The first time I get lost in Dublin, I do not panic. I simply take a breath, sit down on a stone bench nestled against some Georgian building I read about once, but can’t remember the name of, and scan my cartoony tourist map for anything that looks familiar.
Give me a little credit though. Having grown up in a town with a population of just under 2,000 people—a town with acres of farmland and no street lights—I’m a country bumpkin who’s been dropped off in a major city. I’m lucky I haven’t wandered off the Cliffs of Moher by now, only two days in to my semester abroad. But culture shock is one of the main reasons I came to Dublin. So even though it is terrifying and unfamiliar, I know that living in another country for five months will help me grow. As Marcel Proust says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
The weather in Ireland changes quicker than a middle school crush. By now the sky has turned a menacing shade of grey and raindrops are beginning to spatter onto the map in my hands. I had been warned of the rain, repeatedly, before coming. It always falls softly at first; quiet as a page being turned, delicate as lace. But that’s all just foreplay. When the wind comes—and it always does—the rain lashes at you and the gusts send you staggering across the cobbled streets. It’s no matter though, studying in this city was one of my greatest desires and I knew the weather was part of the package. Dublin was meant to be experienced in the rain.
The streets are teeming with people; I wonder if they can smell the tourist on me.
I’ve been in Dublin for roughly forty-eight hours and it has yet to feel like home. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had time to unpack, eat a full meal, or even think. At one point I was awake for thirty-five straight hours and learned that there is little difference between delirium and insanity. To fight the chaos, I cling to the scarce moments of serenity and hoard them like poker chips I can cash when things become too hectic. My most peaceful moment came on the plane ride here. The flight went by quickly—the wind was at our backs and the stars were ahead. As we approached the Dublin skyline—lit up like an artificial constellation—my heart was filled with promise knowing that it would soon beat along with the city’s pulse. And even though I have yet to feel at peace, my heart continues to say: you will, you will, you will.
The rain stops; umbrellas are tucked away like swords into sheaths, ready to be drawn when the moment calls again.
I think a small part of me likes being lost. I know that if I really wanted to, I could ask any of the passersby where I am or where I need to go; everyone I’ve met thus far has been so nice they’d likely offer me a ride there and a pint along the way, let alone directions. It seems strange by European standards, but the Irish love Americans. And I mean LOVE; they love Americans the way Americans love themselves. They want to know where I’m from in the States, what it’s like there, and what brought me to their neck of the woods. All of it. And they really listen—absorbing every word and filtering them as willingly as if it was oxygen. There are bound to be some bad people here in Ireland because there are bad people everywhere, but with an open mind and a positive outlook they’re hard to find.
Ireland as a whole is a country I’ve long idealized. Its postcards should be hung in the Louvre; its culture is richer than a pint of Guinness. It is also home to my favorite writers, as well as my ancestors. I seldom contemplated my heritage before going abroad. Since I am not predominately one ethnicity, I never had one predominant country to identify with. My family tree is like a European Union cocktail: equal parts Irish, English, German, with just a splash of Dutch, shaken, not stirred. Living in Ireland—albeit briefly—has changed that. History and heritage permeate throughout this country, and I feel a part of it. I feel it in the words of the Irish people, I feel it in the quiet that hangs over the treeless, forever-reaching fields, and I feel it in the River Liffey as it churns, endlessly dark and endlessly deep. So, as I sit on the same stone bench, gazing at the same animated map, I realize I’d rather be lost here in Dublin, than be found anywhere else in the world.