Only 66 days left on the island and the coursework is finished (will my essays ever be marked?), my internship is over (over 1,000 objects were sorted and listed in the Lynda Walker archive at the Linen Hall Library by me), and campus is quiet (everyone has gone home except for the lonely post grads who are procrastinating their dissertations… like me.)
I would like to say something profound with my last Mitchell blog, but I’ve been building Sim houses instead of writing this (and my dissertation), and now the deadline is here. I feel complicated about endings— I actually like change most of the time and find it encouraging. I love imagining the future. There was a time when all I could daydream about was what my life would be like here. And now I’m here with just a little bit of time left, anticipating the inevitable longing I will feel for this place when I am where I am daydreaming about now… So what now? What have I learned? What am I going to carry with me? I’ll try to keep this short:
Belfast has taught me how community is not only a value, but a necessity. Much of my culture shock and difficulty adjusting to life in Belfast, I think, stemmed from leaving such a strong home community where I understood my identity through my roles and positionality in my community and coming to a place where not only did I have no connection to the community, its cultural ethos, or its problems, but I also couldn’t pretend to be apart of it even if I tried. Each time I’ve spent abroad, I’ve always written about how exhausting and uncomfortable it feels to be aware of how “other” I am in every space, including in my home context. I have not reconciled this, and I don’t know if I ever will. But Belfast has reminded me of all the things I love about my home. My messy, complicated, fighting-for-its-soul Deep South. It has been challenging to watch my community from so far away and to be, again, an outsider. I will return home for one week before moving across the country to what will be my home for the next six years. I grieve for the place I’ve bittersweetly called home, especially recognizing that I will never go home in the same way I used to again. But I know it calls me back, and I’m grateful for how clear this call is now.
The truth is: my life here is slow. And I like it like this. My life in the States was bloated and busy, and totally unsustainable. It has been an important lesson to know that an alternative is not only possible but necessary. Living slower has helped me invest even deeper in the real priority of this year: the phenomenal people I get to call my friends. From grad school late-night dinner hangouts to learning how to lift weights (thanks, Gil) and swim (thanks, Ellie) to intense second-hand embarrassment of Matty Healy and the most joyous day of my life when Sarah, Gil, Ellie, and I went climbing, slipping, sliding, and jumping off of 20-foot tall inflatables in wetsuits over an extremely cold lake— these are the moments that have really mattered.
I have felt most fulfilled being with friends and following my heart on things that were really and truly just for me. Like, signing up for poetry workshops to reignite my love for writing and running my first marathon just to prove to myself that I could follow through on my self-promises. Who knew that losing a whole toenail could be such a point of pride? This is where my real advice is for the me of the past and the Mitchells of the future. Find your people and lose your toenail. 🙂
Future Belfast Mitchies, if you want my recommendations and/or my total rotten tomatoes, I’ll be happy to give you my rawest scoop. (If there is one that I want the world to remember it is Bank Square Brasserie— you MUST go if you are visiting Belfast.) For now, though, I’ll leave you with the poem I wrote for my last workshop today, and that I hope to include some version of in a collection about twenty-year-old-girl things titled, “Girl Shit!” one day. Please don’t steal that…