To my family and friends who keep asking:
No. When I return to the U.S. in August, I can promise that I will not have an accent. My apologies in advance. What I cannot promise, however, is that you won’t notice a few… changes.
Ted’s running joke this year has been that I couldn’t go more than a day without wearing a piece of Mizzou-branded clothing. Guilty as charged. As a proud alum and life-long Missourian, you know I approach everything I do with a bit (o.k. a lot) of Missouri pride. There are few things I love more than talking about the Show-Me state, and living in Ireland, I’ve gotten to do that quite a bit because no one has ever heard of it. When I return, though, you may notice I am equally keen to talk about Ireland and Dublin.
Oh ya, I guess I say keen now. And grand instead of great, although sometimes it might be class instead. You might hear me describe “your man” as “sound.” I just mean someone ye know is a good person. Fair play to you if you have to ask, “what?” sometimes, but I promise most changes are really quite small.
I’m sure you’ll ask if I’m glad to be back. Of course. I cannot wait to get back to good peanut butter; Kansas City BBQ; the wide-open spaces of the Midwest; a car I can drive; and my family and friends I have missed seeing and sharing life with this past year. But there are many things I’ll long to return to in Ireland. The fizz of a Lucozade zero, especially when paired with a chicken and stuffing sandwich in a Tesco Meal Deal; decent public transit; the community of a vibrant, international capital; the laid-back pace of life.
I’ll especially miss living in a country that isn’t all-consumed by divisive partisan politics. Sure, there are issues with politics in Ireland, find me a democracy where there isn’t, but Ireland has found ways to create cross-party cooperation on several major policy issues—notably climate change. I will give you fair warning, living in Ireland as Britain has attempted to negotiate Brexit has made the politics and history of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Troubles my new obsession. I will talk to you about it. There is no maybe. These seemingly regional issues on an island a continent away hold important lessons for us in the US and hold potential implications for the entire world.
I promise a year abroad has not dampened my love for Mizzou sports, even if the Tigers normally played hours after I had gone to bed. You may, however, catch me occasionally talking about how the Dubs are looking in hurling and football. Yes, the first is a real sport (one I might actually take up when I move to Madison), and the second is not the football you’re thinking of… or even “European” football. I might make you watch some matches; I promise you’ll love them too. I also play Gaelic handball now. I’m not great, but if you ask, I’d love to teach you.
Some of this may fade, in time. But I think some changes are permanent. All this is to say, Dublin, and Ireland, has become a second home for me.
To borrow from a slightly misquoted yet appropriately sentimental James Joyce:
When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.
You won’t hear me talk with an Irish accent when I get back, but you may notice I now live my life with one.