I limped my way into my adviser’s office to talk about second semester scheduling. My crutches were beyond a pain at this point and with my doctors words of “we’re not sure if you’re going to walk again” still running through my mind from the previous week, I was in no mood to decide which math class to take in the spring.
I sat down and she informed me that they were thinking of taking a group of journalism students to Ireland for a summer class and we would be going places like The Blarney Stone. My heart literally skipped a beat. I had wanted to travel my entire life. It was the exact reason I became a journalism and photography student.
There was only one problem: For the past four years, I had been going through multiple health issues. It began with liver failure and autoimmune hepatitis and ended with crooked bones in my knees that lacked cartilage and lacked support to carry my body. I did not really think traveling was an option, but I was determined. From October to March, I worked my hardest in physical therapy. I made it off of my crutches and came out of my knee brace. I still had a slight limp, but I needed to get to that Blarney Stone.
We left on May 22, flew overnight and were in Shannon by morning on a bus toward The Blarney Stone. I was beyond excited. I climbed up the winding, cracked stairs. I had my knee brace on for extra support. I was sure many people were wondering why I was even attempting this. But I had to get to the top and kiss the stone. There was no way I was coming this far and not getting there.

As I made my way to the top, I was thinking about the previous four years. I remembered when I was first in the hospital and told I might not make it. As a then-16-year-old, I was defiant and didn’t think anything bad could happen to me. I was told I was going to die, and if I didn’t I would be severely limited in my activities. This meant no going outside of the United States and that I may even be confined to a wheel chair, which I was for a little while.
From that moment of being in the hospital, my life was changed. I realized that bad things could happen, even to good people. I struggled with this thought for a good part of my time in the hospital. I didn’t understand what was going to happen or how I could ever move forward from this.
I kept walking up the stairs of the castle. They became narrower and steeper as I got higher and higher.

I remembered late one night in the hospital, I was sitting in my bed watching the travel channel. A special was on about Samantha Brown, of Samantha Brown: Passport to Europe, going to Ireland. When she arrived to Shannon, she explained the tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone and that after a kiss, the kisser would gain the gift of eloquence.
At 2 a.m. sitting in a hospital with an IV pinched in my arm, I thought that sounded like the most amazing thing to do. I told my doctor I needed to go home soon and quickly jotted down a list of things I was going to do before I died. The number one thing? Kiss the blarney stone. And I was almost there.

While in Ireland, I not only learned a lot about the Irish culture, community, and storytelling, but also a lot about myself. Our trip was only two weeks long, but in that time my eyes began to open and my thoughts began to transform. I realized that while I do have health problems that I struggle with daily, there is so much more to this world and to my life. I can stay home and concentrate on myself and my problems or I can go out into the world and actually do things–things like climbing the cliffs of Moher, walking miles through the gardens of The Parknasilla Resort, crawling inside the fairy pyramids, or hiking up a mountain to get a picture of a baby lamb. These are the little things in life that create big memories.

When I finally made my way to the top of The Blarney Castle I had the guide help me down to the ground. I bent backward and kissed the stone. Check one off of my bucket list. This experience has taught me the importance of getting over myself and actually doing things. I hope that despite my limp, I will have the opportunity to keep moving forward and trying new things.


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