The Dublin Diaries: Weathering the Storm
by Margaret Mary Hicks
It has been awhile since I have written and I find it very hard to write now, but I think it is very important to be reflective in these moments and cherish the little things in life. Being away from my family and friends in Cleveland right now is especially hard, and making the decision to stay in Dublin through this was not an easy one.
Many hypotheticals have run across my mind and I was in doubt on if I was making the right decision given the circumstances. COVID-19 has changed how I view and value life and it will drastically alter how my next few months will go, as I am sure it will with the whole world as well.
Amid the worries of sickness and being away from family, I am also quite worried about what this means as I embark on my first ever professional career. The global economy is already being impacted greatly and I can only imagine what these effects will be going forward. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad or even frankly, hopeless, at times throughout this. The uncertainty and unprecedented nature of this situation can at times be suffocating, but I know that I am strong enough to make it through this.
In a recent call with my great aunt, who lives in Dublin as well, I asked her if she thought it would be best for me to return home. “What a waste that would be for you,” she immediately said. “You have made it this far and all of your hard work would be for nothing. If you went home, you probably wouldn’t come back.” That was a tough reality to swallow and at the time I was not sure if I could endure this while living alone. However, my aunt inspired me and made me feel confident in my decision to stay here and weather through the storm.
I was surprised at how rapidly things have changed, but I am so incredibly lucky to be in a country that takes this virus seriously and has acted swiftly and accordingly to rise to the challenge. I am afraid I cannot say the same for my home country, but I am so incredibly thankful that Governor DeWine is also taking a strict approach in Ohio, which is very similar to what I see in Ireland. It is reassuring that these measures are being taken and my family both here and in Cleveland are safer as a result.
Throughout all of this, I have tried to keep myself busy and keep working on assignments. I think this situation makes it one of the hardest times in my life to focus and concentrate and my motivation is struggling. However, my days are taken up by schoolwork, cooking, walks around the neighborhood, cleaning my flat, watching Netflix (namely, Tiger King), yoga and most importantly: wine.
While I know I will get my work done, I am finding it difficult to get in the headspace where I can feel completely focused on what I need to do without distractions. Part of this problem I believe is that I have my desk in my room, which is the only place I can put it. I don’t feel very productive in my room, but I have managed to meet my deadlines so far.
I have also been able to take the time to really enjoy my cooking and try new things in the kitchen, which is refreshing. Before, I had not really appreciated cooking and viewed it only as a means to an end. Now, it is like a form of therapy and relaxation to me. I look forward to my time dedicated to cooking things that make me happy and exploring what I can do. Recently, I made a traditional Irish apple tart, which was pretty great. I also made a tomato tortellini soup which was really good and I am looking forward to making it again.
The quarantine has also allowed me to explore my lovely little town of Rathmines and the surrounding neighborhoods. While I had previously been busy commuting to class and not really taking moments to embrace my surroundings, I am now able to do that. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately, which makes it a whole lot more enjoyable than the rain and cold we have had lately. I like to take different paths each day and it is a fun little challenge with myself to just get a little lost and find my way back home. While I no longer go outside past dark, I am still able to enjoy my evening walks because it gets dark much later here now.
I have also been able to thoroughly clean up my apartment now and it is nice to be able to clean for myself and no one else. It allows me to take it at my own pace and see what needs to be done. I also have been using this time to find those finishing touches in the apartment online through Etsy and Amazon. For my walls I am going for a mostly black and white feel, but my whole room has dusty pink, gray and crisp white.
I am looking forward to the end result. In college, my mom and I would always love to decorate my different rooms over the years and we got such joy over being able to pick out the perfect items for the space. While she isn’t here and we can’t do that physically right now, I send her different pieces I am thinking about and she also will send me recommendations as well. She currently thinks I should definitely invest in a TV and a softer chair, but I am concerned with the amount of space I have that this may not work. We will see.
Another thing I do to fill the day is watch Netflix, like I am sure everyone is doing now. I finished Tiger King, Love is Blind and The Confession Killer, all of which are varying levels of madness. On a scale, Tiger King is definitely the craziest to me and it makes such great television.
