Sunday, July 14, 2013

In Conversation with Breda

Breda is a ‘blow in’ to Killarney.  That’s Irish for – she wasn’t born here!  She grew up in North Kerry and I met her while checking in to Marion’s B&B which she runs.  She gave us a wonderfully warm welcome and I knew instinctively we would get on.   She had a bubbly warm personality and made us feel at home straight away.   

It was during our second night here that we really got to know each other.  We were in the common living area after a day exploring Killarney and Marion came in to see how we’d gone.  It was around 9 pm.  We started chatting and 4 hours later we were still at it…

The difference between staying in a B&B and a hotel is that you get to experience a slice of the country you are in, if you take the time to do so.  People let you in to their homes and sometimes their life.  We had incredible discussions about current affairs, the state of the economy, the Celtic Tiger years and how so many people were compelled to buy bigger and ‘better’ homes…but the most interesting discussions were the stories she shared of her life…

Breda is in her forties now and decided she really wanted to be doing what she loved rather than be trapped in a job that was highly demanding and left little time for living.   She had started life as an adult like most of us going to college to study a profession considered ‘good’ by her family and society rather than one she was truly passionate about.  She loved cooking and art but the people around her convinced her there was no career in that.  Breda applied for many subjects from nursing and marketing to accountancy and gained acceptance in all of them.  However, her parents were keen for her to study accountancy and so she enrolled in this course. 

While she graduated in accountancy she could never visualise herself as an accountant and certainly her personality was far more geared toward an industry that dealt with people rather than numbers!  She felt she was going around in circles trying to figure out what she wanted to do and eventually fell in to the hotel industry business quite by accident when she was offered a job while at a funeral.  She has 10-years of experience in the hotel industry but she was working 80 hours a week as a manager and commuting for 2 hours a day and was searrching for something different in life.  She came to Killarney having got a job in the National Park.  She works as an office administrator but needed to find another source of income to supplement her wages, as Killarney is an expensive town to live in.   The opportunity to rent and run the B&B has been a wonderful opportunity for her and something that she is truly passionate about. 

The B&B is a seasonal job that runs from April – October giving her some free time in the winter to indulge in other interests.  She mentions that the winter is a time of hibernation for most people but she loves this time of year and has used this time to obtain a degree in HR (Humar Resources) which introduced her to a whole new circle of friends and colleagues and involved travel to Dublin. 

Breada talks about how important it is to be adaptable, to listen to your heart, do the things you love and live a life that suits you.  She talks about the fact we are here for a short time and how important it is to make a difference with your life in the world around you.  Her degree in HR helps her in her job as it involves engaging with and dealing with many different types of people everyday.  We talk about the fact that you never know who might walk through the doors.  Not everyone is a traveller of course as there are people who are travelling for work and others who might be visiting family.  While it is not as unpredictable as working in a big hotel, there are still many nationalities and types of people that she meets as part of her job.  Of course she doesn’t connect with everyone and not everyone wants to make that connection but she does love that aspect of her job.

Breada also feels she is a bit of catalyst for her guests, providing a setting that enables them to make friendships amongst themselves.  She knows of guests who are still in contact after meeting over breakfast in her B&B. 

Ideally, Bretta would love to give up her desk job at the National Park and do this full time but things are toughening up in Ireland so expanding this line of work may not happen immediately.  She feels alive when working at the B&B but acknowledges that while you may wish to only do the things that make you tick it isn’t always financially sustainable.   

She now uses the website HelpX which is similar to the Work Away site we use to find volunteer opportunities.  It is a wonderful opportunity to reduce her costs but also give young people a chance to see the world by providing them room and board in exchange for helping out at the guesthouse.  While there, we meet two French girls who are helping Breda with reception.  The girls are studying Engineering but have taken the chance to travel to Ireland and improve their English during the summer break.  It is a great program, which works both ways as long as the volunteers are happy to make a contribution and the host shares something of their culture and gives the helpers a chance to experience a new place. 

We’ve been chatting for a few hours again but it’s almost time to say goodnight.  It is our last night here and we don’t have the energy to stay up till one in the morning two days running.  Breda says in wrapping up that the moral of her story is that one must not be afraid of change, be adaptable and evolve with time.  She has seen the unhappiness in the lives of people who live very regimented lives, too afraid to rock the boat.    She has been in more than 10 jobs already and says that if you are in your forties and still doing what you started out in your twenties you probably wouldn’t have grown as much as the person who has experienced change.  She says the people she has met and the experiences she has had which have been amazing have made her what she is today and led to an interesting life.   There will always be that pressure from society, to keep up with your peers and colleagues but if you have the courage to live your own life, make the decisions that are right for you, you will then truly find the peace and happiness we are all searching for.  I couldn’t agree more with Breda and we say goodbye, having made another connection with a kindred spirit.  Breda, I wish you all the best in the rest of your journey…  

“I don’t want to be that kind of person…so afraid of making a wave that I never swim at all.” 
- Chloe Kayne, Spotlight

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