Amanda Marello ’12

As I thought about my New Year’s resolutions for this year, I couldn’t help but think of them in light of the impending G-word (now that it’s 2012, I think it is fully acceptable to avoid using the word “graduation” until completely necessary). I’m beginning this final semester at Holy Cross by spending five days in silence; about fifty Holy Cross students—many of whom are seniors—will be participating in this session of the Spiritual Exercises, a five day retreat adopted from the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. These days in silence are intended to encourage prayer and reflection, provide a pause from the busy lifestyle of a Holy Cross student. And, this pause couldn’t be coming at a more appropriate time.

As I’m spending part of this break applying to jobs, and writing the introduction and researching for the second chapter of my thesis, I’m already starting to feel the busy-ness of second semester creeping up on me. I know that these five days of silence will encourage me to start this final semester at Holy Cross off right: by valuing each and every moment, and not allowing stress or anxiety to in any way dampen my appreciation. I intend to keep this at the forefront of my mind during this year of crucial changes, to be ready and willing to accept these changes and the ways in which new opportunities and people will shape my life.

A big thank you to all who made 2011 such a wonderful, exciting year! Here’s to an equally wonderful 2012!

I am officially a second semester senior. Yikes. After passing in my seminar paper for my Jane Austen class yesterday, I packed up and headed back to good old Thornwood, NY for the holidays. As I was walking back to Williams after passing my paper in, I looked up at the chapel from Kimball Quad and, for some reason, was immediately brought back to the walk I took after my last final in Spring 2010, my final walk around HC before going home and getting ready to depart for Dublin.

As I sit at home writing Christmas cards, getting back into knitting, and working on my thesis ( I’m actually so grateful to have the time to put my full energy into writing about Irish female autobiography over this break! :) ), I’m finding myself beginning to reminisce on my time at Holy Cross–and, of course, my time in Ireland–thus far.

I think part of this nostalgia finds its root in a big change occurring at Holy Cross. Just last week, many students had the opportunity to say goodbye to Fr. McFarland and wish him the best at his final Mass on campus. As we stood and extended our hands over Fr. McFarland, led in blessing him by Marybeth Kearns-Barret, I found tears running down my face. I will truly miss Fr. McFarland; simply seeing him on campus always made my day brighter; he always took the time to stop and ask how I was, how my classes were going. It’s hard for me to believe that many college students are anonymous faces to their college President.  Words truly cannot capture my gratitude for all that Fr. McFarland has done for Holy Cross–and for the Worcester community. He will truly be missed.

While many got up bright and early to hit the stores this “Black Friday” in preparation for Christmas, I was up and getting ready for Christmas in another way—by going to see the Celtic Thunder Christmas show with  my parents in Atlantic City. If you haven’t heard these guys sing, you might want to plug in their name on Youtube.com. They’re absolutely amazing—and each and every one of them has such a different voice that harmonizes oh so well with the entire group. In addition, they’re just really fun to watch. You can tell they have an absolute blast up on stage together. All of them are from Ireland, apart from George, who is Scottish. In fact, if you’re an avid Glee watcher, you’ve most likely seen Damian McGinty, who used to be a member of Celtic Thunder.

My Mom, Dad, and I arrived in Atlantic City hours before the show started; we anticipated much worse traffic than there was. Upon getting into Harrah’s, we asked one of the women working at a restaurant if we could go in and see the concert venue; it was five hours til show time, after all. She said yes, so we walk in. Immediately, we hear strains of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a song sung by my favorite Celtic Thunder member, Ryan Kelly. Assuming that it’s a CD playing just to produce a vibe, we wandered out to look at the venue, to find that Ryan Kelly was on stage. Rehearsing. And we were so close to him. To say that I freaked out was an understatement; I nearly cried. We ended up just leaving, so as not to distract him and the rest of the group, but to catch a glimpse of the show—and of Ryan—beforehand was really amazing.

Hope everyone’s Thanksgivings were delightful! I, for one, was so thankful to be spending this year’s at home with the people I love most.

And, just so, you can see how amazing Celtic Thunder is, rather than just hear me go on and on (and I could really go on and on about how much I love them), here’s a link! J

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzJcrh4Csw0

It can’t already be November 22—right?

