The other side of a student Christmas

Christmas should be the most wonderful time of the year. Except, all I can think about is returning home to to a city filled with negative memories. My parents, on the other hand, are counting the days until they see me again.

Do not get me wrong, I do miss them, my family and my dog especially. However I cannot erase the past. I come from a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and every day I spent there was incredibly difficult.

During the entirety of my high school years, I woke up at 6 a.m daily to catch the yellow bus to school. Where I come from it is regarded as publicly humiliating to take the bus to school if you are 16 or older. Because I am blind in one eye, my parents would not allow me to attend a driver’s education class, nor would they teach me to drive themselves.

Most of the people I knew in high school had their driver’s license and either drove their own car or a family member’s car. No one I was friends with lived remotely near me so I didn’t want to ask them since they would have to go out of their way to pick me up.

Therefore when I lived in St. Louis and, if I missed the bus, I would either have to walk the three kilometres to school, or hope I could get a ride from my mom. This lack of independence throughout my adolescence was significant and, upon reaching college, I got a taste of life on the other side.

Dublin has an excellent public transport system, everything is within walking distance and, if not, it’s only a bus ride away. In college, I have so much at my fingertips. Whereas, in two weeks when I go back to the U.S., I won’t even have the means of transport to get myself to the grocery store.

In addition to the non-driver situation, I dread socialising with my extended family. At times, it feels like my aunts are constantly waiting for me to mess up. If I don’t tell a funny story or fail to have something noteworthy to say, they will hunt for reasons to criticise me.

Furthermore, my uncles and grandfather continuously comment on my food intake. Undoubtedly, I have a very critical extended family who, it seems, are waiting for me to “fail” in college or experience difficult social situations.

Speaking of socialising, the main difference between my Trinity friends and my former high school classmates is that the friends I’ve made in Trinity like me for me. Perhaps it’s just the course I’m in, but I’ve found it in other courses as well. People here tend to have a genuine appreciation for other people.

We look after each other and help each other out. That is the way all communities should work, but unfortunately it isn’t the case in a lot of places. Trinity is a fresh start for me- no one sees me as the girl with one eye. They see me for what I’ve achieved thus far. They do not know about my past and are in no position to judge me, so they don’t. They do not care about the outside, they care about who I am within.

Since starting at Trinity, I have attained a research assistant position, joined numerous societies and wrote my first report. I’ve made new friends with similar interests to me. I’ve built a life for myself across the ocean and it seems as if no one back in the US knows about it.

It was difficult to reach this milestone in my life since I didn’t know anyone when I first came to Ireland. I was scared, and alone, calling my Mom almost everyday for reassurance that everything would be alright. Now that I’ve found my place, my people and my path, I don’t want to leave it for so much as a month.

At the beginning of the year when other students asked me why I chose to attend Trinity, I told the longest story- when the simple answer was right in front of me. Ireland, Dublin and Trinity give me a sense of belonging. I was part of a select few Americans who are lucky enough to attend this university, so it saddens me when I hear Irish students talking badly about it. I never want to take Trinity for granted.

Where I come from, they literally build houses out of plastic. So, everytime I look upon the front square, I admire it like I’m seeing it for the first time. Now, with the Christmas tree out front, it’s more beautiful than ever.

Christmas spirit centres around the concept of caring. It is a time to appreciate other people, to care for everyone no matter what their race, gender, sexual orientation, or in my case, disability. When I go back to America, I will be facing people who judge me, have lied to me and try to tear me down.

I’ve built a new life for myself here in Ireland. Forgive me if I don’t want the pain and emptiness that comes with returning “home”. So, merry Christmas to all and I’ll see you in the new year.