Relearning to be present in Dublin—the moments between the moments

Hello friends! At the time of writing this blog post, I am sat beside a large window at The Pulse Café @ UCD watching the snow fall, quickly covering up the tread marks of previous cyclists. Pulse is my third place, and I’m grateful for the comfort that the cafe brings me. I’ve befriended the barista staff, becoming closest with Santiago. He is originally from Argentina, loves Eastern European Christmas markets, and feels most self-confident after a fresh haircut. Every morning, we share a little bit of our day with each other; he tells me about a new workout split he’s trying, and I tell him about a big meeting that I’m stressing about.

Pulse Cafe—perfectly positioned and amazingly priced!

In recent years, I’ve become acclimated to moving fast and moving toward a destination. But this year—and specifically right now—as I watch the snow turn to slush and passers-by take photos of white-covered branches, I feel, for the first time, no urgency to get anywhere quickly. In many ways, my third place is the antithesis of my first and second places, and thank gosh for that.

A snowstorm takes Dublin—a visiting friend sat on the Aircoach for 2 hours this morning!

I’ve always been a future planner (an optimistic spin on my chronic worrier tendencies). I’d always chalked up future planning as a skill to justify escaping a chaotic and overwhelming present. I could step away from the abundance of new experiences (which require decisions, and opportunity costs) that surround me by hyperfixating on what came next. By looking to the future, I became comfy knowing what to expect, and I thought I was doing a responsible thing by “alley-ooping” my future self. Perhaps in the process though, I became afraid by the open-endedness of the present.

My opportunity tracker, filled with 450+ personal, professional, and academic opportunities that caught my eye

My insecurity surrounding finding my “next thing” is why I always travel with my laptop in my backpack—in any worst-case scenario, if I ever get overwhelmed by the present, I can set up shop in any café (my third place) and work toward a destination or find a new one. But quickly, I developed a dirty habit of escaping my present by ensuring my past self always made choices to keep my future self busy.

In a moment of future panic during a weekend trip to Scotland, I pulled into a cafe on the Royal Mile to start my grad school applications.
Killing some time in Belfast by getting ahead on a problem set not due for months.

After realizing all this, I’ve tried to become more cognizant about finding a healthier balance between living in the present and alley-ooping my future self. On Tuesday’s, for instance, I take the 39A bus to Dawson Street—without my backpack—and spend the morning reading at Hodges Figgis and treating myself to a Citrus Tea at Costa. I spend less time listening to music on commutes and more time noticing the buildings and people I pass. I noticed that I addressed burnout from internship work by “opportunity shopping” for future projects or trips, so nowadays I’ll work on my internship projects near a museum or park, so that I can explore the area when I find myself drifting into worries about the future; most recently, I’ve been able to visit the National Gallery, The Irish Emigration Museum, and Merrion Square Park.

Hodges Figgis! Best bookstore ever.
EPIC Irish Emigration Museum, a pitstop between a morning and afternoon work session.
The Royal Irish Academy, my favorite work destination on my favorite street in Dublin

I’m starting to see the upside in slowing my pace, embracing newness where my feet are, and not seeking to make sense of a hazy future. And this is a lesson I couldn’t have learned at a more pivotal time—last week, I committed to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to begin a PhD in AI & Emerging Technologies for Medicine! The program commences in August following my graduation from UCD, and although I’m eager to start imagining what my life in New York will look like, I find myself equally eager to relish exactly where I am right now.

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