Yes, this is a listicle. (You’re welcome, Ted! Consider this the start of my contemplation of the fuller picture). In keeping with data scientist Gilad Lotan’s research on engagement with Buzzfeed listicles, I opted for a double-digit, odd-number listicle.
What are the eleven reasons to come to Ireland, you ask? I’m breaking with the traditional listicle model here by placing them in alphabetical order, but the eleven most compelling reasons to visit Ireland have been Alexander, Anji, Cam, Celia, Chris, Fatou, Hadley, James, Shauna, Sky, and Theodore.
Classic last-Mitchell-blog-post content? Yes. Clichéd? Probably. Derivative? … Ouch. I knew that by making my friends the focal point of my last blog post it would be vulnerable to these critiques, but I couldn’t help it. That’s what you call “brutiful.”
This year, I’ve seen hundreds of pulchritudinous churches (Latin isn’t dead), tasted bubble tea all over Europe, cheered on competitors at a national dog show, trodden the edges of dozens of cliffs, played pick-up basketball in seemingly every basketball gym Dublin has to offer, read copious amounts of criminological theory… and yet, all of that marrow-sucking pales in comparison to the countless hours of sleep I’ve sacrificed to spend time talking, laughing, and dancing with this incredible group of eleven friends who have forced me to grow in the best ways possible this year (Hadley, I’ve appreciated your concern and research-informed advice on reducing sleep deprivation risk factors and I’m working on it…).
Sure, Shauna and I missed the sun occasionally, but who needs it when you’ve got a sunny friend like Alexander to organize a compulsory screening of Bee Movie, and friends like Cam, Fatou, and James who will attend and problematize the film with you? (To clarify, Alexander immediately proclaimed that the film was “canceled”). I’m never going to forget Celia shouting “SWOONEY” and our inevitable peals of laughter that would follow; my long talks with Sky about life and love (and ending them fortified by, and not inured to, the unanswerable); and the many moments in which I happily sat back and let Chris communicate science to me, which never failed to remind me why I’m excited to see him return to the Midwest and make chemistry great again (in the public sphere). We have too many memories; they’d flood this post and drown its word-count restriction.
Whenever I need insight (of any kind, really), I know I can turn to Anji. En route to our final retreat, Anji and I were discussing what elements of this experience we would take home with us. Which changes had only been extended to us temporarily? Which would endure? I returned to my first blog post. I haven’t fully adopted the Irish relativity of time, but I did slow down some. At heart, I’m still that same person who rushes — but will I rush a little less when I start law school in August?
I looked back on how I look back. My mindset for much of my life has been to reflect on semesters, or years, through a hypercritical lens: what did I fail to do? (I never made it to ____, I never published that paper, I never…, etc.) What do I regret doing? What should I have spent more time doing? Why did I set an arbitrary bubble tea-consumption goal in the first place? (No regrets).
Starting with this Mitchell year, though, I want to adopt an approach that sees the value in my past as I construct my future. Not “what did I fail to do,” but how did I spend my time? What am I glad that I did? With whom did I spend my time? What conversations and experiences will I remember for the rest of my life? Knowing what I know now, how might I approach my day differently in the present moment? These questions alone don’t comprise the examined life, but they begin to strike a course for a more meaningful, meditative one. They draw me away from a formerly destructive, self-sabotaging approach toward a more ahimsaic, compassionate one. They seek the good in the world around me.
Among the many qualities we will take back with us to the U.S., I hope our collective dissatisfaction with the status quo endures. We’ve all been gifted an unforgettable year, but we will have boundless opportunities to slip back into complacency when we return to “reality.” I’m grateful that Cam shared the work of Saul Williams with me this year, and I’m going to hold onto his words:
“We do hereby declare reality unkempt by the changing standards of dialogue.”
It’s time to take advantage of the “lessened distance between thought patterns and their secular manifestations” to listen up.