It's a breathtakingly beautiful Monday morning as I make my way out to Dún Laoghaire pier. The day has been painted to perfection, wisps of fluffy clouds floating between the blue sky.
My friend is late, as usual, and there's a funny dialogue between us about his time-keeping. While he values punctuality, history would suggest he's not very good at actually being on time. We make our way to his boat and I take in my surroundings and he sets things up.
It's a truly gorgeous area. The landscape is flanked by rolling hills in the background, periodic properties in front, and the open water, a constant invitation to the eyes. He runs through some basics with me and although he does his best to disguise it, I can tell he's a bit nervous. Partly because it's his first time bringing out a non-sailor, partly because it's me he's bringing, and it's a bit like playing a wild card - you're not sure how risky the venture will be.
I remain standing near the helm as we motor out of the marina. I've never been much of an adrenalin junkie, my greatest thrills normally coming from more sedate pastimes. But with the sea air on my face and the wind tangling my hair, I feel the first stirrings of addiction.
He teaches me how to tack the sails and operate the helm. He talks to me of wind and tides as he gestures back to the shoreline, to the world, his world. It's a half hour drive from the one I grew up in, but it might as well be another country. The customs and norms compare starkly against one another. The very physical descriptions - this place, so pleasing and companionable to the eye, my world, an industrial one of harshness and crudeness.
From a young age, I've known what it means to be an outsider. To be in a world or in a place, and not be of it. You exist, but you don't feel you belong. It's an unnaturalness that itches beneath your skin but one, you eventually assume, you'll have to live with for the rest of your days. The things I've done - university, DC, the media and RTÉ - have exposed me to things, places, and people I barely knew existed before. On more than one occasion - be it hobnobbing around Capitol Hill, cheering at Congressional when McIlroy won his first US Open, or becoming friends with household names - I've stopped for a moment to ask if it was all real.
I wonder how it is that the little girl I once was has not only been graced with these opportunities, she feels more at home here than the world she comes from. It's like being fluent in a language you didn't even know existed. It's the prevalent ethos more so than the material benefits which speaks to me so; that anything is possible. It's a contagious belief that anybody can and will become anything, an enduring positive pursuit of the very things you long for the most.
Of all the differences, the mindset is the most profound. Those whom have spent their lives robbing from Peter to pay Paul abandoned hope and faith a long time ago. Where the world once held glimmering possibility and anticipation, a harsh reality took over. It stripped them to the bone before pessimism broke their core. Good fortune is viewed with suspicion, and an enduring sense that it will somehow come back and bite you. Opportunities should be treated with a healthy dollop of distrust; the vernacular is heavy sighs and jaded observations of everyone and everything.
It's sad, but more than understandable. With minimal intervals, I've only ever lived a life where poverty is a few steps from the door. It's a constant battle to stay afloat, with the last few months being harder than most. I get feeling like there's no point, that you're in a game that will forever be rigged against you. But I also know that it's not true. And I refuse to be consumed by disillusionment. I'd rather spend the rest of my life pushing towards a better life that I'll never have than give up and accept anything less.
As he shows me Dalkey, pointing out markers of a village that has become synonymous with the very wealthy, I lick salt-water from my lips and feel the waves rock me from side-to-side. I think of how far I've come, and how far I've yet to go.