I don’t know when to quit.
I never have. I think that’s part of the reason why I made such a good organizer—I feel like to work in abortion access in places like Kansas you have to have a sometimes foolish, never-going-to-give-this-up stubbornness. I will be the first to admit I sometimes make reckless choices, and that I identify spiritually with the meme “the risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math.” This is a very roundabout way of saying that I made the decision to stay in Ireland despite a global pandemic.
I don’t have US health insurance. I have one of those fun pre-existing conditions that impacts my lungs. I know if I get COVID-19 there’s a greater chance than most 22-year-olds I will need hospitalization, probably for pneumonia. I cannot afford to spend days in a hospital and wind up with a $73,000 bill as the cost of keeping me alive and comfortable. I cannot return to the country I was born in and lived in for 22 years because of political decisions that systemically replaced the welfare state with massive personal debt. I’m not going to say that isn’t painful. So, I had to stay.
I love Ireland. I love the way I feel in the countryside, going on hikes in the green, hearing the lovely lilting accent, and feeling the history wrapped into the cairns and bogs. I love staring at the sea in the middle of a hike. I love the way the constant rain makes the world feel so alive. I love the resilience. I love the people.
Those who say Irish are distant to foreigners have never seen them come together in a crisis. Ladies in my cohort have asked me if I need to move in with them and their kids. A dear friend has offered me a room in the house she’s renovating—a friend on the border in Co. Monaghan told me her parents (who have never met me!) want me to come up if living in Dublin gets too precarious. My master’s cohort has plans to deliver groceries and supplies to each other via bikes if someone living alone gets sick.
I wish instead of writing this sad, sad, post I was getting ready for cans at a friend’s place. I wish that I was still able to walk into my kitchen and run into Annabel, I wish that the last time Keshav, Matt, and I had pints wasn’t the last time. I wish this year had a satisfying conclusion instead of this interminable stasis. But, although my friends are scattered, we are all more-or-less safe, and that is something to be grateful for now.
If the point of the Mitchell year was to make connections in Ireland, I feel like I did alright. At the end of the day, all we have is each other. All we have is the connections we’ve made and the people we love and who love us. I’m grateful for how many connections I’ve made and how many people are keeping an eye on me now both here and virtually. I’m grateful to this country for taking me in, and I’m in gracious awe that even though I can’t be with my parents, or back in the United States, I get to spend my pandemic in Ireland.