I wrote in my first blog post that “Goodbye is so far off, but it already feels just about impossible.” That goodbye is now only a week and a half away, and I’m left wondering where the year has gone.
Some things I will miss: the long winding trails around UCD, which have carried me through many happy and sad moments this year; walking through St. Stephen’s Green Park, watching in awe as the seasons change; pausing to listen to the live music on Grafton Street, feeling momentarily bonded with the group of strangers listening around me; the AirCoach journey back to Dublin 4, giving me a mini tour through the county each time I land back at Dublin Airport and reminding me that I am home; the Irish friends who have shown me such kindness and taught me so much. And, I will miss my Mitchell cohort; I so cherish these relationships and always will.
I can’t take any of these things with me (except for those in my cohort who will, thankfully, be nearby in the coming years!), but I’m hoping pieces of their significance to me this year, and the lessons I’ve learned, will continue to hold meaning in my life.
Regrets seem worth mentioning, in case future scholars can benefit from them: I wish I’d stuck with my initial goal of keeping a journal for the year (not my first failed attempt at journaling, admittedly); I wish I’d made my travel bucket list—both within and outside of Ireland—earlier in the year to better structure those plans; and I wish I’d spread my trips out more evenly between the trimesters. To future cohorts: I wish you beautiful sunsets and sunny skies, many moments of reflection, limited mandatory costly European Covid tests for travel, and anything and everything else you require out of your year on this magical island. I have frequently paused to reflect on the fact that everyone in our cohort came into the year with very different goals, and approached their time here with equally as much variety. There really is no right or wrong way to do this year; it depends so much on the person, and so I hope you get exactly what you need out of your time here (keeping in mind that, as the old lyrics from The Rolling Stones remind us, that isn’t always what you want). It’s a choose-your-own-adventure, of sorts, and I think that’s one of the most special aspects of this opportunity.
I have seen a lot this year and feel lucky to have checked many items off my Mitchell year bucket list. But I also had to accept pretty early on that there’s no way to see everything. That acceptance felt a lot more palatable when I was reminded by my stepmom that this is a good thing, because it means there are always reasons to go back to places you love and keep exploring.
I was on a ferry in the Amalfi Coast last week and, completely by coincidence, sat next to two older women from Dublin. They asked about my studies and travels, and we discussed our favorite parts of Ireland. Running into them, and getting the chance to share stories about the place I feel fortunate to have called home for the last nine months, was a nice reminder that the Irish are everywhere—a joke I’ve heard from them many times this year, but hadn’t really experienced myself until that boat ride. As I got up toward the end of the journey to go meet my brother downstairs, one of the women said to me, “Listen, Amelia: come back to Ireland, okay?”
Obviously. And good thing, because I suck at goodbyes.