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If Only I Had Known Before

by Ruth Molina Gracia

Ruth Molina Gracia is a student of Translation Studies from Spain who spends a semester abroad in Ireland. Though initially wanting to become a vet, she discovered her love for languages through travelling which led her to study both English and German.

Her story “If Only I Had Known Before” was awarded the second prize in the writing competition.

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If Only I had Known Before…

I saw my reflection in the mirror this morning. I was talking out loud, telling myself that I was here; I was in Dublin. It was not a dream. It was reality even though I could not believe it. When your dream comes true, it is hard to believe that it is not a dream anymore. I have always dreamed of visiting the United States since it is way different from Spain and I have always liked new experiences. The funny thing is that people keep calling me brave since I crossed the ocean alone, when I was just 16. What they do not know is that I am not brave; I just cannot accept that I was there five years ago, as well as I cannot believe that I am here now. I repeated it to myself like a thousand times until someone knocked on the door asking me if everything was okay.

Six years ago, my parents asked me if I wanted to live in the United States for an entire year with a host family. I considered going to the otorhinolaryngologist to wash my ear and check that I heard them correctly. My dad is always making jokes so I thought it was just another one. Though, none of them were laughing. Even though visiting such a country has always been my dream, I was not able to give them a straight answer. I have never thought my dream could become true so early, and even less to live there. I considered their offer and I decided to accept it and leave Spain. There was no turning back, just straight forward. If only I had known before…

I went there without knowing English, I barely passed the exam to go there. English, even if my mom is an English teacher, for me has always been a subject like maths that I hated because I could not understand it. I moved with an amazing host family in a nice cosy house. I started being the older sister of three siblings instead of the smaller one out of two, living with young parents that did not even double my age. I started getting used to my new life where I had to walk between classes because every teacher had their own class, riding a bike to school because there were no sidewalks… If only I had known before…

I still remember everything and everyone as if I was still living there. Though, there are two things in particular I would never forget. The first one happened to me when I got there and I was doing paper work with my host parents. Just to keep it simple, never ask there for a rubber, just ask for an eraser. The second one happened to me in Texas when I decided to go to the gym at six in the morning, when I am not a morning nor a sport one at all, and I put the treadmill at the maximum speed because I thought it was the heartbeat. I started walking so slowly, as slowly as me in the morning, and then it started getting faster and faster that when I tried to stop myself on the sides, one of my legs fall directly on my knee on the machine. It seemed like I was asking the machine to marry me, but, at the same time, it seemed that they would make a kebab with my leg since I was literally burning it (even more than the calories I was supposed to). When I told people, the first thing they asked me was if I cried, I told them it was going so fast I didn’t even have time for that. A nice woman offered me a plaster, I asked her if she had one as big as my leg. In the hotel they told me they had something that would help me a lot. They gave me a bandage; they could have just given me a lighter to burn it directly. When I went back to high school, I couldn’t wear long pants because my leg was burned. I decided to wear shorts and they sent me to security because my “shorts were too short for school”. If only I had known before…

I stare at my reflection in the mirror and I tell myself over and over again that I am in Dublin, that this is not a dream anymore. It takes me so long to realize it is not a dream that I am late for class. There is no one walking on the streets. It is raining again, as always, my umbrella breaks and flies because of the wind. I cannot cross the street because there is too much traffic and there are no crosswalks. I consider taking a bus, but I remember I forgot to charge my leap card. I think about a taxi, but then I remember that November is almost done and that I spent my last euro of the month buying a water bottle because there was a tap water alert. If only I had known before…

I thought I had improved my English skills a lot since I went to the United States barely knowing the language and I went back to Spain thinking and dreaming on English. Though, I got to Ireland and made the same two mistakes. When the problem with the tap water was going on, I said we would get an intoxication if we drank it. I wished I really meant what I said since a beer here costs like a cubalibre in Spain. A few days later I went ice skating with my friends. I fall down the worst way possible. The girl that worked there came to me and asked me if I was ok, if I needed some ice. I told her, “I think I got enough already”. If only I had known before…

When I was a child, I always said I wanted to be a vet. The United States made me like languages, Ireland has made me love them even more. I have learned many things already and I look forward to learning as much as I can. From words to how to grow up. I think there are no adjectives in the world that can describe this feeling of satisfaction, of feeling complete, happy, mature and grown up. I understand now why the typical leaf in Ireland is the clover. I am so lucky. If only I had realized before…

I saw my reflection for the last time today. I told myself that I was here, I was in Dublin. I stopped looking at it when someone knocked on the door asking me if everything was okay. I guess everything is okay, I just have to believe it. If only I had done it before…