January 2008 Reflection

I suppose it’s worth mentioning at the start that this entry is not an eleventh-hour attempt, as the saying goes, but rather a second-hour one. Second-hour, as in 2:00 a.m. Yes, yes—the rapturous joys of intercontinental jetlag, such as waking up at 1:30 in the morning and trying to find something to do (or write) in these dark, wee hours, aren’t totally bad; I’m catching up on work I left behind when I randomly ended up flying back to America for Christmas and New Year’s. So, with the quiet, nighttime Kildare horse country outside my dorm room window and the ringing sounds of airport luggage conveyor belt alarms still in my head, I write about the last couple of months of my Mitchell Scholarship experience.

Returning back to Ohio and Kentucky for Christmas turned out to be especially relaxing when I realized that I could buy most of my presents for people at the duty-free shops in Dublin Airport. I can’t recommend this enough; gifts from Ireland, at least in my experience, add kind of an exotic element to holidays and birthdays in America, and the one-size-fits-all nature of the gifts effectively eliminates having to worry about people who are difficult to shop for. I even bought an Irish teddy bear for my brand-new nephew, who was sitting in a premature ward in a hospital when I left for Ireland in September. With the gifts came music: I played for my family some of the fiddle tunes that I’ve been working on here with Maynooth’s traditional music group and with my Donegal-style private teacher. Also, the Tex-Mex burritos that comprised 80 percent of my diet in college, southern pulled-pork barbecue and my mom’s chicken and dumplings weren’t bad perks to coming home, either.

There’s really something to be said about how leaving a place—more than anything else—causes a person to realize the ties he’s developed there. I was only gone for a couple of weeks, and it honestly seemed difficult to leave. I have a fantastic group of students in my M.A. program, and all of us have gelled so well that we’re halfway considering going on a group weekend trip to somewhere in the Continent (the party-animals that Musicology students are). I’ve gotten very much involved in the music at the Presbyterian church here in Maynooth, to the extent that I had to make sure that they didn’t schedule me to play on one of the Sundays that I was back in the States. The relationships I’ve developed there, along with the aforementioned students in my program, my instructors, suitemates, friends from karate class, etc. came much more quickly than I anticipated when I arrived in Ireland. The supreme beauty of staying here for an entire year is that these friendships can develop even further over the next seven months.

To this end, this is the last time I’ll have to deal with the dreaded eastward jetlag for a very long time. These sleepless, psychedelic non-nights have one benefit, of course: I’ll be able to start waking up at six a.m. or so regularly—and naturally—in order to start training for the marathon in Belfast that I’ve decided that I’m going to run in May. Two of the other Mitchells from this year are planning to do it, too. The utter irony, of course, is that after four years of waking up at an unholy hour most mornings for Army ROTC physical training, I’m now doing the same thing by my own free will. I ran Nashville’s marathon three years ago back at Vanderbilt (and nearly vowed never to do one again), so I have some idea of what I’m up against. I’m not exactly sure whether vanity, glory, instinct, physical fitness or some twisted combination of the four is what’s motivating me to do this again. But I do enjoy running, even if I’m not varsity material. I suppose that’s good enough reason.

Finally, my last couple of months here have seen quite a bit of career-oriented activity. I received official permission from the Army to go to law school, and am eagerly waiting for admissions decisions to find their way into my mailbox here. Assuming I pass law school and the bar exam in a few years, I’ll be a JAG (Judge Advocates General’s) lawyer for the Army. For some reason, waiting on admissions letters (or, just as likely, the opposite) seems more difficult over here than it did back in the States, and I’m not entirely sure why. Of course, that won’t seem minutely as difficult as finding a place to live, in whichever city I go to law school, while I’m still in Ireland.

But that can wait. Carpe diem can be extreme, even unhealthy, sometimes. So for now, I’m very much looking forward to enjoying my friends, classes, and travels over here and—regarding the integral concept of time-zone adjustment—going to bed after eight p.m. like the big kids do.

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