The other Day at the bus stop café, I was paying for the usual- a green tea and a bowl of yogurt, and my server happened to notice I had a California drivers license.
“What are you doing all the way here”, he asked.
“Well, I guess it’s quite a bit different from L.A,” I replied. “But I think I needed a change of pace”.
“Yeah, but L.A., it’s got everything!” he said. “Nice weather, beaches, and sports cars. It’s so gloomy here”.
“I suppose, but…”, I said as the desire to say something pretentious kicked in. Luckily I suppressed it.
I continued, “I don’t think 42 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit), house of traffic, and houses so big you can barely find a fork are all its cracked up to be”.
“Ah, I see,” he said. “But it still would be nice to visit”.
“Yes, it is a great place to visit. But I see Dublin as a home too”, I responded.
“Well maybe we can trade places?”
And we both laughed as he stamped my loyalty card (I was only 1 away from a free tea).
So after this I contemplated for a while. Is my experience abroad unreal to an “actual” Irish experience?
Perhaps I was still just a tourist. Just the next generation of colonists coming to stake my claim on the emerald isle. Just an urban dweller not seeing the “real” Ireland.
And maybe my doubts are true to some degree. I did not learn Irish or go to the Gaeltacht. Nor have I seen this world outside of the lens of a college student. And to a degree it has been like my L.A. life: cafes, arts museums, and books.
So I cannot say that this trip has made me Irish but that does not seem like much considering what I have gained. I can say that I have taken literature classes with 15 Irish students at Wilde’s alma mater. I can say I’ve joined the labor party, been to Belfast, read Flann O’Brien, and even jogged to the end of Phoenix park and back.
It’s ridiculous to strive for an Irish identity when I will always be an American. But I can say for certain that this trip has shaped me, and I plan on spending much time as I can on the emerald isle throughout my life. It is as my mother says: It’s not always who or what makes you happy but where. So I cannot call myself Irish, but I can one day hope to earn the title of Dubliner.