trying to become anybody you wanted me to be. Trying to become anybody but myself. I avoided reality and was a people pleaser. I eventually learned that the destination is not important because there is never a ‘there.’ I had been to all the ‘there's’. I did this, I did that, there, there, there-- but then you finally get ‘there,’ and all you want is more. So you start to chase the perfect night out, the perfect weekends away, change the car, spice up the sex life, change your friends. It becomes a constant motion of chasing and replacing because nothing is ever right. It will never be right.”
“What was the turning point for you?”
“Wanting to, and finally accepting the professional help that those who loved me painfully knew I needed. I quit drinking and partying. It had put me into a dark place. A place that I could never wish upon anyone. At the end, it lasted five days. It was hell. The depression was so heavy. I was observing everything that I did from outside my body, crying on the inside. My skin was a big, solid, mass of sadness. I accepted that help and after a month, the world began to change. Today I enjoy a less hedonistic, more present, peaceful and loving existence. I have changed, and have the most amazing people in my life, family, friends and loads of new connections. I am relaxed grateful and quite self-aware, most days. Its been an amazing turnaround."
We pulled into the driveway of a quaint, countryside home. Colm escorted me to the guest room, where I would be staying. On the nightstand was a miniature care package with a handwritten note. Already, I felt right at home.
Those four days in Ireland flew by quicker than I imagined and Colm was absolutely phenomenal when it came to Irish hospitality. Our final evening was spent at Blackhead Cliffs. The sky was painted a stunning, yet somber red, as if the country knew that I would be leaving soon. I glanced over at Colm whose mouth was gaped in absolute awe.
“It’s great to see how happy you are, Colm, this journey has been really pivotal for you, hasn’t it?”
“Of course. I’m really starting to understand what it means to have a genuine interest and kindness towards others. To never again think that I’m the center of the universe. This is a thought we are all capable of having. The importance of self-awareness is that we are consciously aware of our journey and the world is our oyster, it really is our oyster. We are only living once and now, I am finally allowed to be myself. I’m a lovely person, I truly am.”
The next morning Colm drove another four hours out of his way to take me back to the airport where we said our goodbyes.
I don’t know when I’ll see Colm next, but I suppose people come in and out of your life for a reason. A purpose. To understand ‘why’ depends on our willingness to seek these answers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that growth will occur from experiences that were shared together, but rather from words that may have been exchanged. Perhaps this individual inadvertently redirected your arrow to fly in a slightly different direction. It’s a warm feeling knowing that they gave your life a deeper meaning to flourish into a brighter, smarter, and happier human being.
The world really is my oyster, Colm. That, I will always remember.