“I can hop that.” I answered.
“You’ll get in trouble.” He said sternly.
“Watch the door.” I said with a smirk on my face.
If I never got to travel again, I wanted to make the most of it, even if that meant getting myself in a little trouble. He sighed and walked to the door and gave me a thumbs up, knowing there was no way to talk me out of it. I grabbed the bars of the gate and pulled myself up and over it, landing my feet on one of the stone slab steps and hurried up to the highest point of Bunratty Castle, closed off to visitors. I found myself standing next to the green, white, and orange of the Irish Flag, over looking miles of Irish landscape. I felt as if I were the queen of it all.
“Alright come on.” My friend pleaded, and so I climbed back down and over the fence to see the rest of Bunratty and the folk park, where I explored every nook and cranny I could find, telling stories of my past to my new friend. After we had finished up at Bunratty, our bus took us to Coole Park where many great authors of the Irish Literary Revival signed their names into what, was now known as the autograph tree. After pointing out the tree, our guide gave the group a chance to explore on their own if they so wished, though I was the only one that did.
I hurried down the path trying to make the most out of my little time to explore. The neighboring forest caught my eye and I found myself drawn to it. I left the path behind and headed for what seemed like a familiar forest from what I had known, growing up in the mountains of mid-east New York. However, as I pushed past the dead brush, brown and filled with thorns, I found myself standing awe-struck at the sight before me.
Perfect rows of all the same type of tall tree, russet brown bark with naked branches that stuck out like thorns, stories above my head, with only a few leaves to cover the canopy. The base of every tree adorned in the richest Irish ivy green that I had ever seen, flowing out to the forest floor; leaving me standing ankle deep in the skirts of it. I heard nothing but the sound of my own excited breath escaping out of my lips as the corners of them crept up my cheeks, breathing in air as fresh as any air could ever aspire to be. Tears fell from my eyes from the shock of wonder, so moved was I, by the solid ground that I stood on. I laughed out loud and began to run through it all, running through the ivy, jumping over fallen branches and tree bodies, never had I felt so alive as I did in this forest.
I had suffered months of heartache after the loss of one of my best friends who died unexpectedly and tragically. I closed my eyes and thought back to a car drive with her, my arm hanging out of the passenger side window as she drove her Subaru. Smoking too many cigarettes and laughing over men that we had let hurt us in ways that could be called abusive, singing away pain that we wouldn’t admit we still felt, to songs on the radio. It was her I thought of, my arms stretched out wide as my feet sprinted over the forest floor and I hoped that she had felt a similar magic within her lifetime.
I had done something that I said I was going to do, studying abroad. Despite coming from a poverty stricken home, despite others telling me that it was impossible, here I was in Ireland. For too long did I allow others dictate my happiness, but here in this forest I promised myself it would never happen again. Never would I not be thankful for all that I have again, or waste my time on things that cost my happiness. I will never be stopped by the doubts of others for now I know, I had conquered them all.
Such a love for life surged through my body like a lightning bolt, patching up all the cracks in my heart that I had struggled to do so myself. I walked out of the forest glowing, struck by the light of happiness, that I will always carry in the deepest casings of my heart to illuminate me in any unforeseen darkness that I should encounter in the future. I had finally become queen of my own life.
About the Author: Emily Vieira: I am a student studying English education at Hartwick College and currently studying abroad at the University of Ireland at Galway. My mother and I lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet, we work very hard to get myself to a good school. I worked 3 jobs while going to school in order to get myself to Ireland, I refuse to be a casualty of the circumstances despite how hard the hardship.
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