Firstly, I have to apologize for not blogging in SO long. I honestly can’t begin to describe how quickly this semester has gone. And, I’ve been kept busy juggling three seminars, my thesis, working in the Writer’s Workshop, serving in campus ministry, volunteering at Vernon Hill elementary school, looking into teaching programs for next year and, most importantly, spending time and catching up with my second family, my fellow Crusaders. And though it’s been going far too quickly, each part of the year has been wonderful. And each day, as I transition back from life in Ireland, I find myself loving Holy Cross more and more.

To give a few brief sentences of what’s been going on so far: I live in Williams Hall, the “older” senior apartment complex on campus where my three wonderful roommates and I share a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The first chapter of my thesis, which is on motherhood in Irish female autobiography, is finally starting to come together; and I absolutely love working with my adviser! I’ve been working in Kindergarten and Pre-K classrooms at Vernon Hill, where I’ve been given enough construction paper projects to fill one wall in my room; going there twice weekly has constantly affirmed by desire to teach in an elementary school next year. Currently, I’m looking into Nativity Schools and the NY City Teaching Fellows Program, while keeping my eye out for other programs that would be a good fit.

Right now, I sit at home on Thanksgiving Break, watching “Chopped” (I’m a little obsessed with the Food Network) and looking up recipes for Thanksgiving desserts (okay, maybe just with food in general…). And, I am just so grateful for the constant love and support of my family and friends, health, joy, and the process of discernment. I wish everyone a most Happy Thanksgiving with lots of love, laughter, and whatever pie of your choice! :)

I still can’t believe that I will be back on Mt. St. James in five days! I am moving in two days early to serve as a liturgical coordinator at the Mass of the Holy Spirit—my last Mass of the Holy Spirit. This Mass for the incoming freshmen is one of my favorites at Holy Cross. Seeing the incoming Crusaders sitting with their parents, I feel able to mentally reverse to when I was sitting in the Hart Center with my parents next to me, with plenty of tissues in hand. The moment when the parents are asked to leave their children, the moment when their college journey begins, still brings tears to my eyes. I remember serving at the Mass sophomore year and crying right along with the many parents having difficulty saying goodbye. I remember watching my parents leave the Hart Center (well, technically they didn’t really leave because little did I know, they waited outside the gym to say goodbye one last time), looking around at  the unfamiliar faces  around me thinking, “these are the people that I’ll be spending the next four years with.” Little did I know then that I would come to consider many of these once-strangers as my second family. So, the Mass of the Holy Spirit holds a special place in my heart—and as the last one I’ll be serving at, this one will also be emotional.

And, I am so unbelievably excited to see the apartment in Williams I will be sharing with three amazing girls: Kelsey, Casandra, and Courtney (pictures of us in our room to come!) Courtney, has already moved into our apartment, and next Sunday, Kelsey and Casandra will move into Williams Hall and complete our quad!

As crates begin to move from my living room to the car, the fact that senior year really is beginning in a mere five days is starting to hit me. At the Mass of the Holy Spirit for my class, Father McFarland quoted Fr. Pedro Arrupe in his homily, saying: “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” And, I am ready to spend this year re-falling in love with absolutely everything about Holy Cross.

As President Obama’s visit to Dublin and the little town of his ancestors, Moneygall, made clear, Ireland and America share a special connection.  And , it’s not just that everyone in America loves being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. To me, it seems like the two countries could be referred to as sisters, congruent in their struggle for independence and self-definition–and the fact that 40 million Americans claim Irish roots most definitely solidifies this bond between two countries, 3,000 miles apart.

Here’s a link to an exhibit currently running in NY’s Public Library, so if you’re from NY, or planning a road trip to the Big Apple this summer, it’s something you might want to check out! I’m planning on getting there myself within the next few weeks (unfortunately, the exhibit is ending its run on August 12th), so will report back once I visit!

http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/2011/03/01/celebrate-ireland-new-york-public-library-spring-new-exhibition-docum

Next year, I am writing a thesis on contemporary Irish female autobiography for the English Honors Program. As of now, I have proposed an idea that involves exploring how Irish women writers of every genre use autobiography (or as women writers more commonly refer to it, “memoir”) as a way to more firmly establish themselves in a seemingly patriarchal literary tradition. However, they do not do so overtly—as demonstrated by a tendency to dismiss their Irish-ness, confessions to the difficulties that accompany womanhood, and most significantly for the purpose of my to-be thesis, admittance to the incongruence between authorship and femininity.

