Returning home for Christmas is always emotional and exciting. You have the chance to join family and friends for festive fun, but also face the stress of fitting in back-to-back social events. Emigration leaves many of us with a nostalgic notion of home, where everyone knows our name, food tastes twice as good and every second is a moment to be cherished.
Arriving home for Christmas
A snappy seven-day visit is just enough to whet the appetite for more. Arriving back in my hometown for the holidays, I spent the first four days re-adjusting. That meant forgetting about work, the madness of London and embracing a busy household filled with personality. After that, I managed to unwind and concentrate on those around me, rather than wondering where I fit into the routine they’ve carved out since I left.
Away from home, I find news sites the best way to keep in touch with what’s happening on Irish shores. But that’s hardly an “authentic experience” and the reality is far more striking when I’m there. It’s like reading about a foreign destination and forming an opinion before you’ve ever stepped on its soil. The only difference is this is your original home, your roots, and quite possibly where you hope to return once and for all when opportunity allows it.
There are many sides to emigration but at the core are the experiences of leaving and living away from home. Many Irish writers have used their time abroad to reflect on what it means to be from the Emerald Isle. This often results in criticism of Ireland and its provincialism. When I first came to London, I too wondered how anyone could feel fulfilled living in a country with a population almost half the size of the UK’s capital city.
Emigration shapes understanding
After five years in London and numerous journeys home, I have found my love and respect of Ireland deepen. Not because it is flawless, which obviously it isn’t, and not just because most of my family and friends are there, but because I actually love the nation. The Irish are often hailed as the friendliest people in the world, and while I can’t say I’ve travelled the entire world, I would say it has the friendliest people I’ve ever come across.
The thought of having to emigrate is unbearable for many Irish struggling to find a job. They are often left choosing between queuing for the dole or a visa. There is, however, a rewarding side to emigration. That is the chance to explore and expose yourself to unknown territories and cultures. It is the opportunity to grow and strengthen while being forced to succeed on your own. You are put through times of loneliness, but that all works to create a better-rounded individual.
My advice to anyone deciding between emigration and government handouts is to opt for the former. It will equip you with the tools to return home in the future through relative professional experience, more confidence born out of surviving solo and a greater understanding of your nation. A great aspect of being abroad is that you get to view home as outsiders do, yet you revel in a knowledge of the country they will never have.
Ireland is a nation packed with optimism, and despite austerity and anger over the bank bailouts, people have not lost enthusiasm for life or Irishness. As a people, we manage to separate ourselves from questionable government decisions, which helps to maintain our dignity and national identity. Ireland may have given up on its politicians, but it has not given up on itself. It’s that resilience that I love and hope to re-join in the future. In the meantime, I aim to make the most of my time abroad so when I do return, I can offer far more than when I left.