January 22 meant freedom.
Since my arrival in Dublin, there has been a nightly, looming curse that has turned everything into a pumpkin, simultaneously packed and emptied restaurants, and morphed what I expected to be bustling city streets into eerie, empty movie sets.
Due to the island’s COVID regulations in response to Omicron, everything in Dublin closed at 8:00 P.M., meaning one had to get wherever they wanted to go for the evening by 6 P.M. at the latest. Kitchens sometimes closed at 7, and last call was half-past on the dot.
But on Saturday, January 22, everything was set to change, and the public had started dubbing it “Freedom Day.”
Myself and my peers had the utmost respect and understanding for the precautions in place to help prevent the spread and continuation of this pandemic, but we are still young, still chomping at the bit to explore, and tired of having to rely on the convenience store for everything after the curfew.
When the notice came through that restrictions were lifting, it took less than a minute to start preparing for the next day’s festivities, and we certainly weren’t the only ones.
Our group of 12 took to the streets and headed to the historical pub part of town, Temple Bar, to find some music and comradery among the throngs of people that seemed to come from nowhere with the same intention.
I had been here the night before; it had been empty. The establishment I went to had two other tables occupied in the entire place, and we easily ordered and found a seat. Not so on Freedom Day.
We must have looked intimidating, a bunch of bouncy 20-somethings itching to experience whatever we could find behind the painted signs on the old brick buildings that lined the cobblestone streets. Barging through the door and looking for any corner to shove ourselves in so we didn’t have to separate. Pushing tables together and stealing empty chairs from other patrons.
Freedom Day could not be spent all in one spot, and as the clock approached the previous 8 o’clock cut-off, we laughed and marveled at where else we could go with all the time we had left in the night.
We made our way back into the busy streets, passing revelers like us, enjoying everything about everything and looking for the next something.
“Freedom!” Someone shouted at us as we passed, and, instinctively, we all responded with a collective “Freedom!” of our own. Waving our arms in the air and patting each other on the back.
In reality, most of us had this “freedom” when we were back in the states and had only been parted from it for two weeks or so, but we took on this liberation as our own. We assimilated into the Irish consciousness that knew life was getting better and life would continue to get better. After all, despite all these months indoors, we had taken to the streets to share in life together again.
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<p>Sammi Bilitz is a junior at Indiana University enrolled in the Writer's Program in Dublin, Ireland. She is studying journalism and international studies and is so excited to explore what Ireland has to offer. In her free time, you can find her huddled up in some bookstore with a steaming cup of tea in hand.</p>