Thirteen years ago today I moved to Ireland. A teenage dream turned reality.

Little did I know that 2,5 years later, my life would be transformed in a way I had never imagined. Still, there are no regrets, and where anger could have lived, none is left for two chronic illnesses that could easily have been my downfall.

Not one to dwell on issues past, I never allowed myself to live in Oscar Wilde’s famous gutter for a long period. When he said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” I realise I still am that stargazer, that dreamer, someone who loves Irish history and sociology, nature and literature, photography and psychology.

I also still believe in historical and moral justice, a dreamer who wants to see eight centuries of domination over Ireland undone, but knowing all too well that from a political and royal viewpoint, this is dream one dream too many.

The complexities of Ireland aside – and believe me nothing is ever as it seems in Ireland – thirteen years almost seems unimaginable, even in my own ears, especially since my stepdad said that I’d “be back in three months’ time”.

I moved to Ireland weeks after the Irish finally accepted the Nice Treaty; a few months after the Chester Beatty Library won the European Museum of the Year Award; a year after 9/11 and two years before the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Those events now seem a lifetime away, yet I still remember the day of my leaving as if it were yesterday.

Eventually, Ireland and a multiple sclerosis diagnosis shaped me in who I am today. My family’s strength continuously flows towards Ireland, and with them and for them I try to make something of an often interrupted life, hassled by MS symptoms. Friends who I will cherish for as long as I live, and a fantastic medical team only make living in Ireland an even happier experience.

There are no regrets about early retirement either. Writing, advocating, reading, enjoying long chats with family and friends, knowing that Irish people and Ireland still welcome me each and every day.

A teenage dream turned reality, is now a life well lived.

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About Willeke

Willeke is a disability awareness advocate and originator of Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me. She actively writes for other people’s blogs as well as for the MS Society of Ireland blog, and in doing so, raise awareness about life with multiple sclerosis at home and abroad. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Also check her new blog Kick-Ass Ireland here.

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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