A reflection post in which IJ reflects

I used to hate writing reflections, mainly because I knew them from the classes and academic programs that required them for even the least significant projects. I was used to forging opinions and pretending I’d learned something just to get a mark. And it’s just as difficult when my mom asks me to reflect on something five minutes after that something has ended– like jeez, give me some time to process, please?

But recently I’ve unintentionally taken to premortum grieving, if you will. And yeah, that is a very morbid way of describing it, but I first noticed it when my dog Shackleton died. Maybe it’s a part of being anxious, that you gain the ability to do most of your reflecting on something that hasn’t happened yet. That made the last few days in Cork pretty miserable, but it made my first few days in the US less miserable. So I think I have some reflection thoughts.

I really, really wish that I had joined the fencing club some other socs right off the bat. I got thrown off quite a bit by the whole circus club thing, which made me feel more insecure about, I dunno, trying anything else? It seems really silly in retrospect, but I was in a slightly more introverted phase back then. And that’s reasonable for me; I was so overwhelmed running after all the newness that of course I would go into myself to catch my breath. I don’t forgive myself easily though, so I’m always sore about not doing more.

Going along with that was wishing I’d spent less time with the other USAC students, not because I disliked them as a whole but because they gave me the excuse to not meet anyone else. We lived in the same building which was convenient but kept me inside a lot. Another part of this scene is that most visiting students are avid weekend travelers. This provided an opportunity to get some travel buddies, but I wasn’t secure enough in any of my friendships to try that. This led me to feel insecure about the fact that I had several weekends on which I had absolutely nothing planned. And besides, I thought I might have a different idea of what constituted a good trip than other students.

The trips that I did take were all high-quality, though. And most of them were by myself to a certain extent. I’m not going to go into detail about each individual trip right here, that’s for my to-be-published webcomic and more details can be found on this blog. If that ever gets published, of course. I’m kidding, of course it will, I just don’t know when.

But I digress. The first few months of my life in Ireland contained minimal trips out of indecision, and so did the last out of satisfaction.

Besides fencing, the internet helped me make some UCC friends. I did go to one Netsoc event after Halloween, from which I recognized Evan and Colm, and we followed each other on Twitter. We remained internet acquaintances from afar for a while until I met Evan for coffee and Colm chose my submission for one of his Tapes. Through these two wonderful people I met more wonderful people at a party a month before leaving Ireland, which is a shame cause it’s another thing I wish I could have done earlier. The bright side is that I got to meet them at all.

There’s also the question of my May-born relationship with Brian with which I entered Ireland in August and left in late February. I do ask myself, did it take away from my experience? Did it hold me back? While it might be easy to blame my little regrets on one relationship, I neither want to nor truthfully can. In fact, I firmly believe that being in a long-distance relationship was a help, and that it pushed me forward as much as it could. It helped me on the basic level of not getting distracted chasing after boys and instead pursuing solid friendships and solo experiences. It helped on a somewhat broader level of knowing that I had an anchor back home who was rooting for me. But I also believe that when it ended, it needed to end. I no longer needed it so badly. Hate to end a paragraph on a cliché note, but what was meant to happen happened.

Thinking about what I wish I’d done isn’t productive in any case. Instead, I’m gonna list the ways in which I’ve grown:

  • My desire to create has risen and gained a new confidence. Blogging almost-daily ensured that I got to do even the smallest creative thing every day. Creation feels like a simultaneously easier and larger challenge, but an all-around more necessary act. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to go about doing it; I’ll find a way and then another.
  • Individual relationships feel like creation too– just as fun and interesting and unique. And I have the same burning desire for people that I do for art.
  • I survived a year barely watching or doing any theatre, and I’m thinking that I should drop my theatre major. That’s a post for another time.
  • While my anxiety still presents itself as a problem in plenty of functions, travel no longer seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Difficult and shpilkes-producing every time, but totally doable.
  • With friends, fencing and even competing can be pure fun. Like I don’t need to put my entire self-worth into a single bout, chill out. I can be passionate about it and want to improve my skill without it being my everything. People will still respect and admire me even if I’m not the very best (like no one ever was).
  • I’ve learned that sometimes you set out to become the Pie Lord but your kitchen is better-equipped for cookies and they turn out to be your strength. Become the Cookie Captain instead.

