“So, how are you finding it?” My Irish friend squealed in reference to my first few days at UCC.
“Well, at first I was using google maps….” I rambled on despite her puzzled look, “but now I don’t really need the map because I just know where to go.”
Laughing, she explained that finding something doesn’t literally mean locating that place or thing, but instead how are you finding the experience of it.
I have inadvertently taken this phrase to heart this year, after learning what it actually means, of course. Rather than just questioning how am I finding my time in Ireland, I have begun noticing how I am finding myself through this experience. What parts of myself am I uncovering here?
From the classroom, to the local prison and community centers, sitting around having tea with new friends, and everywhere in between, I am finding pieces of myself are being returned to me. Pieces I didn’t even realize went missing. I am softer. Lighter. Freer. More open. I am learning and still growing. Grateful. I am so incredibly grateful.
The Jesuit Priest and activist Greg Boyle, SJ uses the saying “Now. Here. This” as a constant reminder to live in the moment and find joy. He urges everyone to “embrace perfect presence in the moment in front of us.”
Ireland has a way of doing just that, of revealing simple joys in each moment. Of making me stare directly at my goals, fears, and doubts, put them in perspective, all while finding a sense of comfort. I am starting to learn that maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day everything will be “grand, like.” From walking alongside the Giant’s Causeway to sitting around a table chatting about the future with my Mitchell Scholar family or Irish friends, there is no shortage of “how did I get so lucky?” moments here. Living, breathing reminders that in the right here, right now, this life sure is good.
During our first month here the Irish singer Nóirín Ní Riain read the poem, “For a New Beginning” by the poet John O’Donohue aloud to the Mitchell Scholars at Glenstal Abbey. One section reads:
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
When I first heard this poem, I was moved by it but couldn’t predict the ways in which it would take shape in my life. Yet, here I am nine months later and I am at home here. Ireland has taught me that there is a real difference between finding a place and finding yourself within that place. I look forward to uncovering what else awaits me here, in the place I am grateful to have found myself calling home.