In the early nineties, Kathleen O’Brien sold her hair salon, Rapunzel’s, in the wee town of Kingscourt in County Cavan, Ireland. She packed up thirteen years of a life lived across the pond and set back for New York with her twin toddlers in tow. “I have a lot of things I’ve overcome and things I’m proud of… I think that’s one of them.”
Though a New York native, Kathleen has spent a good portion of her life traveling back and forth from the US and the Emerald Isle. “We moved to Ireland around when I was 17, but we’d always traveled there during the summers growing up… I did a bit of high school in the USA and half in Ireland which was a bit different. It was kind of hard to do that. You lose friends as you move around.” Being uprooted wasn’t all bad; it taught Kathleen how to pave her own path and create a life for herself no matter where she was. After high school, “I actually wanted to be a CPA, funny enough… but I had always had an interest [in cosmetology] and was good at it so I decided to go to school, did some training, and I opened up a business and owned it for 10 years.”
Her mother, a woman who certainly pioneered her own way as well, is Kathleen’s biggest source of motivation. “My dad died when I was so young, and she was a great lady and inspired me to be your best person, to be your best self, and to always do the right thing,” she says. “My mother was one of quotes, she was so funny and had a lot of good sayings… she said, you should do a good job in what you do because it’s a reflection of yourself.”
It’s a lesson she’s passed on to her children as well. Between Olympic trials and high school football games, Kathleen says it’s safe to say that “we’re a pretty sport-oriented family because they’re all athletes. I always had my girls in sports and encouraged them… I did some sports too growing up, but there wasn’t as much for girls then like there is now.” Most of her childhood, Kathleen spent in the streets of her hometown—Bayside, Queens— playing pick-up games, but not many organized sports.
As a result of her support for her kids’ involvement in sports, she says, “My girls are very competitive. They always tell my son that second place is the first loser,” she laughs. “My kids give 100% in everything they do which makes me extremely proud.”
Her favorite quote conveys just that: “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi.
For the time being, Kathleen and her family are stationary, something pretty rare for the well-traveled family. “I loved Austria and I have a soft spot for Ireland, of course… We were going to go back next summer” this time, taking her youngest on his first trip to the homeland, “but COVID hit.” Luckily, the family still has a pretty good alternative trip planned for next summer: Tokyo to watch her daughter compete in rowing for team USA at the 2021 Olympics. “Can I say my favorite quote is ‘row, row, row your boat?!’” she jokes.
Certainly, Kathleen has a lot to be proud of in her life. She is proud of her Irish heritage (Erin go bragh!). She’s proud of her career path. She’s proud of what her parents achieved in their lifetimes and the lessons they passed onto her. She’s proud of the challenges she’s overcome. But if you ask her what she’s proud of most, she’ll say it’s the family she’s created: “My family and my kids… they’re just good people.”
“I tell my kids to do the right thing. Be respectful. And at the end of the day, always be proud of what you did that day.”
Get to know my favorite…
- Book: I want to say The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (but I would be a liar because I didn’t finish it yet!)
- Movie: The Quiet Man (1952), an old classic Irish movie
- Song: “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks
- TV Show: Jeopardy!
- Singer: There’s so many
- Music Genre: Country and some old rock
- Color: Red
- Food: Steak
- Sports: Football: Jets, Baseball: Mets, Hockey: Islanders
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