And here are some things I’m looking forward to having in the US:

  • Better access to music education
  • The Jewish community (and Jewish foods)
  • Korean, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American food
  • Driving

And the things that are going to take some getting used to:

  • The dialects
  • Not walking everywhere
  • How expensive fruit and vegetables are
  • Fashion here

Let’s go back to the beginning real quick and go into why I did this year abroad. Basically I knew I wanted to travel in college, after spending my second year of high school abroad in Belgium with my family. Only this time I wanted it to be on my own terms. And this is where we maybe get even more sticky and self-pitying– I wanted to leave my home to create another home that I would have to leave. Maybe I enjoy missing too much.

I don’t really know what I’m doing this summer or this year, and the sudden relative lack of plans is unnerving. I have sort of built my identity on my future plans since that’s often what I discuss when I first meet people. My mom suggests that I use this summer to relax, unwind, and not worry too much about about what I’m going to do. To which I respond, relax? Are you sure? But she’s also kinda right.

But because nostalgia is always there, I doubt this will be my last reflective post. And in that small way there can only be more adventure in the future and more to create. I feel like I should thank anyone who read this entire thing. I’ll bake you cookies sometime.

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Day 2.129

Feeling: leg and back cramps, humid heat
Tasting: Korean wings sauce
Seeing: cloudy grey sky
Smelling: gasoline/petrol
Hearing: the complete Tapes season 1 playlist, my sad about leaving playlist

Woke up at 5, allowed myself to lie in bed until 5:12, then proceeded to take out the garbage. I made some instant oatmeal and two veggie sausages. My taxi that I’d reserved the night previous seemed to already be on its way, so I brought down my bags a little frantically. When I made my last trip down, I left my key on my desk and it felt a little like leaving safety behind.

The ride to the bus stop was a little awkward, and I got there a half-hour before my planned bus but they let me on anyway. According to a message I got from Greer a little later, that was a good thing since plenty of people without tickets showed up to the 7:00 bus. I luckily had an empty seat next to me and napped through large portions of the trip.

When I got to the terminal, an agent asked me questions even before I made it to the check-in desk. Things like what I was studying and where I was living, but he was rather brisk with the questions instead of sounding like he wanted a chat (big surprise). I was kinda on edge and nervous, which is never a good look or feel in an airport. I went through security without a hitch, then the same for US preclearance. I waited by the gate and talked to my mom on the phone and cried a little bit.

The plane was surprisingly not a wide-body, but I was lucky enough to have an empty seat between me and the other passenger, who was courteous enough anyway. I made a few mistakes in terms of preparedness in entertainment: I bought American Gods on my Nook but forgot to confirm my purchase so I couldn’t actually read it, even though I already had the free sample downloaded! And I finished replaying the first episode of Life Is Strange, and even though I had purchased all 7 episodes I needed wifi to get to the second. So I mostly just listened to Tapes and dozed, plus I drew a little. Plenty of Tapes have to do with motion, and I can confirm that they are indeed great traveling playlists.

After landing, I didn’t have to go through immigration and went straight to the baggage carousel where I waited for my mum to come by with a trolley. We rolled to the car and discussed what to do then– stop in Leesburg and wait out the DC traffic, or stop later on? We decided to stop in Frederick at Family Meal, which took us through enough traffic anyway, ugh. But it was nice to return to that place for my first dinner back, and got to have some dishes I missed: shrimp and grits, mussels with delicious grilled bread, plus arugula salad and my parents had Korean-style wings. I didn’t eat those of course but had the pickle that came with.

After getting home I of course surveyed and sampled the contents of the fridge, then chilled in my room before passing out at 10.

