Being On Time

At 9:17pm, watching the latest in a series of sunsets that stretch surprisingly deep into the night, I established some common ground with the sun: these days, we are both drawing out saying a difficult goodbye to Dublin.

At 53.3448° N, 6.2568° W, the coordinates of my dorm room, the sunset is more than a metaphor for the draining twilight of my Mitchell year. It makes me realize that time, which has felt particularly scarce and precious here, touches Dublin differently than I am used to.

The longitude situates me in Greenwich Mean Time, 5 to 8 hours ahead of the friends and family I have at times struggled to keep in contact with. Fittingly, the people who are my home are always in my past and present at the same time—my tomorrows come a little earlier than theirs, and their todays leave a little later than mine.

And at this latitude, where the summer sun stays out past its bedtime, I have become embarrassingly preoccupied with the relative speeds of rotation. Here, the circumference of the earth is smaller than at points further south, which means that in the 24 hours it takes for the earth to rotate daily, we Dubliners travel a shorter distance than anywhere in the continental United States. Life literally moves more slowly here.

This reality manifests itself everywhere in Ireland: in half hearted attempts to leave friends at a pub while a wristwatch reveals that “just one more pint” expresses itself as an hour or two; in serendipitous Front Square encounters that stretch into full blown conversations; in meetings and buses and lectures that, obeying Oscar Wilde a little too closely, are “always late on principle, that principle being that punctuality was the thief of time.”

While life moves more slowly here, time, sadly, does not. And leaning out of my window at 53.3448° N, 6.2568° W, looking on a stone campus bathed in the even glow of vanishing light, I felt a crepuscular nostalgia. I am homesick for a place I have not yet left.

It is a blessing to have made friendships as meaningful and enduring as the ones I’ve built here, to have etched memories into the corners of a city and the terrain of a country that anchor me to a space and time I can uniquely and happily claim as my own. But it makes leaving hard. And as excited as I am to unpack a life closer to the one I’ve known, I’m sad—simply and bluntly sad—to leave this place and all it has come to mean to me.

Tennessee Williams once wrote a line that imprinted itself on my brain: “Time is the longest distance between two places.” It is unlikely that my life will ever sustain this pace again. As its velocity increases, I will move further and further away from this reality. For now, though, I want to memorize how it feels to spin slowly and bring it with me wherever the future is.

The view of Trinity College at twilight from my window, featuring the backside of an installation of Samuel Beckett to the right of the Campanile.
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