An Irish Quote

“I can be perfectly happy by myself. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”  — Oscar Wilde, De Profundis


A little over a year ago I bought a journal in The Coop in Harvard Square, one I’ve carried with me this entire year. 

I’ve kept a journal, in bits and pieces, for as long as I can remember.  But, I’ve only written with true consistently over the last three years.  My keeping a regular journal began, funnily enough, on my first trip to Ireland.  I spent four weeks traveling around the country in 2014.  I began my visit with a six day stay in a hermitage in Glendalough (perhaps, a less than typical Irish tourist activity) where I spent lots of time hiking, reflecting, praying, and journaling.

The journal I carry today is a simple black hardcover, with metallic page edges.  The front has cursive writing in gold embossing that reads: “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”  I picked the journal because of the phrase.  I thought it could be a constant reminder of the importance of gratitude, living in the moment, and choosing joy.

Only just last week did I realize this quote came from a literary figure, memorialized forever in a Stephen’s Green sculpture, Oscar Wilde.  Little did I know, for the last year, I’d been carrying the wisdom of an Irish writer.

It’s symbolic that I realized this link as I prepare for my final two months on the island of Ireland.  It’s a serendipitous reminder of all the wisdom I’ve gathered from this special place — consciously and unconsciously.  My first trip here years ago was an important and valuable inflection point in the middle of my twenties.  This year as a Mitchell Scholar (coinciding with the year I turned 30!) was a period of growth and discovery that I’ll carry with me for a lifetime.

I learned the value of time alone, experiencing the immeasurable beauty of solitude in quiet afternoons in Dublin churches and long hikes in the Wicklow Mountains.  I found great craic with strangers in pubs on rainy evenings in the countryside and with new lifelong friends in Dublin bars, friends who were strangers only months before.  I pushed past what I thought was possible through the Connemarathon and hours of excel financial models.  I surprised myself singing Buffalo Springfield in a local Blackrock session, joining an MBA World Cup rugby team, and taking last-minute adventures. I found God in churches and monasteries, mountaintops and seasides, in adoptive Irish parents and new friendships.  I realized getting lost was usually the best way to find what you were looking for, tea and homemade bread really can turn any day around, and being in a rush is generally unnecessary while being nice universally is.

Mostly, I embraced the fact that life isn’t linear.  Instead, it’s as circuitous — speckled with unexpected stops and turns — as an Irish road-trip.  And, that’s a good thing.

A year in Ireland. Who could not be happy? Who could not be grateful?

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