Sunday, July 23, 2017


I don't know if it is the fatigue or all the Guinness I've consumed since I've been in Ireland or seeing U2 or that my trip is nearly over or that I have to fly tomorrow or what, but I have been overcome by emotions today. I nearly broke down on a park bench on St. Stephen's Green and I'm trying not to do so again.

Twenty years ago I first set foot on Irish soil, the first steps I ever took in Europe, and the first place I'd ever been as an independent traveler. I was in love before we even landed. I had a plan to see U2, a Let's Go budget guide book, and two large suitcases (I would be spending the next four months studying in Luxembourg that turned into nine) that were too much to lug around, but there I was doing it anyway. I had a public school education in southwest Ohio, one supervised trip to Australia for a softball tournament, and two years of university under my belt. That was it. The only thing I knew about the world was what was on a map, and that's only because of my 8th grade geography competitions.

I wandered the streets of Dublin until I couldn't walk anymore. Once in a quest to walk to the mountains I walked as far south as Blackrock, which is quite a distance from the city centre. The same knee that's giving me problems now was the reason I had to stop walking then. (soccer injury) I didn't know how far away were the mountains - in Ohio an anthill is high elevation. I think I may have seen mountains on that Australia trip and maybe in California before I was five years old, but I can't think of any real comprehension of mountains I had when I tried to walk to the Wicklows. Eventually, I figured out that mountains are further than they appear, and I also figured out the Dublin train system, so I went as far south as the train would take me, to Bray, where at least I could get a good look at them. I never imagined I'd spend three months living IN them a few years later. I never imagined anything that my life would become. I was a dreamer then and now I'm desperately trying to cling to what is left of those dreams.

I always knew there was a difference between happiness and contentment. Right now I am probably the most content I have ever been. Contentment is stability, settling, and a lack of want. Happiness? That's something more, and it seems much harder to sustain. 

Happiness is staying where I want to be for longer than ten days. It's not having to wait six months or a year to go somewhere just to blink your eyes and you're home again. It's meeting people like the guy I met Wednesday and talking for hours and learning from him and feeling like you're kindred spirits and not having to say, nice meeting you, sorry I'll never see you again. Happiness is having a job you love so much that you want to do it everyday instead of wishing you didn't have to go. It's so much more than those things, but these are personal and immediate to me. What I wanted to do back then was write books that would convince the world civilization was worth saving. Now I'm not sure either of those things are possible or even worthy endeavors. 

I think I knew all the street names in Dublin in a few days that first trip. All I did was walk, as I wasn't sure what you were supposed to do as a tourist. I was as interested in the normal things that make up people's lives as I was any museum or tourist sight, and no guidebook will show you where someone's nice garden is or where people buy their fruit. Walking forever has been my travel style since then. It's how you get to know a place, how you learn to get around, how you come to care about the things you are seeing. Some people never venture away from the guidebook. Most, even. You might as well stay home and watch a documentary.

What I am finding now in my reflection is that my memory is indeed slipping, that there are chunks of time that are missing from that first trip, things that I thought I'd remember forever. I got around easily enough this time around; I remember most of the street names and the landmarks as if it hadn't been seventeen years since I last set foot in Dublin. I remember Princess Di was killed that week. I remember walking around O'Connell bridge looking for U2 scalpers for night two. I don't remember a single pub I went to. I do remember being scared to go in places as a single woman who wasn't even old enough to drink back home and had never ordered a beer from a bar.

"Dublin is a strange city. I've never seen architecture so old - it's haunting." - My first journal entry from that 1997 trip. LOL.

I think part of me misses that naivety. 

I know most of me misses those dreams and the unadulterated passion I had for life.

I think I expected to get something back that time stole from me. What I have found is a small city of the same mold as any other city, only with better Guinness. All I had wanted was to live here, and I never found the circumstances to make it work. I had experienced so many years of painful longing to be here, and now that I am here again, time seems to have taken that away. 

But I definitely feel a stirring in my soul.

There IS a spirit here, a sort of resilience. What a people. I am proud to have some of that in me, even if I am just another American mutt.

Just as I am rediscovering this, I have to leave. 

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