Today was a classically foggy Wednesday morning in Dublin. As the sun creeped up behind the hazy gray veil, I tossed on a sweater and slid on my thickest socks. I’ve always loved the rain. I think rain is a great excuse to sit beside a big window reading a big book with a big coffee in hand. And on this classic Wednesday morning, while sitting at my favorite coffee shop with a few hundred pages left in The Emperor of All Maladies, I couldn’t hold back a growing smile as I processed how insanely lucky I am to be in that moment.
Since arriving in Ireland two months ago, I’ve had a number of these moments of random gratitude, moments where I’m so aware of the present that I wonder, how the heck am I so fortunate to be here? My degree program at UCD has been extremely accommodating of my research goals, and the US-Ireland Alliance has supported me with opportunities for personal exploration and cultural exposure that I didn’t dream possible. My classmates and neighbors in Dublin have shared their stories with me and introduced me to a new perspective on community and value-informed priorities. One day I’ll have no agenda and be drawing a few magpies flying around St. Stephen’s Green, and the next day I’ll be eating lunch with a keynote speaker—who happened to be the academic founder of my previous employer—at a systems biology conference on campus. I am so thankful for the diversity of experiences I’ve had and for the humanity in stories I’ve heard. I want to share some of these moments of extreme gratitude—gratitude for my reality in the present and for all the opportunities the Mitchell has provided me—with you all.
- Sharing a meal with my roommates Anthony and Nancy who cooked me a traditional Chinese dinner, and hearing their stories of triumph in the face of adversity to arrive at UCD
- Leaving dinner with the Mitchells, waiting for my bus, and listening to the song “Moon” while looking at a full moon in City Centre only to see a green shooting star blaze past me
- Walking into a room of incredibly accomplished professionals at the Irish Royal Academy reception dinner, surrounded by fancy portraits adorning the walls
- Listening to the story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford at Kilmainham Gaol with the other Scholars, which was a story demonstrating the legacy of bravery and sacrifice
- Bailing on a hike only to meet Josh and Sarah (a UCD alum), an Irish couple who lived in Portugal, and get breakfast with them as Josh shared fun Irish slang (“baltic” for cold was my favorite)
- Eating PB & Honey sandwiches with the other Mitchells during our hike in Glendalough, where we met a group of Americans who, twenty years ago, had their son delivered in the same hospital I was born at
- Getting a haircut and waiting for the bus outside Dundrum village centre, eating Indian snacks and thinking about how this was my “new normal”
- Meeting Senator George Mitchell in the room where the Irish constitution was drafted, and drinking a cappuccino in that same room
- Eating breakfast with a multinational director at Google’s EU HQ and saving a drowning fox with a group of strangers, all before 10am
- Sitting in the UCD radio studio to host the first episode of my show, watching a disco ball illuminate RGB flashes on the ceiling (BelfieldFM! 8-9pm, tune in :))
- Taking the Irish ferry to Wales for an overnight hike in Snowdon, where I met Brett and Chris and solo climbed my first mountain (in a tote bag)
No matter how fancy or how commonplace it is, there are special moments each day which remind me how rare of an opportunity I have been gifted. One day, when the memories of cities and countrysides become blurry, I will remember these moments, and I will cherish the peace and warmth I felt during this special time in my life where I learned just how big I could dream.