Day 2.127

Seeing: the view from the cliffs of Baltimore
Tasting: orange Fanta
Smelling: the sea, sunscreen on my skin
Feeling: skin warm from the sun, a mild headache
Hearing: Aunty Donna podcasts

I kept falling back asleep so my day started kind of late, but I started it by packing and cleaning. I thought I was going to meet Donncdha for coffee, but it turned out that we were actually meeting tomorrow. Whoops. Well, something about black coffee on a warm day is perfect for drinking alone.

I shook it off, then went to wait on the Fullers stoop for Barra to pick me up in his car, Jessica. We stopped for petrol and Barra got a Twister, a type of ice cream pop. I’m very impressed not only with his driving but his ability to eat ice cream while driving. We picked up Leah and Mark respectively, and stopped to meet Mark’s dog Mac. Mac is so loyal and good; I was very impressed.

We listened to Aunty Donna podcasts and Childish Gambino for the almost-two hours’ drive to Baltimore. Once we were there we visited the castle, which was pretty small– just a large living-room type with some info boards and cool artifacts like swords. There was a Lurcher dog named Rí (which means “king,” so he’s king of the castle!) and an African grey parrot. Barra is afraid of exotic birds and he was giving him a death stare.

We went to a convenience shop to get some coffee and ice cream and hung out on some benches making wordplay jokes about cucks. There was a little Westie that we saw on the way into town who kept wandering and saying hi to us. I hope that she’s okay and doesn’t get lost!

We walked along the pier, attempting to skip stones on the water and then tried to get to some sort of beach. The entrance was actually found in a roundabout way– we entered private property for sale. There was a large wreckage of an unidentified building which we thought was a train station, except why would train tracks go right into the water? We figured that it was a boat station instead. Leah wasn’t really feeling comfortable where we were, even though we didn’t go into the building (except Mark briefly), so we hopped out and went on our way to the Beacon.

We took a short drive to Baltimore Beacon and tried to speak to older Francophone couple with an adorable dog. They told us they didn’t speak English, but I think I communicated with them sufficiently to get the dog’s name (“Dizzy”) and to understand that the walk up the hill wasn’t difficult.

Barra lamented how he initially wasn’t in the mood to make a Barra’s Day Out due to his head cold, and then thought he could break out the aul camera for a mini-episode at this very end. Turns out his camera is now broken. Ah well. I hear he’s going to be rebranding soon anyway.

The lads were keen on getting Four Star on the way home. We ended up getting meal deals, one split between Barra and Mark and one with Leah and me, one’s opinion of mushrooms being the dividing factor. I almost got pineapple and mushrooms on my half but decided to get falafel and mushrooms since I wasn’t ready to see this group break into a fight.

The goodbyes were bittersweet. At least I got to meet Leah’s dog and mum. I talked with Barra about why the hell we didn’t know each other this whole year. I’m really upset about that fact, by the fucking way.

Day 2.125

Smelling: my roommate’s leftover coffee, spilled white wine
Seeing: the “Gayle” webseries
Tasting: plain but delicious spaghetti
Hearing: more creepy Oxenfree music
Feeling: like my skin has an electric current running through it

Day 2.124

Tasting: a salty salmon breakfast
Feeling: the soft jumper my teammates got me
Seeing: Basile’s hair on video chat
Smelling: tomato soup
Hearing: Oxenfree soundtrack

I got up soon to eat breakfast at Ali’s Kitchen, where I got a salmon-potato-poached eggs glorious monstrosity. I didn’t feel awkward eating by myself because I had my Nook with me (and finished The World in Six Songs) and the place is pretty small so it was meant for that sort of thing. I took a chocolate pistachio twist to go.

I was up early, lounging in bed for a few hours and finishing up B99 and playing some Oxenfree. I was going to take a nap before training but didn’t have enough time so I drank some tea and talked to Basile.

Training was alright– well, we didn’t have much equipment because we didn’t have any keys. But we played some games. I, and a lot of us, were feeling pretty rusty. I had to leave early to get my laundry before Lennox’s closed. Then I got changed and went to Captain America’s, where we were having our team dinner.

I was still really tired though and didn’t really want to head to drinks with everyone, but tagged along for a bit. Then I went home, hung out with Erin for the last time and Ellie and Greer and Alex.

Day 2.123

Smelling: grassy gardeny scents
Seeing: a crowded busy McDonald’s
Feeling: the heat lamps in Franciscan Well, so many great hugs
Tasting: leftover almond cake
Hearing: Lillie’s friend’s “sesh” playlist

I didn’t get enough sleep, and the little bit of iced coffee I had in the fridge was mostly decaf so that didn’t give me too much of a kick awake. After plenty of watching and playing, I spent a lot of the day being sluggish and kinda sad, going down for a nap around 3. Then Erin and I went to Carry-Out to pick up pre-drinks for tonight.

Lillie came over a little early, then a bunch of other friends came along. Most of them were fencers, and the rest were people who live in the Spires. Andrew so kindly got me a box of Cadbury Roses, hell yeah. Lillie showed me a UCC jumper that she got a bunch of team members to sign and I got very emotional. But they kept it so that more team members could sign it at the dinner.

We got to Franwell where there were already some people waiting for us. It was packed tight and someone had taken our table since they didn’t see the reservation note, but they gave us the table with no bother. Anyway, here’s a summary of highlights:

  • Upon getting to Franwell, the bouncer showed me how my Garda ID said “this is not an identity card” on the back. I was devastated at first, that had never happened to me before. but he let me in anyhow. I’m still a little confused-angry though.
  • I had my first Franwell pizza, which Mark kindly got for me. It was delicious but softer and chewier than I expected.
  • People found out that they knew each other in the past.
  • After we got pushed out of Franwell, we went to McDonald’s since we couldn’t get into a club. Donnchdha flirted his way into free chicken tenders. Rory and I slow-danced to No. 1 Party Anthem like we said we would, only we had to sing it ourselves.
  • On the way back home, Donnchdha bride-carried me down Washington Street. I met a former fencer who’s a med student.
  • Good craic all around.

I loved spending time with my friends. I love my friends. I’m going to miss them so hard.

Day 2.122

Smelling: the fryer at Lennox’s
Hearing: the music to Oxenfree
Feeling: cool air on my skin
Seeing: a new part of town I hadn’t been to before
Tasting: sadly bland pasta salad

I gave myself a nice slow start, what with not having to go to the practice room in the morning. That was such a freeing but almost uncomfortable feeling! I did some casual food quality study. At about a quarter till 11, Erin and I walked to Mary’s house. Apparently Erin hadn’t walked there from the Spires before, and I didn’t look up her address beforehand, so we used a little bit of intuition to get there. I’d baked a gluten-free Italian almond cake with berry and rhubarb compote.

There were a few other USAC-ers at Mary’s who I didn’t really know. The table was spread with a pile of Mary’s delicious scones, my favorite jam, marmelade, cream, butter, milk, and sugar. We sipped on tea and some on coffee and ate scones, and my cake didn’t get touched until towards the end. People seem to be so shy about taking my baked goods, but they liked them (humble brag).

The weather was so sunny and breezy. I didn’t feel worried about my exam, so I read some notes and listened to Ratatat. That’s my serious get-down-to-business soundtrack, usually for cranking out papers or getting a bunch of calc done. The exam was in Neptune stadium, which was on the north side across the river and a part of town I had never been in before. I didn’t like the venue. But the exam went fine, even if I could have given a bit more detail in one of my answers.

I ate a lot of pasta, then watched Brooklyn-99, then started playing Oxenfree. I met up with my teammate Laura for a drink at Rising Sons, and it was lovely to hang out with her. I got fried mushrooms at Lennox’s, which I realize are now supposed to be like a vegetarian version of wings or nuggets.

Day 2.121

Seeing: setting sun stream in through my window onto my desk
Tasting: rhubarb berry compote on yogurt
Smelling: pumpkin spice chai
Hearing: my classmates perform their finals
Feeling: sluggish and sweaty, my duvet on my shins

The day started early and slowly. I didn’t want to do anything after breakfast, and spent more time in bed and trying to go back to sleep. I had my jazz practical at 11 and it felt like ages away. So I went to Café Depeche where I sipped on a matcha latte while reading my food quality notes. There was a rather confused North American couple there who, as I was walking up the hill to Sunday’s Well, asked me if the Gaol was nearby and nearly scared the lights outta me with surprise.

I ran through a bit of our pieces with Dereck our trombonist, then just dove straight into our performance. My classmate Maeve kindly recorded it to fulfill my mom’s request of a video. I sort of wanted to stay around to see my classmates’ performances but I wanted to lie down and eat more, so I stopped by Lidl on the way home and then spent a lot of time in bed doing nothing.

After playing some of Life Is Strange and a bit more of doing nothing, I baked a cake for tea at Mary’s tomorrow. I had plenty of baking supplies to use up, so I made a gluten-free Italian almond cake but instead of topping it with pears like in the recipe I made a rhubarb-berry compote, which I put in the bottom of a loaf pan, and spread the batter on top. It was absolutely delicious, and now I have plenty of fruit compote for yogurt and pancakes.

I did some more nothing, then I did some food quality studying and ordered Indian delivery. I’m at that point where I feel like I’m just doing the same thing over and over in study and feel prepared enough to take the exam now, and any study is just review to keep things in my mind. Please let this be done soon.

Day 2.120

Seeing: a crowd at the back of the Mardyke
Hearing: some of my classmates rehearse for their music ensemble performance
Feeling: tights pricking on my skin, bottomless stomach of an appetite, warm
Smelling: sweet potato breakfast hash
Tasting: salad with lentils, lime yogurt, and rice noodles

I know it’s summer because I got to sleep without pants and didn’t wake up freezing at 4. I did, however, wake up dehydrated at 5:30, so that’s summer. I can deal with that for now, though. I made myself a hash while listening to the Penumbra podcast, and just as I was about to head out to practice I remembered that Colm’s show was on at 10 so I listened to it while studying for my food policy exam.

I honestly didn’t feel like doing anything related to the exam that afternoon. Yeah of course, when do we ever feel like studying, but it felt as if there wasn’t anything left to do and I was just waiting for the exam to start. I tried my best, ate a salad and a lot of ice cream, then lounged in bed and watched the recording of the live stream of my classmates from Maryland’s recital. Then off to the exam.

It went okay. I started feeling really scatterbrained by the time I had to start the second essay. An issue I had was that we had two write one essay on each of the halves of the module, but one had a lot fewer resources on Blackboard so I felt kinda underprepared.

Then we had rehearsal for our practical tomorrow. I was very tired. I am very tired now. So I’m going to sleep.

Day 2.119

Feeling: warm face
Seeing: the park in Ballincollig
Smelling: garlic sizzle in olive oil
Hearing: the voice of my interviewer over the phone
Tasting: caramel donut

Today started early, and early enough that Nehuen was still up so I got to talk to him for a bit, so that made my morning. I went to the gym for a bit to work on chest and shoulders, but towards the end of it I started feeling pain in my left elbow and decided I would rather leave than risk more pain before my performance. Sure it’s nothing though.

I studied some food quality, then I had an interview for a possible research assistant position on the phone, which I think went pretty well! I’ll find out this week whether or not I got it. I studied some more (yay exogenous enzymes), then went out to town to meet my friend Laura. We planned to go to Casanova, which I forgot was closed on Mondays. So I met her and Barra on Oliver Plunkett and we got donuts and 99’s at the new donut shop (mine was just okay) and went to eat them in Peace Park. They both had just gotten fidget spinners so playing with those was fun.

We then walked to Laura’s place and drove to Barra’s place to get his hurleys and rounders set, then to Ballincollig to hang out with Mark and Leah in a small park near private property. We were going to play rounders in this other larger park, but we ended up breaking up with everyone else but we reconvening later.

I cooked myself some pasta for dinner, and the smell of garlic and lemon in the pan made me feel so summery. I kind of wish I could have stayed longer but studying called. It was nice being able to relax with some friends even just for a bit.