I’ve been in Dublin for three days now after what felt like an endless travel day. Most of the people in my program flew directly to Dublin. Not me though–I took three separate flights, each with a hefty layover in between. In a way, this travel day scared me. I’d known about it for months and been counting down the days since August. My bags were packed and I was ready.
At the same time, nothing really prepared me for that alarm to tick down to zero. It’s one thing to go to college a ten-hour drive from home, but another thing entirely when there’s an ocean in the way.
Walking through security, I didn’t look back. Keeping busy, going forward–nothing could stop me from living my dreams.
Hours later, I stared out my airplane window, watching the sea and Ireland’s coast appear before my eyes, illuminated in the glow of the rising sun. All I could think was I’m home. I still don’t understand the feeling or where it came from but Dublin has become home. I still look like a tourist and rely on Google Maps to navigate but I’ve stepped out of a dream and into reality.
Our first week in Dublin is dedicated to orientation: learning our way around the city and to the IES center where we’ll be taking classes, getting to know each other, and experimenting with shopping and cooking for ourselves. So far, I’ve stayed in a relatively small radius, in part because my public transportation pass hasn’t arrived yet. That said, I’ve been shocked at how quickly I’ve learned landmarks to orient myself around. I guess it doesn’t matter where I am; I navigate based on the buildings I like. Ancient trees, churches, pubs, coffee shops, bookstores… there’s beauty even in the smallest places. And somehow there are flowers, poking up from the dirt, searching out the sun despite the rain.
The resilience of these flowers reminds me of the bookshop I popped into today, a small building near Temple Bar called The Gutter Bookshop. At first a bit off-putting, the name quickly earned significance. Pressed against the window, on tote bags, on journals, reads
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”Oscar Wilde
I think, at present, that’s the point of it all. I know I’m riding a wave of adrenaline, nestled firmly in the honeymoon phase where everything is new and exciting. At some point, either sooner or later, chances are I’ll get homesick, be in the proverbial gutter. But it’s not the gutter that matters; it’s what we do with the gutter. We could let the water and debris wash over us, drown us, or we could look up at the stars. We are not invincible nor are we hopeless. To be human is to get up every time, to acknowledge the gutter and move beyond it. To be human is to dream and to make those dreams reality.
Welcome to Dublin, friends. A place of dreams and stars where the gutter is not the end of the story.