At Duke, my senior column was titled “A Senior Column.”
Creative, I know. I had spent four formative years sitting at various desks in the Chronicle’s endearingly bedraggled, 1970s-chic newsroom. There, I had reported on jejune Duke Student Government policies, popped Champagne when I was elected editor, and bluelined a volume of papers I will be proud of for the rest of my life, with people I will never lose touch with. But when all was said and done, all I could write was another senior column.
The fact of the matter is I’m really bad at saying goodbye. Whenever I try to be profound, it comes off as cliché and irrelevant. There is something about a final column or a final reflection that has always stifled my creative juices.
So here I am, late again with my fourth and final reflection for the Mitchell. It’s been nine months since I arrived in Dublin. In that time, I’ve finished two (relatively) productive semesters at DCU and begun to embark on a Master’s dissertation that will (hopefully) dissect online political campaigns in the June 2009 EP Elections. I’ve traveled across Ireland and Northern Ireland and I’ve gone to Athens, Barcelona, Stockholm, London, Oxford, southern England, Prague, Paris, Nice, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome. I’ve unexpectedly found myself saying “OK” to running two marathons and enduring “Tough Guy” in Wolverhampton, England. All the while, I’ve had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with some of the most interesting people I’ll ever meet — the Mitchells and the many friends of the Mitchells who have traveled through Ireland over the course of these past nine months.
It was a year lived — by and large — in the now.
When I won the Mitchell in November 2007, I was sitting at the editorial editor’s desk at The Chronicle. I was immersed in the grind of deadlines and daily production. I had not yet begun to think about a senior column let alone the type of year the Mitchell would bring. I was ecstatic. But I was also pretty baffled. After all, it’s rare that you’re given a gift with no real strings attached. But I also felt a tremendous relief that I would have an extra year to focus on academics in a laid-back way. To enjoy life, I guess, at a point and time when a lot of people our age get thrown onto a trajectory and can’t look back.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot this year. That goes without saying. But I didn’t learn nearly as much as I thought I would in the classroom. I learned it during those moments when I was consciously (and perhaps irresponsibly) ignoring the paper I had due the next day in order to go out for dinner or a pint with some of the Mitchells. It’s liberating, this idea of “Irish time” — this mindset that is so anathema to the grind of deadlines and daily production but all the while inspiring and motivating in its own right.
But there is also a part of me that has been — and continues to be — “itchy.” I’ve gotten that feeling throughout the year. It often comes after I’ve spent three weeks living in the moment. As weird as it sounds, I’m ready to take these hundreds of memories and move on to the next step, whatever that might be. I’m excited for that.
To the new Mitchells: Congratulations! Your mugshots are now front-and-center on this Web site, which means the torch has been passed on. The current class waited with eager anticipation to see your bios go up. You’re a part of a community. You know that. And I think I speak for the entire ’09 Class when I say don’t hesitate at all to reach out to us at any time, because we’ll drop whatever we’re doing to talk. That’s what Nick, Frank and the previous Mitchells did for us. It’s the least we can do for you.
You’re in for an incredible ride. And, throughout that ride, always remember our man Oscar Wilde’s famous words: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
To the current Mitchells: I owe several of you money for dinners at Trinity. I hope that time and fond memories will allow us both to forget this debt.
Seriously, though, we’re hitched. The spiffy rings indicate that. But, honestly, I can’t think of a better group to be married to.
Jose, the only thing that surpasses your work ethic and inability to pronounce names is your impeccable sense of European style. Joshua Tyler. Dude. Dude. Seriously, dude, quit the law route and become a Euro stylist. Al-righhht? Travis, I’m sorry I called you Tyler so many times. Please keep the golden locks thinned and layered for us all. Adam, you still smell. But your ability to do 16-term sums (partially) makes up for it. Chris, the stadium tour starts this fall in St. Louis. Chris and KC, I hope that one day your kids will open the Sweden section of the family photo album to find pictures of “Uncle Ryan” with Mom and Dad. KC: ’Sup. Katie, you’re so buying me a steak dinner this Fall. Catherine, we’re so going to get (veggie) pizza in New Haven after Katie buys me dinner this Fall. Lara, I will always respect and admire how you can go up to a bartender in any traditional Irish bar with traditional Irish music playing in the background and order — without hesitation — a shot of tequila. Damn. Andrea, oh, you lawyer, you! When you join the Supreme Court, remember those of us who may or may not be living in a cardboard box.
Hi, Vicki! (But seriously…)
To Trina and Mary Lou: Adam probably said it best in his Mother’s Day Card, but thank you both for giving us the nod and finding in us things that we haven’t begun to see in ourselves. We’ll never forget you guys. And Mary Lou, in particular, you know you’ll be missed. I guess we’re graduating the Mitchell together this year. I hope time and fond memories will allow us both to forget the fact that I never turned in a journal on time. Yeah?
So there it is. The fourth and final Mitchell reflection, cliché or irrelevant as it may be, written in the now of a sunny, September-like June afternoon at DCU.