find that in my own history, March is so often burdened with a need to atone for the sins of February. Though certain poets might disagree, I am convinced that February is the cruellest month. It is not just about weather; indeed, when I checked the Internet a few seconds ago to confirm Eliot’s spelling of “cruellest,” I found a site from Australia which corroborates those of us in the February camp. February in Australia is unbearably hot, apparently. There’s no winning the battle in either hemisphere.
No, it’s not just the weather. I have investigated many possibilities over the years, and while I have found many people who agree with me, none of us have met with success in articulating this phenomenon. I do not attempt to do so here, as March is a far better subject. The only point that needs to be made regarding February and its positives, however, is that growth is impossible without destruction. Ask any gardener or any therapist about the value of a little trimming. Winter is still my favorite season for this reason â€” to love the creation that follows, you have to love the empty canvas. But all this is just philosophy; let me be the first to admit that I am grateful that spring has come around.
March in Washington, D.C., the fair home of the US-Ireland Alliance, is notable primarily for the early blossoming of daffodils. Here in Dublin, we have seen the first purely sunny days in months. The daytime heat has gone up to 12, even 13 degrees (Celsius, friends, the way of the future). And that indescribable pall of winter which keeps heads down, eyes averted, and bodies bundled, has slowly begun its thaw. Spring changes people in the same way it changes the other parts of nature; something very deep within us is aware that it is time for growth.
Whether we were called by the shifting season I can’t be sure. But the new growth is eminently visible in the Mitchell class, and I see my own changes reflected in the people around me. We have just returned from another group trip, to Limerick, the Glenstal Abbey, Doolin, and the Cliffs of Moher. We had long conversations about the year thus far, fiery debates on politics, enormous meals with ample drink, and the obligatory poker wars. My awareness of these incredible people who surround me, my respect for them, and my trust in them, has deepened without my noticing. I have come to rely on them more than I have been able to express.
We are brought into the scholarship program with a grand mission that speaks in terms of the future: future leaders and future Irish-American interests. This should not obscure the fact that in the Now, as our lives move prosaically on, we are spending time together and doing one another good. We get each other through February. We are each threshing out our own ideas and our own futures, but we are also planning and creating with each other. We are a curious and disparate assemblage. As I read the pick of Scholars for next year, it seems clear that this is the intention. I do not think that the trust and friendship that evolves among us is a side benefit of the grant — I think the human element is at the core of it.
Vitally, we are not here in a vacuum. The human connections that we are bound to make extend far beyond the twelve of us. The Alliance puts enormous effort into opening doors for the Scholars, whether to give us a Thanksgiving dinner with a wonderful family, facilitate an internship with friends of the Mitchell, or even wrangle twelve seats for U2. There are reasons to do this that make good organizational sense — but the will to do it comes from good common sense. The ability for us to be here in the first place comes from the Alliance, so everyone I have befriended here is part of their gift. I am just beginning to understand how much more can be accomplished here than getting a degree — the answer is, more than you think.
I worked on two more plays this winter, and found myself ensconced in one more community of brilliant and talented people. Collaborations have also proliferated within my postgraduate program, as I’ve grown close to several colleagues, one of whom has joined me in starting Trinity College’s first ever Finnegan’s Wake reading group. I will be performing professionally in a new one-man show at the Dublin Theatre Festival this September, and plots are already being made for the fall theatre season at Trinity Players. I will remain in Ireland to finish my degree beyond the term of the Mitchell. But my life in that second year, even though I will no longer have the financial support from the grant, will be radically different for the experience of this year. This network, which seems more like a family, has already done its job.