Although one might assume that such discussions would prove problematic, I have noticed that, through language, the three women whose works I am examining (Anne Enright, Nuala O’Faolain, Eavan Boland—I nearly shiver to mention their names in hope that I will do their works justice and in fear that my idea is even relevant, although I highly doubt that either Enright or Boland will ever stumble across this blog.), through language, demonstrate their capability as Irish writers in their respective genres. And, they are ALL marvelous writers—Enright, a Booker Prize winning novelist, Boland, an award winning poet, and O’Faolain, a highly esteemed journalist—in addition to their roles as talented and enlightening memoirists.

My work at CUNY Lehman has actually brought me into a space that not only values Irish literature, but also has quite an extensive set of resources on Irish literature housed in a room adjunct to the very office in which I work. Needless to say, yesterday, while taking a break (which may have turned into a good hour long…) I began to peruse this library, taking note of the books that seemed helpful. My co-worker, noticing my enthusiasm for the project, even scanned the covers of the books so that I would have the information I needed whenever I wanted.

With the year of work ahead of me, thoughts about my project are already looming large in my head. In fact, I think about my thesis quite constantly; it’s almost as though the project has taken residence in my brain, sometimes dormant, and sometimes running around like mad, but, still, always present.

I guess, in the end, what I want to prove is a statement that Eavan Boland makes when describing female poets’ contributions to the art of poetry:

“They won’t just have rebalanced elements within the poem. They will have altered the cartography of the poem. The map will look different.”

Irish women writers have not simply added to the literary tradition of the thirty-two counties that comprise Ireland. They have changed it. They have made the map look different.

Do you ever find that after experiencing something, you continuously encounter things that remind you of that experience?

For example, I walk into the dairy section of the A&P with my Grandma, see that they sell Kerrygold butter (which is an Irish brand!) and start jumping up and down, saying in what would clearly be deemed an outside voice: “Oh my gosh! Look at this! Ireland has brought their butter to America!” A&P could have been selling that brand of butter for years, I’m sure, but I find it so amazing that just seeing the familiar gold wrapped rectangular block now means something more to me than just…well, shopping for butter.

Ireland has essentially followed me home–and not just in the workplace and grocery store! Yesterday, I went with my brother (who is looking at colleges-eek! I find this so scary for many reasons–and it is quite a strange feeling to go on a college tour as a rising college senior. I found myself constantly wanting to chip in about the college experience. I did refrain, though, don’t worry!) to take a tour of a college. Unfortunately, halfway through the tour, it started pouring rain, but, somehow our tour guides remained enthusiastic and incredibly informative as we rushed from building to building. At one point, one of the tour guides mentioned that she would be spending her Fall Semester in Ireland. I immediately turned to my brother and started commenting on how I just HAD to find out where she was studying and how happy I would be to answer any questions she would have. As I babbled on about this (in the pouring rain), I noticed I was getting some weird looks from the people in our tour group. If you know me, you know that I am quite short–just about five feet–and that I don’t really look my age, well, at all. It’s not uncommon for people to confuse my brother and I for twins, or assume that he’s the older one. As a result, I was not surprised to find that the tour guides often made eye contact with ME throughout the tour, and that when I told the girl I had just gotten back from studying abroad in Dublin, she was taken aback by the fact that I was a year older than her. “You’re just going to love it,” I assured her, as I could tell she was still trying to come to grips with the fact that I was actually not considering going to this particular school.

But, just as Ireland continues to confront me, the knowledge that I am home and returning to HC is equally evident. After the tour of this school, I stopped off at HC to meet up with many friends for dinner. To see everyone back in the place we all started, the place where we got to know each other, produced a feeling I can not possibly describe in words. Seeing Kelsey, Nora, and Amanda walk towards me outside of Kimball, I could hardly believe that the last time I had seen them it was in Spain, and before that, in Ireland; that I could now say “Meet you at Fenwick!,” rather than “Meet you at the airport!” And although my time with everyone was far too short, just to see their faces, hear their laughs, to go around and tell stories, not only (continuously) makes me realize how blessed I am, but also made me realize just how much of a home Holy Cross is.

It’s a strange–and unbelievably good– re-experiencing of everything: re-experiencing meeting up with everyone at Holy Cross, re-experiencing searching for the right college (even if not for me!), re-experiencing the beginning twinges of nervousness and excitement that precede taking that leap to study abroad through the feelings of someone else. And it kind of makes me want to break into Phil Collin’s “Look Through My Eyes.” (which may or may not be from the Brother Bear Soundtrack…)

And, somehow, all of  that re-experiencing makes me feel ready to just plain experience what senior year on the Hill has to bring.

