August 1, 2019 – County Clare, Ireland
I went to Ireland to write. Two professors from my school conduct a month long writing workshop in Ireland, and because I was about to take a semester long break for a second time, I figured I’d get those course credits when I could. So I went to Ireland to write and fulfill some requirements for my degree.
The night before I left for Ireland, I got out of bed to throw a couple of sweaters and jeans into my suitcase. I added in my hiking boots and a rain jacket, and climbed back into bed. I’d read about Irish folklore and the landscape, I’d seen pictures of the Cliffs of Moher and Galway, and it was all less than twenty-four hours away, but I just wanted to stay in my bed. I knew that I could cross the Atlantic Ocean embarking on adventure and somehow still upset myself wondering what I did wrong to make my boyfriend break up with me. Ireland was just another place where I’d be sad about the same stuff. Reading about how rainy and chilly the weather was didn’t exactly help to excite me.
The island actually had plenty of sunny days during my month there, though, and my rain jacket spent more time in my closet than it did wrapped around my body. I became close with the other writers on the trip, which was good because we’d be reading each other’s work. All summer in Connecticut I’d woken up before dawn to work long hours and make enough money to explore Ireland. We had an itinerary that allowed us to see everything from the Aran Islands to Yeats Tower to Aillwee Cave. But I spent a lot of time napping, and it wasn’t the jetlag.
Without a full class schedule and work, I had the duration of the day to myself. And those days lasted long, because it didn’t get dark until late in the evening. The whole point of the experience was to escape the bustle of Boston and live a writer’s life in the green mountains of Ireland. Either a writer’s life involved a lot of napping, or I was doing something wrong. I’d write about 300 words of fiction, then grab my camera and walk around the village to clear my head. Despite having every intention to get back to writing after these photography walks, I’d end up back in bed wondering if there was something I could say that would make it make sense.
I didn’t want him to take me back. I was in Ireland and he wasn’t. I was on my way to Florida and he wasn’t. I just wanted him to explain to me why he had to break up with me the way he did. I closed my eyes and I saw him in my car on that last night, my hair obscuring my view of him because I refused to look directly at him. I knew that if I did, I’d start crying, and that was the last thing I needed to do in that moment.
I could walk right up to the Atlantic Ocean, see miles of open land, and watch farm animals roam right outside my window. Without my mom’s life insurance money, I never would have been able to afford this opportunity. But I was wasting it by retreating to my bed every chance that I got. One day I woke up with a wine induced hangover, and I used that as an excuse to stay in my room until dinnertime. I could have done the same thing in the US.
I went to Ireland to write, and I did write some. I reworked my stories over and over again. I got feedback from my classmates and I even wrote a story that ended up being accepted for publication. We workshopped our writing three times in the four weeks that we were there, and just about every weekend we took trips.
I loved the people I lived with. We first bonded over a steep hike with no path. Our only directions were to go up the hill, then back down it. The wind pushed at us and each time we thought we were about to reach the peak, we saw that the mountain went higher into the sky. Long grasses grabbed at our legs, but none of us were about to be the person who ruined the whole expedition. By the end, our legs ached and our water bottles had just drops of water in them. After that hike, we became a team.
We talked up each other’s writing, we walked down to the village together, we watched all of Derry Girls together. One of my roommates and I joked about how badly we wanted to get off that godforsaken island. We both knew it was beautiful, though, and we were lucky to have the freedom to explore the area and write. We hosted a pancake night, where we flipped pancakes until the bowl of batter was empty, and we cooked bacon in steep puddles of grease. We made home fries out of real Irish potatoes. We set this all out with fresh fruit and syrup that stuck to our lips, and we ate on our porch that overlooked The Burren. I travelled with the group on our hikes, but usually my mind wandered away.
On the way down the mountain at Connemara National Park, I wrapped my arms around myself. I held myself on the descent from the mountain, and I had the thought that I am the best person to hold myself. Usually when someone is holding me, I feel stiff, I worry about my stomach expanding too much when I breathe, sounds coming from me grinding my teeth as I often do, or smells. Just smells of any kind. I don’t want someone smelling me. At that moment in time, I was being held by the only person who would be there to hold me for the rest of my life.
I sat on a bus after that hike, looking at the flat grassy patches out the window. I hated to admit it to myself, but I was so damn depressed because I’d been broken up with. I never pictured myself as a girl who would let something like that get to me, but here I was, despairing over my life because of a boy. It was all a mess, and maybe I was better off without that mess. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to date. Maybe I’d spend the rest of my life alone, but with a small group of friends who supported my writing endeavors, and I’d travel wherever and sleep whenever.
I could just be single. And there was nothing wrong with napping. Naps did allow me to fuel my adventures across Ireland and write some stories that I was proud of. My naps were a way for me to avoid thinking about my life, but once I had time on all the hikes I took, I faced the reality of my life and realized that there was nothing I could do. I had no control in how others acted. I could just control myself, and I’d figure out a way to be happy with that for the rest of my life.
On one of our last days, we explored the village of Lahinch. It was pouring rain, and we’d paid too much money for brown bread and seafood chowder to warm our stomachs. We looked out at the Atlantic Ocean, grey like the sky and the rocks scattered on the ground. The waves roared at us and we shrieked back. We screamed at the ocean, and it swallowed up our shouts. He couldn’t hear me, but I screamed for the energy that I put into being sad about him. The last night, we sipped some Guinness and jumped off a dock into Galway Bay. The frigid water attacked my body, but after spending the whole trip in a painful place mentally, I knew I could handle the brief swim back to the ladder that lead up the dock.
I still thought about him when I got back from Ireland and moved to Orlando for the second time. I still took naps so I could explore the Disney parks when I wasn’t working. I learned to appreciate the energy that I gained from those naps, and when I woke up, I knew that my problems wouldn’t go away. I knew that I would still be a girl getting over a breakup, but I’d carried that pain with me too far. It was time to start enjoying what was right in front of me. I went to Ireland to write, and I brought my summertime sadness there, and I brought it back with me, but I was learning to face it.