“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?