March 2009 Reflection

Since today is the Feast of St. Joseph and two days ago was the Feast of St. Patrick and since I have been something of a recalcitrant Catholic the past few months, I figure this is as good a time as ever to make a confession: I have yet to turn in a Mitchell reflection on time. Today is Thursday, March 19. This journal entry was due Sunday, March 15. And when I turn in this third Mitchell reflection, I’ll likely include a lengthy e-mail mea culpa to Mary Lou.

I’ll be the first to admit that my inability to turn these in on time is inexcusable. The U.S.-Ireland Alliance has given us the opportunity of a lifetime, for free. In the past two journal entries I’ve written at length about how grateful I am to be over here in Ireland for a year with a group of 11 of the most interesting and motivated people I’ve ever met. I honestly count my blessings every day when I take a step back from it all and hear stories about Adam doing a 16-term sum in his head to the amazement of his colleagues at Cork or about Tyler’s work to publish his book amid the rigors of 1L up at Queen’s or about Vicki’s cult-like status, even today, at the Naval Academy. Every day, I get the feeling I am surrounded by the men and women who will become giants. Meanwhile, the Mitchell continues to provide us with extracurricular opportunities that are unparalleled. Whether it be going to the U.S. Embassy’s election night party at the Guinness Storehouse in November or, more recently, getting the chance to sit down with Sen. Mitchell himself in Dublin, I have to say I’ve had to pinch myself more than a few times since I first got to Ireland last September. And for it all, the only thing the Mitchell requires in return are four simple reflections. But I struggle to get them in on time, every time.

Needless to say, it came as something of a relief this past St. Patrick’s Day when Vicki, Travis and I discovered that we had all missed the March 15 deadline. And, to further appease my Catholic guilt, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Mary Lou met up with us at Croke Park later on in the day and told us that she would not get around to reading the reflections until the weekend anyway. Mary Lou’s dispensation does wonders.

But I’ll make another confession: I secretly kind of enjoy the fact that I haven’t turned a reflection in on time. It’s somewhat liberating. I think (perhaps hope, for my own sake) that some of the other Mitchells agree. We lived our high school and college careers adhering to deadlines and due dates and rushing from one meeting to another with little time to think about much more than the next thing on the schedule for the day. This year, for the first time in a long time, we get to slow down and worry less about time constraints and more about the quality of the experiences unraveling before us. I wrote my first Mitchell reflection in an airport on the way to Barcelona. I turned in my second late because I was immersed in a fascinating final paper that would become — I now realize — the springboard for my thesis, which I’ll turn in next September. And this third reflection comes on the heels of two incredible weeks spent traveling around Ireland by car with my girlfriend, Lindsey, and then arriving back in Dublin to celebrate St. Patty’s with some good friends from high school and what seemed like half of the Naval Academy. For those weeks, I truly did feel like an “ambassador” — as Jose put it in his own first Mitchell reflection this past November. I came to realize during that incredible stint that I had made Ireland my own. When I spoke about Ireland’s Six Nations rugby team, I used the pronoun “we”. When I told stories, they were a bit more convoluted. And when I walked around Dublin, I felt I was showing people around my hometown.

Since I wrote my last reflection, school has begun to pick up again. After finishing up first semester papers, Jose and I traveled to London and then to Wolverhampton, England where we met up with Vicki and the Navy crew to compete in a bizarre endurance competition called “Toughguy”. After, Vicki and I went down to southern England where we stayed with a Marshall Scholar from the Naval Academy. Classes started soon after, and the rest has been a blur of academic work, preparation for the upcoming May 10 Prague Marathon, and, of course, the simple experiences of being in Ireland and attaching more experiences with more places.

So, to be very honest, I have secretly enjoyed being able to take it all in without worrying about prematurely penning a reflection. And at this point, as I conclude this third reflection four days after it was due, I have to say that I’ve begun to embrace “Irish time”, as they call it over here, in a way I never thought I could as a second semester senior at Duke at this time last spring. All this said, I still do appreciate the value of deadlines and due dates. The world of the college newsroom is still not that far behind. And so, as a penance for this reflection-turned-confession, I promise, Mary Lou, that I will have that fourth reflection in on time. Mea maxima culpa.

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