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An old life, or a new one?

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? After ten years living abroad, I’m finding this question hard to answer. Throughout the decade spent away from Ireland I always thought I’d go home at some point and pick up where I left off. Living abroad was never a long-term option for me, I’d made my mind up on that before I’d even left Dublin Airport. I was going abroad to make a few quid and then I’d be home. Experiencing a new culture and all it had to offer was not really in my thinking. In truth, I was only filling time until I could get back to where I belonged. I can see now that this was a naïve and slightly ignorant attitude to the glorious opportunities living abroad can offer a person like me, or anybody for that matter! Moments in time are all we own in this life, there is no time to waste looking back through rose tinted glasses when it’s too late. That attitude held me back from fully integrating into Australian life for the first few years, which I regret massively. The Irish community in Australia is amazing. I’ve made friends for life and shared experiences which will bond me to certain people for ever more. The community is so strong that it’s like an extension of home, almost like a human safety net. ‘A County Downunder,’ is an aptly named podcast which is popular among the Irish community there. Parts of Sydney and Melbourne are as Irish as Cork and Kerry. We’re easily spotted too if you know what you’re looking for. Burnt neck, Carlow jersey, white legs and a slight hump from the previous night’s exertions.

Hindsight is a b

eautiful thing, if only we could access it in the moment. Looking back on my time in Australia it’s not difficult to see the mistakes I made. I’m not the only one though, I’ve spoken to so many who fell into the same traps I did. Although I lived in Sydney for seven years, I could count on one hand the amount of Australian people I ever spent any meaningful time with. All my memories are centred around Irish pubs, GAA, Conor McGregor fights, sightseeing with Irish friends and deep conversations about Irish history after the few pints. What does that tell you? It tells me that I spent the majority of my time talking about and doing things that I could have done at home. I never branched out from that comfort zone which my local GAA club afforded me. I used the Irish community like a shield from Australian life. After all, Ireland is the greatest place in the world, I didn’t need to learn about anything else. As a result, I never developed a true sense of their culture, of what makes them tick without fear of someone thinking I was getting a bit big for my boots. I always reminded myself of how amazing everything is back home. Unfortunately, the reality is that it’s not so great after all. There is a reason why so many of us are scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ireland and I love our strong sense of identity and powerful history. I just wish I had allowed myself the opportunity to broaden my horizons while living so far away from home. What was the sense in spending my entire experience talking about Ireland, when I chose to live somewhere else? It makes no sense is the answer.

I’m home now. Back where it all began. Back to the place I waxed lyrical about for so many years on scorching Australian days. To tell you the truth I’m struggling. I’m not sure where I fit in now. Originally, I thought the country had changed and the people had changed. But, its me that’s changed. Of course, there’s covid as well now to contend with but its more than that. It’s hard to put your finger on what that exact change is but I’m finding it difficult to get back into the old routines. I’m no longer the only Irish person in the room, for obvious reasons. The pints are great, but the weather is starting to bite, and reality is setting in. There’s no Coogee beach at the end of the road and the flip flops are well and truly binned. I always saw coming home as carrying on an old life, but now that I’m here I can see that isn’t possible. Time waits for no man, and life moves on quicker than we could ever imagine. There are those who can happily repeat the same experiences over and over. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I need to find a new place for myself in modern Ireland, a whole new sense of myself. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. For those of you who are reading this in Australia or anywhere else in the world for that matter. If you are considering giving up on your life abroad, I would think very carefully before you make that decision. Ireland will always be home, and it will always be here. Make sure you’ve experienced every part of another culture before you pack your suitcase. Picking up the threads of an old life is not as easy as it may seem…

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Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan
15 de out. de 2021

Great article . You end up being a stranger in both places because here in the States even though I am now an American citizen you are never fully accepted as an equal , you will always be the Irish guy .

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