Finding Your Story

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Abby English, Staff Writer

Growing up with an Italian father and an Irish mother, I was constantly reminded to “love my Irish roots,” or that my Italian half is “superior.” These remarks were always jokes from my competitive, goofy parents, but I always wondered: what made one of these better than the other?

With dark, thick hair and deep brown eyes, I’ve always worn my Italian half loudly. However, on Black Friday this year, I flew out of the country to visit Ireland, the home of my (less obvious) ancestors. Through each stop we made around the Irish countryside, and through the beautiful cities, I found myself piecing together the story that made Ireland the country it is today.

Beginning in Dublin, I learned about the Easter Uprising of 1916, where revolutionaries fought to end British rule in Ireland. From Ireland, my tour moved me across the countryside and through smaller cities – each with their own unique piece of the puzzle. On the Ring of Kerry, I watched a demonstration of sheepdogs herding hundreds of sheep into one pen. At every turn in the road, the welcoming culture of Ireland invited me in to explore more.

Between castles and cliffs, I was reminded just how far back the history of the beautiful country went. Even in small villages that our tour bus passed through quickly, the thatched roofs on small cottages told their own stories of a past few living people could remember. Despite the fact that Ireland lost over a million people due to the Great Famine, there was never a town lacking a friendly face to give you directions.

One evening, I stood in a pub listening to an Irish “trad session” – a group of traditional Irish musicians playing music they had hardly rehearsed together, but all seemed to know by heart. Not five minutes after entering, a kind man immediately offered his seat to my friend and I so that we could sit to listen to the music. The man told us his own stories and wished us luck on our travels throughout the country. People like this man were not unique in Ireland; everywhere we went, we were greeted by kind storytellers and friendly faces.

When I returned home, my Italian father and grandmother greeted me. Immediately, the jokes began. “Abby, I’m glad you could go to Ireland to remind yourself how much better your Italian half is,” my dad joked. I laughed along, but knew that I had learned so much more than which half of me was better (which I’m still undecided on). I learned another piece of the story that made me who I am today.

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