I am, I am, I am

Grace McGovern
February 1, 2017

These past four weeks in Dublin, I’ve experienced more change than I have in my entire life.

My apartment is new and foreign, the cars don’t turn the way I’m used to, and the accents lilt in a way that begins to feel familiar but still trips me up now and again.

But beyond the physical, there's been a huge amount of change in my life. In this place I am truly alone with myself for the first time ever.

College was my first taste of change. It was full of new people and new places, certainly. But I always had a safety net, had the comfort of my sorority that I found early on, had the comfort of knowing my parents were a mere 3 hours away, 2.5 if you speed. But when I came to Ireland, I threw myself deep into the unknown. I’ve been forced to be alone with myself and my thoughts in a way that I never have been before.

I’m not going to lie, there are days when it feels like too much. When I glance at a map and see how truly far I am, when I count out the time difference separating me from my family and realize that no, I can’t call my parents because, yes, they are asleep. There is a level of isolation that I’m forced to accept, staring back at me like the reflection of a mirror.

It’s a stock phrase, but I’ve always said I want to be more independent. To be able to sit down in a restaurant and eat with myself and no one else, to take a stroll between classes because I want to ruminate on everything buzzing around my head.

This past month has challenged me into doing that. It has forced me to question everything that has made me comfortable in my life. Made me question whether or not that was a good thing.

This past Monday, my friends and I went to an open mike night. We trotted down to Temple Bar, the wind goading us along. I felt an electricity in my fingers, the promise of something new. We finally found our destination, walked a bit tentatively into the bar, and headed down into the tucked away lounge below. The air was warm and heavy, simultaneously comforting and foreign. Gingerly, we opened the door onto a mélange of people sitting and standing around a tiny platform. On stage a man played guitar, sang in that biting and quintessentially Irish way. We shuffled in quietly, not wanting to pop the bubble of this beautiful and intimate world we stumbled into.

All through the night I stood there entranced. Performers came and went, poets and singers all aching to tell their story. The room was stuffed with onlookers, bodies bobbing and weaving to the music, gentle brushes reminding me that it was more than just the performers and me. I was completely surrounded by these sounds I had never heard and would never hear again, and I couldn't help but feel on the verge of tears the whole night. Even though I am a notorious crier as any of my friends will attest to, it felt different than my usual weepiness. I was overcome by the sheer magnitude of what this study abroad experience was doing to me. I felt this great release, this realization that things were going to change here, that I was going to change here.

For better or for worse, my life is not going to be the same after this.

When the night was over and we were walking home, we all enthusiastically declared our love for that night, for those people, and the need we had to go back.

I look forward to the day I am finally free enough to stand on that stage as well, and I look forward to loving the person who goes up there.

This time I will end with my favorite quote from my most beloved Sylvia Plath, something I've been turning to for strength again and again:

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am."

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Grace McGovern

<p>I am a junior English major at Illinois Wesleyan University studying in Dublin, Ireland. I love the rain, which is a good thing, since it never stops here. You can find me sitting in a café reading Sylvia Plath in my down time, as any good English major would. Poetry, the sea, and finding the best ice cream in any given location are just a few of my passions.</p>

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