Not In Kansas Anymore

After spending the holidays with my family in the US, I flew back to Ireland a few days ago. It’s a long commute: a two hour drive to JFK, six or so hours to Dublin Airport, and then a three hour bus ride to Galway. I always find the last leg of the journey (that is, from the Galway bus station to my house) the worst part. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk, so unless it’s pouring rain, I don’t feel justified in hailing a cab. I cut a sorry figure, dragging two suitcases while carrying a heavy backpack.

Something happened on that final stretch of the commute that really made me realize how different Galway is from New York City. As I trudged along the mucky sidewalks, a man stopped me to ask if he could help. For a moment I froze while he reassured me in his pleasant Irish brogue, but after I looked at his smile and his dog, I grinned back.

In New York City, I would have been more likely to call the police than hand over my suitcase to a stranger. In Galway, with barely a second thought, I gained a casual conversation and an all-around enjoyable walk home. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to hand over your belongings just because Ireland is a generally friendly place (in fact, people say that Galway is the friendliest city in the world). But I will say that I have personally undergone an immense attitude adjustment in the last few months. In the past I would have used words like “anxious” and “serious” to describe myself. Now I feel much more open and free.

See fig. 1 for another example:

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In the United States, rain was my worst enemy. I bundled up in a hood and umbrella and frowned as I slumped to class. I had three pairs of rain boots to cover every occasion. I carried emergency hair gel for when my ‘do inevitably got ruined. I spent my time in the rain feeling sorry for myself, and it rained a lot in New England.

See fig. 2 for comparison:

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Both the worst and best thing about Galway is the wind. It’s terrible because umbrellas are useless and even your hood will get blown back. But after a while, I got used to getting wet on my thirty-minute walk to class. And finally, I discovered why the wind is great: I can sing as loudly as I want because nobody else on the sidewalk can hear me over the wind.

Cartoons and joking aside, I am looking forward to seeing how I will continue to change over the course of this second semester. My creative fiction teacher once commented that so few authors write about happiness – electing, instead, to focus on the absence or pursuit of happiness. I can say that right now I am happy, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.

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