The door is green. Shamrocks adorn the walls. Signs hang in Gaelic. Boxes of Ireland’s Barry’s Tea sit on the table. “Where am I?,” you may ask.

No, unfortunately, my closet is not a magic door that allows me to appear in the Emerald Isle on my own personal whim (I wish!). However, the office where I am working is quite the mini-Ireland unto itself. (It’s my substitute for walking around Dublin—I’m trying over here!) . When searching for summer internships in late winter/early spring, I was on the lookout for something that I would be truly passionate about, a job that would allow me to wake up in the morning excited about where I was going. And, it was not long before my love for Irish literature brought me to CUNY Lehman’s Institute for Irish-American Studies. My job entails scanning in and transcribing books that are in Gaelic to a computer system that will allow the students to get ahead on the work they will face in their Irish language courses throughout the upcoming semester. The program the students work with is actually incredible; it places the document in to a Microsoft Word-like program which allows them to click on a word and view not only its definition, but also its history. Additionally, I will be working in their archives, evaluating the status of various books.

There is no denying that I love the work itself; being exposed to advanced Gaelic texts on a daily basis has encouraged me to continue working on expanding my knowledge of the language independently over the summer. Most importantly, however, the people I work with and for are just incredible. The professors I have encountered thus far have been extraordinarily patient, and helpful, teaching me the ins and outs of the campus, the work I’m doing, and, furthermore, the steps that occur once the text moves from my hands to theirs. I’ve been working with CUNY for three days now—and I can honestly say that the experience has already made me even more excited about eventually pursuing my Ph.D. in English (if that’s possible!)

It is quite common to hear the phrase “Céad Míle Fáilte” in Ireland, a phrase which translates into “a hundred thousand welcomes to you.” I certainly feel as though CUNY has extended a hundred thousand welcomes to me—especially seeing as I’m already invited to their staff barbeque on Friday! :-)

A direct translation of those three Gaelic words yields President Obama’s campaign mantra: “Yes, we can!”

At the beginning of my year in Ireland, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what those three words meant. Nor would I have, in a million years, anticipated that the U.S President would step foot in the Emerald Isle and speak outside Trinity College, embracing his Irish heritage. But, most importantly, I’m not sure I believed them; I’m not sure that I felt confident saying “Yes, I can!” when it came to spending a year away from home when I wrote to you in August.

Now, as I stand at the end of my year abroad, sitting in my own cozy room, I can hardly believe that the year is done. I’ve been home for four days, and in so many ways, it feels as though I never left my small hometown. At the same time, though, I know I must have. Because I have changed. Ireland has changed me in ways I could have never anticipated; it’s as though the place itself took root within me, both enabling my growth and stealing my heart. For me, this year abroad was a lesson in confidence and independence, a solid evidencing of the strength of the bonds of friendship and the love of family that I already knew existed.

I would like to take this post, then, to thank the many, many people who stood behind me this year and made each moment possible. To all of my friends, whether at home or abroad, who were always, always there through Skype and email conversations which brightened my days. And, a special shout out to all of those who made visits over to the Emerald Isle; my gratitude to you couldn’t possibly be expressed in words. Whether you knew it or not, your visits were timed at moments when I needed them the most and they made my heart overflow with joy.

 And, to my family, I could NEVER have completed this year without your support. I missed you more than I could say and am so incredibly grateful to have had this life-changing and eye-opening opportunity. My falling in love with Dublin, getting to know my Irish roots, and most importantly, getting to know myself—I owe that all to you.

After thinking about how to close this blog, to virtually end my journey, I think citing Enda Kenny’s (Ireland’s Taoiseach) introductory speech for Barack Obama is most telling. He said:

“This evening, my call is directly to those 40-million Irish-Americans. Whether you’re listening or watching in New York or New Haven, or in San Diego or St Louis. Whether you’re Irish by blood, or by marriage, or by desire, we, your family—your Irish family–are right here to welcome you home.”

So, to conclude: Thank you, Dublin. Thank you, Ireland. For welcoming me home. For letting me call you “mine” for a wonderful, challenging, inspiring, eight months. And, although I may no longer be able to call Dublin “mine,” I know that that amazing city will forever be “me,” a crucial part of who I am.  I’ll pass you on, now, to the next group of Crusaders coming to take you by storm—letting you strengthen their wings and teach them how to fly.

I know without a doubt that my life’s journeys will bring me back to Ireland soon and that my Irish family will be there, once again, to welcome me back with open arms.

Until then,

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Amanda Marello '12

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