Lessons from Ireland


Eight months ago, I sat in a corner of terminal A6 in the Philadelphia International airport waiting for my red eye flight to Dublin. I began to list goals for my year in Ireland. I was not exactly sure what to expect. In addition to the traditional academic and social justice pursuits, this list was a bit  broader (on purpose) and personal. Somewhere in the last four years, in between preparing taxes, public health initiatives, and genetic research, I did not have the opportunity to intentionally focus on these goals. As my year in Ireland is coming to an end, I wanted to take the time to think about these initial goals and what lessons they have turned into.

1. Talking about our (often insignificant) problems is one our greatest addictions. It is best to break the habit and talk about our joys. This is probably the greatest lesson I have gained. Work is for work while relaxing is for being home and enjoying both yourself and the company of others. It is okay to turn our minds off to let it recover. When I ask my Irish housemate how work went, he does not complain or tell me all of the annoying things that happened throughout his day. Rather, he focuses on things that he is looking forward to (maybe going to the cinema or grabbing a pint) now that the work day has ended. Stressing and complaining about our problems only makes the unhappy parts of the day seem longer. After much reflection on my last few years, I’ve realized how much work dictated every minute of every day. A healthier approach (that I’m still working on) is to work hard and teach our bodies and minds to relax and enjoy the pleasures that every day brings by focusing and looking forward to the good.

2. Feel insignificant as often as possible. I do not mean small insignificant, rather small in comparison to the universe. Travel. Explore people and cultures. Grasp how big our world is. Visit the ocean as much as possible. Lay on the Cliffs of Moher looking over the Atlantic Ocean and take a deep breath in (If that does not make you feel insignificant, I’m not sure what would). Drive around the Dingle Peninsula and soak in the beauty of it all. Stop and look at every single rainbow you come across (especially double rainbows). Seek sunrises and sunsets. Travel some more. When flying – focus on how far up in the sky over the clouds you are. Being in the midst of clouds gives the same feeling as when looking out into the never-ending ocean, or a never ending mountain range. Ireland’s beauty has rekindled my sense of adventure that I hope to never lose again.

3. Do not miss an opportunity to share experiences. Never, and i mean never, say no to a cup of tea (feel free to say no to the milk). Even if you do not want any more caffeine or if you have a deadline coming up in a few hours. Explore new foods with friends.Similarly, always be willing to have a pint (or a Jameson if a pint of Guinness is just too big, or you can try adding a shot of blackcurrent to the Guinness to make it yummy) or go to a random gig. Enjoy the atmosphere of live music.  Some of my greatest moments in Ireland have been at the most inconvenient times (oh paper due at midnight? A 5:30 am flight the next day?) This year has been as much about my academic work (understanding inequalities in our global community) as it has been about experiencing community and friendships on this island.  Having incredible experiences with my Irish friends, lovely international classmates, and Mitchell loves has been the cherry on the top of an unforgettable year.
I know that because of these lessons in how to enjoy, explore, and experience , I’ll always have a piece of Irish wisdom with me .
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