Epiphanies. They are an elusive breed given by their Maker the exact skills needed to escape willful detection by even the most “inspired.” Have you ever seen an epiphany? Heard one? Touched one? Of course not.
But, give someone a few hours in which they have planned nothing but the excessively mundane, monotony so bland and unyielding it may just hypnotize… and you’ll find an epiphany springs from the depths of drudgery and taps your subconscious with what can only be a motivating little nudge.
This somewhat long-winded introduction can only herald the introduction of one thing: Yes, I have been tickled by inspiration.
And, as you can guess, in the absolute weirdest set of circumstances. Climbing up to my top bunk in T-shirt and sweats with a few extra sizes between me and tailored perfection, my calf cramped up just enough to send me scrambling for my mattress. Safely aloft, I thought to myself: I haven’t felt a pang like that since the family trek through the Emerald Isle.
*insert epiphany’s leap here*
At that late hour, I didn’t have the time (or, more importantly, the cognitive writing skills) to properly explore the Idea that leapt at me. But as finals week approached and my days grew increasingly less cramped with my introductory classes winding down, the note I had scribbled on a half-crumpled green Post-It note came to my attention.
“Déjà vu – Emerald Isle Style”
The last thing I expected to compare college life to was my family’s hiking trip to Ireland during the summer before my senior year of high school. One was awe-inspiring, artistic, historic… a masterpiece of a vacation. The other? Well, COLLEGE. What, my naïve freshman self wondered, could possibly be inspiring about first semester?
The answer: everything. And so, I’ll try to explain how the connection between Ireland and these first few months was born. My family, ever a troupe to carve traditions and catch phrases, left with many a lesson after our days there. Oddly, they apply here too.
- “Stick Together.” This has been Rule #1 in the Kelling household for 18 glorious years. In Ireland, that meant looking over your shoulder to make sure a second or third or fourth pair of boots was still plodding along merrily after your own. Stopping to take an extra puff of Irish air when one of us got winded. In college? I’m sure you can imagine. Receiving letters in my dad’s slanted penmanship, texting and Skyping my sister religiously, regular sanity-saving chats with my mom, and making sure Owen hasn’t decided to live in the woods just yet. Taking a while to stop and count the steps we’ve all taken together.
- “Look BEHIND you.” Go figure, right? We would often find as we hiked the butter road, snapping literally hundreds of pictures along the way, that the place we had just walked through would be twice as picturesque when we turned around and took a second look. Fresh perspective, I believe it’s called, and with a wonderful aftertaste of awe. Doing so in college meant realizing all of the many adventures that have passed between me and my beginnings here. It meant seeing how far I’ve come, from a terrified stranger to this campus to a well-versed member of the student body. Performing. Racing. Learning. Living. Loving. Published.
- “Dress in layers.” Then add a raincoat. And a parka. And two extra socks… per foot. We would leave our cozy, hospitable B&B dressed in layer upon layer of water-resistant clothing hanging upon our well-fed frames. By noon that day? Jackets were stuffed into bags, rain jackets were tied around wastes, sleeves rolled to the shoulder, and all 3 layers of socks were soaked from sweat and turf alike. Then? Bam. Rain hits. SCRAMBLE. And all the layers were put to use. My point? When I leave my dorm each day I never know what emotional tasks I will be faced with. Do I need confidence for a presentation? Level-headedness for a last-minute story? A quick wit for banter with a friend? Sobriety for commiserating? And so, I “dress in layers,” always trying to walk out the door with my full personality layered upon the core of Me in one loose, comfortable cloak. I tell myself daily: I am ready for whatever comes my way.
- “Cookie-thirty.” That, my dear reader, is a time of day. It could fall at noon, or 2:30 or 6:30 or 7:12 p.m. for all we hikers cared. But, when each day of the Irish trek began, a crackling role of baked splendor sat in a pack waiting for the half an hour that would be spent on some scenic ground relishing Rest. Stopping to crunch and munch for just a handful of minutes in the day, it was a time to talk (with our mouths full, of course, with society so many leagues away) about the highlights of the day thus far and the plans for the pending evening. Alas, in college, efforts to avoid the famed Freshman-15 have demanded that cookie thirty not be exactly regular, although it does happen on occasion. But the practice of stopping for a moment for the sake of indulging, whether it be in tears or laughter or puzzlement or rest, is one I’ve carried with me. Now, for example, I sit back in a chair to relish the 60-degree weather seeping from my open window, the memories of a weekend spent in good company, the prospect of a first semester signed, sealed, delivered. Cookie-thirty, college style.
- “Use time.” No, saturate it. We were in IRELAND for goodness sake. By all reasonable laws of nature, the ticking of a clock should have become a deafening metronome. The countdown should have been a nagging awareness in the back of our heads. 8 days. 7 days. 6 days. Gone. However, strangely, I had never been so unaware of the passing of time. What did I care? Was stalking my watch with Dog+ Tennis-ball concentration really going to improve my situation any? No, and so I lived off the grid for one of the most fulfilling spans of time in my history. Similarly, in college, I pay only so much attention to the clock as is required to arrive to my classes (barely) on time. Beyond that, my focus has been on filling my time with attending recitals, befriending the local antique shop owner, walks by the river, escapades with friends, sculpture scavenger hunts, ultimate Frisbee, monthly races, publishing aspirations… and on and on. And so, these months have been saturated.
- “Send postcards.” Granted, not all postcards will have charming Irish-made pictures of sheep-powdered hills and charming locals in green garb and the charming village pub painted on the front with charming delicacy. So charming! No, but to keep your dear one’s “post”ed is a must. Sure, a family of five sprawled across the picnic tables with three or four hastily scrawled cards each did draw some attention, even a picture or two. But it spread the learning, and sent love where it needed sending. As I trek through my college months, few things outrank the importance of sending progress reports back to my family and friends… in the form of links to my latest articles, anecdotes about my latest mishaps and triumphs, or just a sincere: How are you? How’s time treated you? The value of keeping in touch when just that, physical touch, is out of the question… Priceless.
Each of these quoted lessons fails to exceed two or three words. They are simple to pen (and/or type) and simpler to live by. Granted, a trip to Ireland inspired their addition to my life and I may never have realized their uncanny wisdom without the splendor of the Emerald Isle to weld to them to my character. However, a twitch in the calf and a tickle of epiphany was the recipe for remembrance – wisdom of the best kind isn’t archaic or coded. It’s day-to-day.
Reading my posts, I have noticed something during this trek that feels so much like the cross-country trip we made almost a year ago. I went from Ready Set No at the start through a Variety of Lifetimes only to Sing in the Rain during The Week I Spent Walking. The result? Déjà vu.
My time here, at first just a scrambling, has been a Journey.