“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
I think I mentioned this earlier, but the super exciting “woopeee I’m in Ireland!” phase has worn off. Once the thrill of going out 4 times a week becomes a routine, what does it mean that you’re drinking more than you ever have in your life and skipping half your classes? At a small liberal arts school, I probably missed two or three classes in an entire semester and did homework or sat in class for the majority of my day. If I did that here, everyone would tell me I was crazy. Granted, I think that if I was an Irish student, I would be more diligent about my schoolwork, but I’m not.
My courses are interesting, but my professors present everything as absolute fact when I know they’re really presenting only one interpretation of the literature. There is no system of checks and balances for how I’m doing in a course, and I know that even though my professors probably do care if I’m doing the reading, they do not care to assess my comprehension. Sometimes I wonder what professors do with all their free time here. For these reasons, schoolwork is not a primary factor in the way I align my days. So I skip class a lot for coffee with a friend or for a date where I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened over the weekend with a guy I met in a bar.
Maybe it’s the hangover of the protestant work ethic, but this skipping out on school comittments, made me horribly guilty for a while and sometimes still does. Instead of being content with my choices to focus on non-academic aspects of myself, I beat myself up for being a slacker. Maybe I am a slacker. All week I listened to friends who told me to class more, professors who wanted me to do the readings, parents who told me to travel more, and what seemed like everyone in the city who wanted me to drink another Guiness. I worried so much about making everyone happy and fulfilling all these expectations. Finally, I felt like a had graduated to being a crazy person with no sense of direction, mad mood swings, and a tiny bottle of gin on the top shelf of my desk.
Then my creative writing professor from my home college arrived with her partner to spend a few days in town. They had asked me to show them around as a workshop she was supposed to attend had been cancelled. We agreed to go out to lunch the day they arrived. I’ve taken only one class with her, but I knew we were similar people and liked her because she was also a quirky poetry-writing type. We had lunch at a table in a cafe looking out over the swans in the bay and talked about Ireland and school and nothing particularly important for three hours. She introduced me to Cardamom coffee and her partner told me stories about the gay bar that he frequents in Wisconsin (even though he’s decidedly un-gay). We parted ways agreeing to meet up the next day at a trad session at the Crane Bar.
I arrived at the Crane for our appointed meeting and didn’t see them there, so I sat down with the other musicians and chatted with another beginner who was learning guitar. The session started and I half strummed along, bending my ear down close to my strings to try and discern if I was playing anything right. I was doing pretty well. Definitely improving since the first few weeks! An hour later, I saw my professor and her partner come in and take seats at the bar. A few songs later I went over to talk to them, and introducted them two two of my friends who sat at one of the miniature bar tables that make you feel like your in an ancient Celtic preschool. They left around midnight, headed to Dublin the next day, I continued playing for a while and got into bed by 2am. The week continued on.
I didn’t realize until now the calming effect their visit had on me. I can only boil this great phenomena down to fact that my the couple listened to me tell about what I was doing here, and didn’t pass any judgement on my actions. Granted, I didn’t them every detail of my life, but I was honest enough with the details of school and travel. Since they came, I’ve scheduled a tour to the Cliffs of Moher this weekend with a friend which we had been putting off for weeks in favor of hitting the bars, and am back to writing. I feel that I am changing so rapidly from this experience that I don’t want to risk not remembering stages of the change.
Instead of citicizing my actions all the time, I’m hoping to move forward by taking actions I feel good about, and not obsessing over keeping my own moral standards the same as they have always been. I’m not lowering my expectations, but attemping to abolish them completely. When I expect nothing, I am bound to get a return. These returns might be pleasant or unpleasant experiences, but they are always opportunities to learn more about myself or someone/thing outside myself. Although Ireland might not be the place to study, it is a great place for navigating new social situations, chilling with swans in the bay, hanging out in Supermacs at 3am, and taking risks. Not going to class, going out with a stranger. To me, the risks are becoming addicting. Maybe this is why people get obsessed with travel.