I come from a very "Irish" family. I write it like that because if an Irish person ever met my clover kissing family, they'd start calling us Plastic Paddies right away. Plastic Paddy is a term used for people who claim to be Irish but only have about 10% or less Irish in their genealogy. So although I love a good corned beef and cabbage with a side of Jameson, I know full well I'm an All-American girl.
Nevertheless, I boarded a plane to Ireland when I was in college, hoping I’d feel some deep long-lost connection to the country and to my heritage. Twenty-four hours later, I found myself in County Donegal, Ireland leaning over the tallest cliffs in Europe and staring into the deep, turquoise-blue Atlantic Ocean.
We stayed in the small but beautiful seaside village called Glencolumbkille, where we lived with host families. We took Irish language lessons by day and drank in pubs with locals by night. Not many tourists get such an intimate experience with an Irish community. I found Ireland’s history overwhelming; everywhere you looked there was a piece of the past. Ruined castles loom over people's backyards, but they think nothing of it. They'd never tear them down, but if they maintained and repaired every crumbling church or castle in Ireland the country would be broke. This creates a plethora of hidden gems in almost every town or village you visit in Ireland. One the gems of Glencolumbkille was Saint Columbus’ bed.
There is a story that if you lay on the bed of rocks and make a wish, it would come true. As we walked along the cliffside trail, I fussed over what to wish for. I was happy with what I had; I was in Ireland! Maybe it was my 1% of Irish intuition kicking in, but I felt like this place--out of all the places in the world to make wishes--could actually make a wish come true. Ireland is full of fairies and leprechauns, so undoubtedly magical wishing beds fit in too. But the key was not to waste the wish. Should I wish to win the lottery? To find true love? To find the job of my dreams? They all seemed shallow and a complete waste of an opportunity.
I continued this argument with myself for the entire hike, and as I lay down on the bed of rocks, I still had no idea what to wish for.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath.
As if the fairies whispered the words into my ear, I found myself thinking, “I wish that I could spend some real time in Ireland some day. I wish that I could live here.” I opened my eyes and felt the unmistakable drop of rain hit my cheek. I opened my eyes, baffled at the wish I didn’t even know I wanted. But as we walked back home, I realized I had fallen in love with this country. I had to come back.
My trip took me all around Ireland, from Kilkenny to Killarney, to University Galway to Trinity College. . When I found myself back in the United States, I felt a desperate need to get back to Ireland. I started looking at jobs I could get over there, internships, nannying opportunities, anything.
One agency told me that they would gladly place me with a family once I graduated. I bragged and told all my professors and friends, "I'm going to Ireland for a year before I start working." But twenty-days after my graduation, I got an email telling me the agency denied my application. They hadn't realized I was from the U.S.; Ireland is only allowed to hire non-EU workers unless it can be absolutely proven that no one else is capable of performing the job. Unfortunately, there are plenty of qualified nannies to go around. I was devastated and in desperate need of a Plan B.
I was making a return trip to Ireland in two months, and I was determined to find an answer then. When I once again walked along the cliffs, staring into the dark blue-green waters, I was reminded of my trip to Glencolumbkille. I thought about my wish on Saint Columbus' Bed, and it was as if another fairy whispered the thought in my ear: I should go to graduate school at those universities we visited.
My heart raced, my mind worked overtime, my hands sweat, and I found my old determination and excitement. I walked back to the bus, knowing I'd found my answers and caught at last, fleeting glance to the Cliffs. I knew I could count on the luck of Ireland and the magic of fairies to grant me the long-awaited epiphany I had been searching for.
Photos by author.
Rose is an American-born, Ireland-based editor who is currently expanding her craft at NUI Galway. The only way into her heart is with peanut butter, classic 18th-century literature, and cats.