My Year of Becoming an Athlete and the Community I Found Instead

Before coming to Ireland, I knew I wanted to make 2021-2022 my year of becoming the athlete I had always envisioned myself to be. I’ve spent so many years focusing on my health through nutrition, that it was time to truly hone in on my physical abilities. This year I am saying “Yes!” to everything I want to do regardless if I think I am physically capable of doing it, I might just surprise myself! I saw Dublin as the perfect opportunity to explore all the items on my bucket list, little did I know that I would finish the year with much more than a checked box. 

I started the year by joining a sport I’ve always wanted to try: Archery! I joined the TUD Tallaght Archery team for the craic of course but ended up being proficient and even competitive. I won 3rd place for Women’s Barebow at Ireland’s 2022 Indoor Nationals Competition!

Apart from excelling at a new sport, I met some of my dearest and closest friends through Archery. One of whom is currently with me at the airport as we head to find adventure in Switzerland.

I am extremely lucky to call these people my friends.

As this is my year of saying “Yes!” I pursued another sport I’ve admired for years, but never felt I could do: Jiu-Jitsu! I joined the Brazier Jiu-Jitsu Academy and quickly learned not only self-defense, but I found a family. I lack the words to describe what this group of people means to me. From failed takedowns to successful submissions and even sharing the woes of life, these people have supported me, unlike anything I’ve experienced before. 

Their encouragement led me to compete in Jiu-Jitsu for the first time, something I never thought I’d do! The day of my first competition was surreal, I was out of this world nervous as I was the smallest one in my category and injured. I did not expect 7 of my closest Jiu-Jitsu friends to come out to support ME. I was the only one from our gym competing that day and the first of the girls to compete. If I wasn’t so nervous to fight, I probably would have cried as I have never had such immense support from non-family members in my entire life. I am without words to describe how grateful I am for them. 

I won 2nd place and am currently training for a few more competitions before the end of my Mitchell Year! 🙂

My adventures also lead me to join the Dublin Civil Defense as a volunteer firefighter. Learning the ins and outs of firefighting, and first aid, and connecting with vast people across Dublin’s public service has been an honor. The craic with the lads after a long Monday night training is a super plus of course.

Being a firefighter has been a childhood dream of mine, now actualized. 🙂

This year I’ve been able to go Go-Karting, AirSofting, Yoga, Olympic Weightlifting, Dog sledding, Glacier Exploration, Snowmobiling, and Outdoor Trapeze, and it’s not over yet. Soon I hope to start Muay Thai and Aerial Acrobatics. Who knows, next I may take up sailing, fencing, or learn to play a new instrument!

One commonality amongst all my adventures holds true, wherever I go, I am met with the kindest, funniest, most supportive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Whether I’m running late and need a lift to training, or wanting to grab a pint after class, my people are always there for me, and I am there for them.

I started the year wanting to become an athlete and ended the year getting to know people in Ireland from all walks of life. My new Irish family means more to me than anything I could have expected this year abroad to bring. 

Supporting my friends and gym at their Jiu-Jitsu Competition <3

As I end my Mitchell year, I am reminded of a quote I now understand more than ever:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ― Miriam Adeney

Ireland and its people will forever have a piece of my heart, and they’ll hopefully have me for a bit longer. I have found a home, in a far away place I’d never imagined visiting let alone living in. I’ve gained community, friendship, a family, one of the happiest years of my life, and I am incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity. 

Wherever I go after my Mitchell Year, I know I will always have a home in Ireland.

Thank you.

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