Growing up, I had an unusual obsession with the world of professional surfing. I didn’t grow up on the water. And even if I had, in Mississippi that water would have been almost completely devoid of waves. Nobody in my family surfs. I’m not even sure I knew anyone who had ever surfed, even just once, when my obsession began. For whatever reason, I chose to adopt the World Championship Tour, Kelly Slater and Roxy/Quicksilver as the sole focus of my 14-year-old mind. But eventually, I grew up, found some more practical interests, and had almost forgotten about the love of my life–that is, until I moved to Ireland.
At the beginning of the year I went to the clubs and societies day at the National University of Ireland-Maynooth. I spent half a day walking around a large gymnasium learning about all sorts of clubs (the Trampoline Jumping Society and wine tasting stand out as a few of the more unique clubs). As I made my way, I lost all the maturity I thought I had gained during my years in college and my time in Ireland, and I was once again a 14-year-old with an odd but overwhelming obsession with surfing. There in the corner, with a board propped behind their table, was the NUIM Surf Club. I quickly paid my 2 euro joining fee and became an official member.
Throughout the year the Surf Club hosts weekend trips to the west of Ireland to surf in some frigid waters along with one international trip to a warmer destination. This year the international trip happened to be to Morocco, and I wasted no time in signing up.
I’m proud to say that just a week ago, my childhood dream came true and I finally got on a surfboard. And not only did I get on a surfboard, I actually rode some waves! I could tell all sorts of stories about Morocco–the food (yummy), the beach (beautiful), the culture–but the real reason I even brought up my surf obsession has much more to do with Ireland than North Africa.
Ireland has turned out to be the perfect sort of connecting thread that brings together all my life experiences. There is the concrete reality of living in Ireland that is opening doors for me (i.e., like seeing the world through the Surf Club☺). But also, on a more theoretical level, thoughts and interests that I’d held in separate cavities of my brain, are now being worked into conversations together, all with Ireland at the very center.
A few days ago I walked into a class to watch a short documentary about housing and race relations in South Africa. While living in South Africa in the summer of 2010, I met the filmmaker whose film I was now watching in my classroom in Maynooth. In a discussion that followed the film, my classmates referenced race relations in Mississippi in connection with the fight for affordable quality housing in inner-city Dublin. That is just one example, but I continually find myself pleasantly surprised at how it all works together.
I had had doubts about how my very specific interests in Mississippi would translate to Irish policy discussions, but they flow much more naturally than I ever imagined. It seems the center of my world is shifting from the Deep South to an island with a big impact across the ocean.