It’s 2024! And I’m home!
I flew from Dublin to Philadelphia, and then Philly to Chicago on December 17, waking up at 4:45 a.m. (after staying up until 1:30 a.m. packing and cleaning my apartment), and having a thankfully rather smooth process going through each airport and making each flight. I split a cab with someone else who was on the first flight with me, and we managed to get all of our respective luggage from our apartment, into the cab, out of the cab, through the planes and back home, which is a big win for me with all the stuff I had to pack and bring home (two suitcases and a duffel bag plus my backpack! I was told my total checked baggage was close to 80 pounds).
Full disclosure, I almost didn’t get on the flight back—well, I thought very hard about not getting on the flight. I was in peak “fantasizing about moving to Dublin” mode and I thought that it would be very romcom-esque for me to turn around and run out of the airport to some uplifting soundtrack and create a new life in Ireland. But I got on the plane. I guess I was excited to see my family and have Christmas at home or something like that. And, of course, see my animals again (nothing would prepare me for the uncontrollable excitement that I experienced upon seeing dogs and cats in Dublin, knowing my dog and cat were so far away).
I was picked up and driven home from Chicago, where I started feeling the weight of good old jet lag hit, leading me to become exhausted at 6 p.m. for the next few nights. I pushed through those bouts, but I did have to go to bed earlier than normal for once. (For someone who is a night owl to not the healthiest of extents, one could say jet lag was beneficial for my sleep schedule, moving my usual bedtime from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. We’ll see how well I can sustain that…)
The idea of “reverse culture shock” wasn’t something I thought I’d really experience, but I did and still am caught up in to some extent. It hit me when I got into the Philadelphia airport almost right away that I was really back in the States…partially due to all the NHL Flyers gear (long live Gritty; I know nothing about hockey, but I love Gritty) and the loudspeaker by my gate broadcasting a football game. American football, not Gaelic football, and not what everywhere else calls football. Good ol’ gridiron Super Bowl-lovin’ football.
To put it simply, I felt nothing when I first got home! Not nothing in nothing-nothing, but nothing in that all the grief and despair and longing for Dublin that I thought I would experience…didn’t really come. I was blissfully unaware of most emotions, at least for the first week. I was just excited to get a rest in, enjoy time with my family, and celebrate the holiday season. Around week two, though, just after Christmas, I found myself just not completely with it. I was stressed about small things, drained when it came to decision making and interacting with my hometown, and generally unhappy. I found it hard to look at pictures from my time abroad, as it would force me to reckon that I wasn’t there anymore and this very fun experience was capital-"O" Over. It didn’t dawn on me until a couple days of lugging myself around that I just really missed it, and was having a hard time processing everything that happened. Like, I move across the globe for almost four months, then have to move back and readjust and “get on with life” in two weeks? (Shoutout to Knox College for starting classes on January 3! The trimester system really is something else :D) But it wasn’t this teary-eyed longing that I’d imagined; it was more of a foggy block in my brain that meant I didn’t really feel real.
I’m still not completely sure what I’ll be taking from this experience being abroad–I’ve really only been at home, so I can’t see the “new” me in action, if there is a “new” me. In addition to the incredible times, my time in Dublin was full of growing pains, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself feeling different or acting differently now that I’m back in the States. Three and a half months isn’t that long on the surface, but it kinda is. If spent as I did, it can, as cliché as it sounds, really change your life. I look at pictures of myself from early 2023 and even from August 2023 and just think, he had no idea what he was in for.
All that to say, I don’t know what I’m taking forward from this experience, but there are things that I hope to bring with me as this next chapter ensues. I hope to bring more confidence into 2024 and beyond I mean, I lived in a different country with strangers and traveled across different parts of Europe! I handled every challenge that was thrown at me as best I could, and I had unforgettable times amidst all of it. I also hope to bring the love of writing and creativity that I grew while abroad with me–while abroad, I found myself way more open with my writing and art and far less judgemental of what I produce.
It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I know that I have lots of material now–for songs, stories, poems, paintings, etc. I wonder if it will be the inverse of my Dublin writing experience, where I couldn’t stop writing about the midwest, as I had sufficient distance from it to analyze my experience–who knows, maybe I’ll be writing a ton about Dublin in the months to come. I mean, I hope so!
All in all, I don’t really know what’s to come (duh, no one does) but I feel like this is just the beginning. I’m so grateful for everything I found in Dublin and for everything I found in myself that it took traveling so far to really find. I guess this is me signing off now? I never know how to end things, so I just avoid the goodbyes. Because is anything ever really over if it sticks with us forever?
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he/him -- I'm studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at Knox College, class of 2025! I mostly dabble in cartooning, poetry, creative nonfiction, portraits, and humor writing. Outside of my majors, I play guitar and electric bass and sleep a lot.