by Claire Fullerton
When I was nearing the age of thirty, I decided I’d had enough of living in Los Angeles. I’d moved out to the big city from Memphis with stars in my eyes, after I’d been offered a job to work in the music business. At the age of twenty-five, Los Angeles was stimulating and thrilling, but four years later, it lost its glitter. The bohemian quality I’d once loved in my West Hollywood neighborhood began to fade, and all I could see were the cracks in the sidewalk. The way I saw the music business, it wasn’t a long-range profession for a nice girl from the South. I kept thinking if I didn’t make a change, I’d wake up one day to find myself with permanent roots in the cacophonous city, where everyone jockeyed for position in one way or another. I was uninspired. I was tired. I wanted serenity. I needed to get a plan.
I resigned from my job in the music business and took a position in client services at a thriving post production facility in Santa Monica, where I was one of twelve assistants to clients from major movie studios that came to the recording studios to synchronize audio with film. It was a unique job, something new and different, but still, I lived in Los Angeles. A sensitive friend addressed my discontent with one life-altering question: “If you could go anywhere, where would it be?”
Ireland was my answer. In a best-case scenario, I saw myself living as a writer on verdant fields partitioned by grey-stone walls, on their way to the sea. I’d quit my job and move to Ireland, I decided. All I had to do was buy a plane ticket.
Once I’d made the decision, it seemed the powers that be aligned in support. After I gave my letter of resignation to the managing director, uncanny things happened. I’d be standing on a Los Angeles street corner, just as a stranger approached to exchange pleasantries in an unmistakable Irish accent. I received useful information about living in Ireland from surprising quarters, and it gave me a sense of attunement with destiny. I was certain I’d made the right decision by following my bliss.
And there I was, a year later, living by the sea on the west coast of Ireland because everything had fallen into place. I was living a life imagined: I wrote daily, had friends, a rented home, and a job at a business dedicated to the careers of Irish musicians. My life had certainty and security. I grew accustomed to Ireland and its cultural nuances, and truly believed I’d found my place in the world.
But the rhythm of life has an ebb and flow. By the end of that year, the tides started to turn, so subtly they were imperceptible, until the very moment there was no recourse. My non-profit place of employment lost its funding, and there I was in a foreign country without a job. I was baffled and bewildered. What seemed like destiny became ambiguity. I was indecisive and riddled with doubt over every option I weighed. And I was not ready to leave Ireland; I hadn’t exhausted her charms and thought fate was conspiring against me.
But I’m the kind of person who possesses an optimistic faith in the goodness of things, that all life has meaning, and God has a plan. My quandary was that I couldn’t see anything beyond the roads that appeared blocked. I prayed, I meditated, I believed, but still vacillated between hope and despair.
Then a letter arrived at my door.
One of the things I learned about living in rural Ireland was that it took ten days for a letter to arrive from California. I lived way out in the countryside where there were no mailboxes, so the post master left my mail on my doorstep. One day, during my unresolved quandary, I leaned down to inspect a letter, recognizing it came from the United States. I tore open the envelope to discover an offer from the post production facility where I’d worked in Santa Monica. I read it twice with a mixture of disbelief and surprise. The woman who had hired me was leaving to have a baby. By the time I got to the managing director’s signature, I realized he offered me her job. My first reaction was complete resistance. There was no way in the world I’d ever go back to L.A. I put the letter in its envelope and threw it on the kitchen counter, but I couldn’t stop myself from reading it one more time. It was then I noticed the letter’s post mark. Squinting my eyes, I brought the postdated stamp into focus, which was three days before. “What is this?” I said aloud, though there was nobody near to hear me, “divine intervention?” I examined, I weighed, I worried, then concluded I had no choice.
Yet all the while, a voice in my head whispered, “Follow this, you don’t have to know why.”
I talked myself into returning to Los Angeles by keeping my faith in the goodness of things. Ultimately, I decided, the move might be a stepping stone to a bigger plan.
Today, I am married to the man who wrote that letter. Years later, the novel I wrote inspired by my year in Ireland was published with the title, Dancing to an Irish Reel.
I now have a way of being grateful for life’s seeming ambiguities. From experience, I see quandaries as full of potential. When in doubt, I don’t fall into despair. I take a deep breath and look for God’s stepping stones.
Claire Fullerton is the author of Mourning Dove, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and A Portal in Time. She hails from Memphis, and now lives in Malibu, California. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency.