Press pause: no facades

Oops, I did it again. It’s the start of Week 7 and a few weeks since my last update. An immense amount of things have happened since then – it’s kind of crazy how much can happen even in a single day here.

I want to fill you all in on a whirlwind weekend in Amsterdam and another in North Ireland, but I want to talk about something more important first. I think it’s really easy to put on this false face while abroad. Social media makes this almost unavoidable, and every weekend and day looks like an adventure that goes without a hitch.

Well, I have a confession, and that’s that I have been struggling.

One thing they don’t tell you before you leave to study abroad is how much you have to rely on yourself. Over the past three years, I have built up an incredible support system at home and Notre Dame. I was wary to leave it for a semester, but I told myself that I would be brave. Bravery is overrated. I feel like I’ve lost days telling myself to be brave and only feeling less solid.

I’ve been hanging out with my good friend Anxiety quite a bit here in Dublin. I am not afraid nor ashamed to admit that my study abroad life isn’t all rainbows and good craic (although the majority of it is). Without going into too much detail, I wish I would have better prepared myself with proper resources in the case of events that threw me off. As much as I love each day in Dublin, lately they have been tinged with struggles to remember my self-worth. In the past month, I have been shocked by the complete lack of respect that both people close to me and people I hardly knew have shown towards me. If you are reading this and think it applies to you, then it probably does. I am wholeheartedly disappointed in the breaking of trust and I want it to be known and recognized.

Doubt of my self-worth is something I have carried for a while now. I wish I had readied myself for rebuilding it while an ocean away from those that I leaned on before. Do not get me wrong: I feel unbelievably lucky to be here, and I am wowed each day by the love and joy that everyone in the Dublin program gives me. However, I would be telling a false story if I pretended if everything was good always.

So today I’m dropping those pretenses. Behind my pretty pictures and interesting stories, it is still me behind it all. I still have days when it is hard to get out of bed, and days when I wish I could be anyone and anywhere else. I still have days when friends have to text me to remind to eat regular meals, and days when going to all of my classes is the crowning achievement of the week.

However, the real me is still traveling on the weekends and sipping half-pints on weekdays and laughing when she can despite it all. If anything, I want people to know, especially those of you who haven’t studied abroad yet, that it is okay to not feel like you have it all together and that your life isn’t always a dream while you are abroad. You are a human being and you will feel all kinds of emotions during this growing time – even low and bad ones.

There have been countless moments during these past few weeks when I have thought to myself, ‘You almost missed this’ and I have never felt so proud to have made it to another year, another birthday, to this semester. These are the moments that remind me that with each rough morning, there is a bright day, a lovely evening and a joyous week. These are the moments I am grateful to be here and to be alive, to have made it and persisted.

Okay, hard and heavy over – what have I been up to? Two weekends ago I spent 48 hours in Amsterdam, and it really is a strange city. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I thought it was beautiful, and that the architecture and canals were lovely, but the whole vibe of the city was difficult to put a finger on. Seeing the infamous Red Light district in action on Saturday night left an ugly taste on my tongue. It was the first time that I had seen prostitution in action, and although it’s legal and decently regulated in the Netherlands, all I could think of was the human trafficking and slavery that was still likely going on. I have always been one to support the legalization of prostitution, but after that weekend I wasn’t so sure. I supported making prostitution safer and regulated, but in doing so, did I condone the selling of bodies for pleasure? I was unsure of my stance, and the persistent weed stank did not thrill me either. The diversity of the city struck me as well. Ireland struggles when it comes to diversity, so seeing more people of color and hearing a wider variety of languages was both confusing and fresh at the same time.

Amsterdam was exhausting – I rarely had a break and I was ready to return to Dublin on Sunday evening. This past weekend I traveled with Notre Dame to North Ireland, where we toured Belfast and learned about its bloody and heartbreaking history. We visited the peace wall, which stretches 30 miles and still separates Catholics and Protestants to this day. One of our tour guides was actually part of the Protestant para-military group, and it was odd to be so close to a man who had killed other men. My favorite part of this trip was Saturday night, when we walked over to Sheep Island after dinner and the sky was so big and crammed with stars. It was nearly pitch black, and we all climbed up onto a large rock and sang songs. I love stars, and every time I can see so many my heart is full. We took a moment of silence to be still, and it was the coolest thing to be under a blanket of stars with the sound of the sea crashing onto the shore.

What’s the future hold? I have fully booked each weekend for travel up until Easter, and I am thrilled to think about the adventures that lie ahead in Scotland, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, London and more. I also signed up for a half marathon in Connemara the weekend of my 21st, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad idea. It’s supposed to beautiful and I’m itching to get back into my running shoes regularly again – let’s hope my old lady knees can make it through.

Ending with some snapshots again:

 

The light in me honors the light in you,
Sus

 

 

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