Dear Potential Gap Year Stinter,
Today I thought of you. I thought of you and the choice that lies before you: do I take a leap of faith and partake in a gap year in Dublin? This is no small decision. It must be weighed on personal, spiritual, financial, practical and social levels.
“But what I want you to know — what is imperative that you understand — is that taking this step is the single most loving gesture you could make towards your own personal growth”
I thought of you as I listened on my walk to my Wednesday afternoon podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. The hosts were discussing what it means to protect and love something or someone. And Casper – I say his name as if we are close friends – Casper said, “To protect something, you need to love it. And to love it, you need to know it.” And I was almost halted in my tracks as I realized that before my time in Dublin I didn’t know myself, not really. If I had known before I moved the girl I was, am, and will be, I had lost sight of her for a time.
Back home, I felt stuck. I had graduated from college with two degrees and honors, and yet I was waiting tables and moonlighting as a science fiction editor. I was still piecing myself together after my greatest heartbreak to date and the subsequent return of my clinical, and nearly fatal, depression. I was living at home and felt my youth was being wasted on my claustrophobia-inducing small town. Looking back on it I know that this isn’t an uncommon sentiment for someone my age. There’s a reason Taylor Swift sings, “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.” I felt trapped and I wanted out.
“That’s who I was when I applied to the program. That’s not who I am anymore”
Travel, Live, Grow.
I’m nearly to the six month anniversary of my arrival in Ireland. I’ve traveled all around the country and then some. I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone and I’ve hiked through the Wicklow mountains. I’ve toured the Ring of Kerry and I’ve traveled by rickety plane over to the Aran Islands. I’ve danced the night away at Flannery’s and seen a concert at Whelan’s. I’ve traveled north, stood on the Giant’s Causeway, walked the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and even met Kit Harrington. I’ve jetted over to Edinburgh and climbed Arthur’s Seat, and I’ve even traveled to London to see my future school.
But it’s not the physical journeys that make up my Stint experience. And, although I love them dearly, it isn’t my Stint family either. It’s my Sundays.
This Is Why It’s Worth It…
On Sundays, I wake up at 10:30 a.m. and walk the quarter mile to the gym. I get on the bike and I ride with a room full of strangers through what is always a humbling workout. Then I go to church in all my sweaty, panting glory. On my way home, I stop by Brother Hubbard South and pick up a scone, jam, and butter. And then I feast at the kitchen table with my housemates recounting our last two nights. I boil myself a cup of tea and I breathe.
For what feels like the first time in years, I am content.
Sometime during the day I go to Lidl, just twenty minutes away, and pick up my food for the week. I listen to James Bay serenade me through my headphones on the walk by the canal filled with swans. I meander through the grocery aisles and then stuff my reusable grocery bags (because that’s all they have in Ireland) with sweet potatoes, chicken breasts, and barbecue sauce.
Back at the house again, I start to work a new freelance gig, happy to have some contact with the industry that I love. Around 5:00 p.m., I FaceTime my parents. I tell them I love them, that I’m grateful for their support, and that I’m happy. I mean all three.
Sundays are my favorite days because they are the days when I feel at home. And that is no small feat. I’m very aware of the sacrifices I have made, the trials I have endured, and the active choice I continually make to keep living.
I have reinvented myself from the nothingness that I previously felt I was, and I have formed myself into a young woman I am proud of.
I choose this life every day. I have a life I know, a life I love, and, as Casper predicted, a life I want to protect. And I make every effort to engage in those little daily acts of self-love.
And When It’s All Over
I know one day I will have to get on a plane and return to Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.A. I know one day I won’t be walking down the street with a scone in my pocket and my face towards the sun – which, by the way, is visible a lot more than the Irish propagandists want you to believe. I know one day I won’t wake up in this “dirty old town,” that one day I won’t be able to stop and marvel at the fact that I’m actually living in Dublin, that I’m actually doing it. One day it will be done. But I have gained more from six months as a part of Stint than I gained in four years of university and eighteen years before that. I’m never going to be able to replace the journey I have had during my time here.
It is because of my Sundays that I urge you to take a leap of faith. Make that gesture of self-love and give yourself a chance to grow into the person you truly are. I promise you, stranger, that gifting yourself this confidence is priceless.
With all my love and best wishes,
Rose Friel is a self-proclaimed ENFJ with a love of whiskey, books, and being an utter cliche. She graduated from Villanova University with a double major in English and Communications and will be matriculating to London College of Communication in September 2017 to pursue her masters in publishing. Check out her occasionally published works on Thought Catalog (http://thoughtcatalog.com/