Before I dive into the meat of this post, funny story about the above video: After recording I went downstairs and was walking out of the building when a dude in a suit and another in army uniform stopped me. I’d forgotten that there were a bunch of embassies around that area. Seems they fast get suspicious of people with cameras on nearby rooftops. Suit Dude inspected my camera and the video, then took a copy of my passport and my phone number. He was pretty friendly though, didn’t make me delete the video even though I offered.
End of story.
I left Ireland on September 30th, 2011. I expect to be away for four years or so. It will take me about that long to circumnavigate the globe without flying, stopping for several months at a time to experience living in different countries and cultures.
Earlier this week I was thinking about the day I left home. I woke up that morning in my parents’ house in the South Kilkenny countryside, the same house I grew up in.
I’d been on a self-promotion frenzy the week or so leading up to my departure, sending press releases, phoning editors, etc. One result of all those efforts was an early rendezvous that morning with a photographer for one of the national papers. We met at the Slieverue roundabout and he snapped a few pics of me fake-thumbing with my backpack in front of a signpost. Pretty sure my photo never ended up in the paper though. If only I’d shown more leg.
Wasted Opportunity, Valuable Lesson
My mother drove me most of the way to Dublin that afternoon. On the way I got a call from a lady at the news desk for one of the largest radio stations in Ireland. She’d read my press release and wanted to get a few soundbites to include in their next broadcast. I guess they had me in mind for one of those lighter news stories they typically squeeze in after the hard-hitting stuff. The day before they probably reported on the first panda cub born in Ireland since the iPhone.
I messed up that opportunity though. Instead of telling News Desk Lady my story and getting across the message I wanted, I sat there passively and responded to the few lame questions she threw at me with equally lame answers. Pretty sure my voice never made it to air. My fault entirely.
But I learned a good lesson from that: Always remember that it’s up to you to sell yourself. Nobody else is as interested in your story/message as you are, so they’re not always gonna ask the key questions that lead to the good stuff. It’s up to you to be proactive and lead the conversation where you want it to go, up to you to get your core message across.
This is something I continue to work on, still lots of room for improvement.
I won’t say much about the goodbyes. At least not about the specifics. Of course it was tough to say goodbye to my parents, knowing we weren’t likely to see each other again in person for almost a half decade. And tougher on them than me, because I was the one heading off on the great adventure, had that as my compensation to balance out the sadness of all I was leaving behind. I think it’s always easier to be the one leaving.
Those big goodbyes always suck. They’re never near as smooth as you’d like them to be. There’s that air of awkwardness, no matter what. It’s like there’s always more to be said, and yet enough said already. In the end you just have to turn and walk away.
Losing Old Labels
In Dublin I had some time to kill before catching my bus, so I’d arranged to meet up with an old teacher of mine, hadn’t seen him in years.
Trust me on this: If you have the chance to meet up with a teacher or mentor from your childhood, someone you’ve never actually sat down and had an adult conversation with, do it. It’s surreal. Mostly because such people often appear one-dimensional when we’re young. Since they usually serve just one purpose in our early lives, we forget that they’re these whole, complex people.
Meeting up with that old teacher of mine and hearing him talk about the experience of teaching me and my friends, the opinions he formed, the challenges he faced, that was pretty eye-opening. It reminded me that everyone’s human, everyone feels on multiple levels, everyone has their struggles. It’s so easy to slap a single label on someone (teacher, mother, writer, etc.) and tell ourselves we have them all figured out.
What would happen if we made more time to sit down with people and tried to get beyond those surface labels?
I hopped on that bus with the biggest, most ridiculous smile on my face. Nothing like the beginning of a massive adventure to get you giddy. Later on the ferry over to Britain I was still wound up, didn’t feel like sleeping, so I went hunting for the most beautiful girl I could find with the intention of striking up a conversation with her.
That conversation didn’t go very well.
But I didn’t care. I still felt great. Nothing could bring me down. I’d just set sail on a whole new chapter of my life, a chapter I’d long dreamed of. I knew without question that I would be an immensely different person the next time I set foot on Irish soil. And everything between those two footsteps would be an epic making-of I’d get to experience first-hand.
A few hours later and I was waking up on a bus station bench before the dawn. I set out to explore Liverpool and meet a friend I’d never met before. I’ll always remember the sunrise that morning. It was perfect.