February’s guest blog post is by a friend and former classmate, Carrie Brooks. When I was a graduate English student and she was an undergraduate English student, we found each other in the same writing group in two different writing classes, first creative non-fiction and then fiction writing. We quickly hit it off, despite some difference in both age and experience. Our friendship continued after both of us graduated and we kept in touch over social media. I decided that her love story of an Indiana girl falling in love with an Irishman and then moving across the ocean to become an American living abroad was a perfect story for the month of February.

My life always seemed to be on a stagnant path. Born and raised in Indiana I had never thought of my life being any different than what it was. As the eldest daughter, I filled a role that at times felt constraining and that kept me complacent in the comfort of knowing there wouldn’t be change. I was a good girl, got good grades in school, had a few friends, and never got into trouble. Being fat, I had learned to melt into the background and watch my life float by. 

I never had a boyfriend in high school. I had male friends, more male friends than female mainly because I was the Boy’s basketball team’s manager. I went to every practice and game, got ice bags for injuries, passed out water bottles, and did laundry. After games, the team came to my home to watch the sports recap on the news. Admittedly, I wasn’t really bothered about being boyfriend-less—I’d seen the crazy drama that happens in high school: arguments, fights, babies—and I didn’t want that. The first time I felt ‘being single’ was a problem was my senior year. One of the players asked me to be his prom date out of nowhere. I was on Cloud 9. He was at my house a lot but I never recognized it as a crush or romance. Then a few weeks before the prom he backed out because he had found a better date; he claimed it was a pity date because I was a nice person. So for my senior prom I went with friends as a 7th wheel. That night I went home early with my parents, who were chaperoning. 

From then on, I kept to myself. I never wanted to relive that pain. That time was supposed to be the most fun and happiest time of my life, but I was deprived. Even through my college years I never had a guy that was interested in me, or at least that made it known. And I didn’t have the confidence to go outside the English building and meet anyone either. 

By the time I was 25 I had decided that I didn’t matter. That a relationship, that marriage, wasn’t going to happen. I renounced any romantic love, resigning myself to live with my mother, take care of family, become an animal lady, and travel the world. At such a young age I had decided to cut out even the desire to be more than what it had been, believing that the past ten years was proof that I wasn’t enough.

My cousin Chad became my travel buddy. One year before Christmas we went to Mexico to visit friends of his. We both caught the travel bug and made it one of our life’s goals. He then had another travel opportunity that would change my life forever. He had connections to a free home in Ireland. Five of us shared the costs for everything and sprung for an extras lodging. Three of us stayed the full two weeks and the other two only the first. October 2017 we drove all over the Northern half of Ireland, visiting the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Mussenden Temple, Belfast, Foxford, and finishing in Dublin. One night after getting back to our home base, we went to a pub to get a bite to eat. While at the pub, a drunk guy approached one of the other girls for a drink and chat. She quickly declined. He then asked each one of us in turn, getting the same answer. Afterward, I felt so bad for him, realizing it didn’t mean anything to have a drink. It was a missed opportunity to meet an Irishman.

We decided to spend two nights in Dublin. On the last day in the city, we stopped in a pub for food before heading to Tipperary and our southern adventures. A burger in front of me, I was surprised when a redheaded guy, who wasn’t the waiter, came up to me at our table. He asked if he could buy me a drink. I didn’t want to accept, but thinking back to the week before I couldn’t turn down another simple request. And this, unexpectedly, would change my life forever.

Kevin and I exchanged social medias and messaged every day. He told us places to go and see. But he went beyond that. Kevin told me how beautiful I was and that he wanted to know more of me. I loved the attention, but I couldn’t accept it as more than just flirting. I made sure to be my true self, never hiding a burp. I had heard of crazy relationships where people hid their true selves from their partner and their relationship crumbled once they did. I was testing him and it never turned him off. Even after I went home, we continued to message and video chat every day. By January I had bought a ticket back to Ireland, where I met his whole family. Kevin showed me another side of Ireland, places where not too many tourists visit and where locals go. He told me he loved me while standing beside Glencar Waterfall in Yeats Country. That June he came and met my family and I went back with him for the rest of the summer. 

Carrie Brooks I took this picture right before he asked me to marry him.

On my last day that summer Kevin took us to Achill Island, which had become my favorite place. We went to Keem Beach and watched the waves break on the shore. All day he had been acting strangely. He was noticeably quiet, more than normal. I finally asked him what was wrong, thinking he was just tired. He said he had a question to ask. I said sure, thinking he was going to ask me to come back soon. He got up from his rock beside me and asked me to marry him. I shrieked “yes” and squeezed his face. It felt like we had known each other forever and I knew I loved him. He made me feel like his whole world. 

Now we have been married for nearly two years. Occasionally, I still feel like I don’t deserve his love or that I am unlovable, but Kevin wraps me in his arms and tells me how much I mean to him. I’ve left the US and now live in a farming community in Co. Roscommon. I never imagined this for my life. I never imagined being married, having a husband, having horses, having a new house, living in a new country. None of this was on my radar. I never expected this life changing happiness. 

NOLAN SNOOK We did an Irish handfasting ceremony at our wedding.

Kevin is currently working on revamping a Volkswagens van into a camper so we can travel the coast of Ireland: me driving the van and him riding his Polish Arabian horse, Warzaw. He has plans to get me my own horse but I’m a little unsure about that seeing how often the horses exert their will, sending him to the ground. I might settle on an old Irish cob who might be more gentle. Together, we have hopes and dreams that might not have happened without that chance meeting in a pub, without him having the guts to ask for drinks, and without me opening back up and giving life a chance. 

About the Author

Carrie Brooks

Carrie Brooks received a Master’s of Writing Studies from Indiana University. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Carrie enjoyed living in a city that felt like a small town. She loved being able to go to her grandparents’ small farm in Ohio and still feels grounded once she’s out in nature. Now she lives with Kevin, two dogs, 11 horses (two are Kevin’s) and hopes for chickens in the near future.

Carrie is currently working on a blog and a few novels. Being biracial and fat, Carrie never saw, and still doesn’t see, much of herself or those who look like her in literature and popular culture. She hopes to bring characters similar to herself to the limelight and make them the main focus of her stories. Her blog focuses on life as an immigrant in Ireland, the adaptation and the fun of having horses, and travels she experiences while navigating her new life. You can connect with Carrie and Kevin on Facebook and Instagram at Our Hundred Thousand Welcomes where she uploads videos and photos of their life and with her animals. and her adventures. You can also follow her blog at https://ourhundredthousandthwelcome.home.blog/.

Thoughtful and nuanced responses welcome!