Friday, November 15, 2013

Four Weeks and Four Days

I am leaving Ireland in four weeks and four days.

I ache for my friends at home. I'm more used to being away from my family during the school year, but the idea of being in a place where I can afford to call my Mom and Dad as I walk to the grocery store, or when I get a good grade on a paper, makes my throat ache.

But I'm not ready to leave. Not because I'm having such a good time. I'm having a nice time, but I've really only had three extraordinary experiences. And for the trouble of moving to another country, it feels like I should have a few more extraordinary experiences.

I read a blog post from a friend who's flying home tomorrow, after finishing his study abroad experience. And he (at least online) is ready to go. He feels like he did everything he came to do.

I am so far away from doing everything I came to do. Then again, I always am. I always mean to put more thought into papers before I turn them in. I mean to spend way more time on projects, and internships, than I do.

I mean to spend more time on everything I do, except spending time with friends, and gobbling up fiction. That I make time for. I had a professor who said you can never actually do anything against your values. You can do something that goes against what you wish your values were. But if actions speak louder than words, what a person does tells us what she values most. What I do tells me what I value most.

I value my relationships and I value the entertainment, perspective, and inspiration of stories. These are not bad things to value. But I'm in Ireland. I'm on an adventure. It's not what I want to value. I want to go out to the bars I want to go to, the ones with music I can't hear anywhere else, not the ones my friends go to, with hip hop spilling out onto the sidewalk and customers spilling drinks. I want to be the kind of person who picks walking by the river over curling up with a BBC show I can watch anywhere.

I want to be brave enough to ring up my distant relatives in Ireland and ask them what weekend would be good to drop by.

It's not that my time in Ireland has been bad. But there was a night, the third night I was there, where I went out and danced with my friends to a fantastic band and when I was dancing, I thought, if this is the best time I have here, it will all be worth it.

Turns out that wasn't the best time I had. Or the most remarkable. I made a new friend, and went to Scotland. I hitchhiked, and climbed a mountain, and missed a plane and slept in an airport. And spent way too much money. To the point where I'm looking at my last weeks here and realizing it's not just that I don't have the time to do everything I wanted. I don't have the money.

Fun (and somewhat relevant) fact: how successful a president of the U.S. is perceived to be doesn't have to do with how many things he accomplished, or in what area his accomplishments lie. It has to do with the percentage of things he said he would do that he actually did. So a president who doesn't claim that he will do much, and then doesn't do much, is perceived as more successful than a president with a huge number of wins, but also a considerable number of losses.

I think that also applies to how I see myself. Which leaves me with a few options.

  • Step up, shift my values, and do the things I say I'm going to.
  • Stop wanting so much. Confine the things I want to the things I will actually do.
  • Accept that I'd be a very poorly viewed president, and start trying to focus more on all the stuff I do get done.
The first one is unrealistic. The second one is also unrealistic, and reeks of the fatalism that spawns depressing, prize-winning novels. The third one sounds good in practice, except it leaves me almost exactly where I am now. 

I'd go out take the town, just to prove how much I'm seizing the day (or the night). Except that I have a big paper due on Monday. One I really, really meant to start before now. But I didn't, so here's to scrambling to meet yet another deadline I didn't value until the last minute. 

So instead, I'm going to keep a record, of what I wanted to do, what I did, and what I still want to do. I'm not changing my values tonight, and probably not anytime in the next four weeks either. (One thing I've learned here is that who you are and what makes you feel alive doesn't change just because you start over.) But I  can at least try to tell an accurate story of who I am and what I want, instead of letting the failures eat everything else up. 

So, without further ado:

What I wanted to do:
-have a romantic fling
-see the Cliffs of Moher
-finish the first draft of my novel
-finish the second draft of my novel
-Irish dance
-see Dublin
-meet my family
-go out to a good pub once a week
-touch the Atlantic ocean
-go to literary events in Galway
-see everything there was to see
-keep up with my internship
-apply to three more internships

What I did:
-made a new best friend
-learned how easy it is to demonize a nice guy when I turned him down, and then felt the need to justify my guilt
-saw the Cliffs of Moher
-finished the first draft of my novel
-wrote and submitted a short play to a theater company back home. And yet I feel like I'm barely    writing.
-learned sean-nos dancing. Which is different than Irish dancing, but also fun. 
-went out to a pub maybe six times? 
-went to Scotland
-touched Loch Ness
-became treasurer for writers club
-applied to two internships
-helped build a set for a play

When I look at it that way, I'm only two off, in terms of number. But it doesn't feel like I'm two off. I feel miles off. So, here's the things I still want to do: 

-get my finals stuff done as soon as possible so I can enjoy Ireland
-go to Monroe's on Tuesday night for Irish dancing every week until I leave here.
-go to the Crane bar at least once, where I WILL drink Guineas.
-do a nanowrimo write in in Galway at least once
-buy postcards, and send them
-meet my family
-ramp up the effort on my internship. Because those people are awesome and need me and just because I'm scared is no reason not to do everything I can.
-go to Dublin
-see two more castles
-see the Aran Islands
-go to Connemara

So that's eleven things. Which is almost the same amount of things I've done my entire time in Ireland. To be fair, three of those weeks will have a lot more free time. But still. Clearly I'm not going with wanting less. 

I think this is one time, though, where it's not about me. Ireland is bigger than four weeks and four days. It's bigger than four months. I think it's better to find the places that make you want. And then it's up to you to figure out how to be happy with all the wants you can't fill. 

For my part, I'm going to bed. It's after midnight, which means I'm down to four weeks and three days. I need all the energy I can get. 

p.s. This post was incredibly self-indulgent, even by blogging standards. But since at this point I think the only person who's reading this is my Mom, I figure it's all cool. Hi Mom! See you in four weeks!


  1. I read! I read! This post in particular resonated with me - about the values and always wanting to do more and never feeling you do enough. I didn't go on to do my Ph.D for these reasons because the always feeling like I never did enough (and beating myself up over it) was just too much. I spend most of my time with friends and with fiction, and I always mean to write more, to work more effectively, etc. That being said I still work hard and constantly strive - and it appears you do, too, after all you wrote a lot more than you thought it seems. I hope you enjoy your last bit of time in Ireland and that you are enough!

    1. Woo-hoo! My first comment! Yeah, I thought about going for a Ph.D. for a whole 48 hours, and then reality hit. I'm glad the post resonated with you - I think one of the best things about writing and reading (whether blogs or fiction) is that it can make you feel like you've got company on whatever issues you're dealing with.