Somehow, watching it makes me feel better about my own life trajectory. If you know, you know. Love is Blind was also pretty wild, but there were moments where I wanted to cry at how cute Cameron and Lauren are. I am rooting for them to this day. The Confession Killer is another wild one. It’s a docuseries about Henry Lee Lucas, who is one of the most notorious serial killers ever, maybe… The story kept me invested throughout the whole series and it is a good watch that isn’t as scary as the Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes docuseries.
If I want something light, I have been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Nailed It! which are both hilariously entertaining. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is about New York’s most notorious precinct of the same name, and Andy Samberg and the rest of the cast leave me feeling positive and optimistic.
Nailed It! is a baking competition where literally anyone can win. They take beginner and amateur bakers and have them compete in creating pretty elaborate cakes and bakery items. My favorite episode so far is when they have to construct a bust of President Trump. The end result is extraordinary.
Before the pandemic I found a really wonderful yoga studio where I found a supportive community. I was so excited to become a member, but with everything being cancelled I have not been keeping up with my yoga routine. However, I try to follow along with classes on YouTube and I also listen to the Yoga Girl Daily podcast on Spotify, which helps to ground me and reflect on my life as it’s happening now.
I have also started drinking more wine and even getting into red wines. Previously, I considered myself a strictly moscato, prosecco or champagne girl, but I am exploring new types and have really been able to appreciate them more. Maybe this means I am becoming an adult. Given the circumstances, I also have only really drank alone since this whole thing started. Previously I only really drank socially and limited it to that, but now having a glass after a long day of work or to enjoy with dinner is nice and gives me a little respite from all the craziness.
I have also used this time to check in with friends. My friends from college and I also did a virtual happy hour/presentation party where we each gave presentations on a topic of our choice. My topic was Irish Slang for Beginners. It was fun to make and it got my mind off of assignments and everything else going on. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up with them because before this we were all so busy and on different schedules. The quarantine gave us this opportunity and for that I am grateful, despite the circumstances.
The night before the quarantine was announced, I went out for a few drinks with friends and it was such a strange and indescribable feeling. It felt like one of those moments where I’d look back on it and think “remember when” or “It was simpler times then.” I know I am being dramatic, but at the time I didn’t recognize the gravity of it and how serious this is. The last bar we went to, called The Jar on Camden Street, reminded me of a Speakeasy. As we walked in, the doorman said, “You have 30 minutes, it could be your last pint for a few weeks now.”
The Craic Was 90
Upon entering, the craic was nothing short of ninety. Great music playing, bartenders and bar goers alike dancing cheerily, there was even a little table right in the back that we were able to snag. “Shipping up to Boston” got the crowd going and they even closed out the bar with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” It was a little apocalyptic, but we made the most of our last moments out for a while.
As I picked out my outfit for my first ever St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin, I had no idea I’d be spending my day indoors alone. Before, I bought a shirt from Penneys that said “Who’s your Paddy?” and I was so excited to wear that with my shamrock headband and cool green leather embossed belt I got in Galway.
I’ll just have to save those away for next year and hope it’ll be a lot better. Another event I was looking forward to before even moving to Dublin was the Trinity Ball. My friends and I were so excited to be able to celebrate our hard work and get dressed up for a special night, but that is no longer the case. I have plans to go next year however, because graduates are allowed to buy tickets as well.
I am definitely struggling with the idea that many of these things feel like they were stolen from me and many of my last goodbyes to friends who have headed back home were rendered to texts and quick calls. I really did not get the chance to process a lot of these last moments, but all we can do is hope that there will be a day we will all be together again for a night out at our usual haunt: The Globe. Before this, I had been sick of going there because we were there too much, but now I’d give anything to be back dancing with friends in that dark, hot, sweaty basement.
I think these circumstances we find ourselves in are impossible to fully process and understand while it is happening in real time, but we will come away stronger and more appreciative and reflective on how precious our lives are. I know I’m never going to cancel plans again after this.
What gives me hope is imagining the day where things are up and running and I am able to sit and enjoy a pint at The Pav or a can on the pitch with my friends again. The sun is shining, we are all safe to be together again and we can give each other the biggest hugs imaginable. Speaking it into existence now.
Thanks all for reading and if you have any Netflix or Podcast recommendations, do let me know. Stay safe, mind yourself and others and wash your hands.
Slán go fóill,
*Margaret Mary is a postgraduate student studying marketing at Trinity College Dublin. She recently graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and is from Cleveland, Ohio. To keep up with her adventures abroad, follow @margamary on Instagram.