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.
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.