Departing Ireland over six years ago, I never imagined I’d still be gone. It’s only London, I know, but that marks a huge gap with home. A gap only those who have had to do the journey can truly appreciate. Returning to Wicklow every three to four months may be better than an annual visit from Toronto, but that’s little consolation when your daily routine revolves around a city you had never really set your sights on. London was a temporary solution to a looming problem in September 2008 – the crash that kept on giving.
This city has been fantastic for building a career, I could never deny that. But those years don’t seem to translate into Irish opportunities. Six counts of 12 months and still unemployable on Irish shores. This may be proof the recovery is mere myth. And how could it be more than that? European and global growth are stunted. Ireland cannot buck that trend alone. Fuelled by ambition at the age of 23, I have finally resigned myself to the idea that I will have to take a major career detour to come back home.
And I’m prepared for that. After months of trying to return to be with family, and failing, I have learnt my lesson. Lured by an attractive opportunity in London, I almost fell into the trap of staying; of believing a career was the only way to build esteem. But esteem is not a job title; it’s an illusion. A perception that one person is worth more than another; that humans sit along a spectrum of value. In reality we all end up the same way: six feet under.
On November 18th last year I lost my mother to cancer. She was diagnosed at stage four of the disease in less than a month from her passing. Yes, she had been ill for longer. But there was hope, belief, and even certainty, that she had at least a few years left ahead of her. Blessed as I was to spend the last couple of days with her, I will never reconcile myself with the fact I spent six years apart from her. We had holidays and weekends and visits, and she was always my best friend, but emigration put a sea between our souls. In her final weeks, emigration had also turned into a cruel sand timer. The grains sifted through the narrow bottle, counting down to the end of our love story.
The real tragedy of emigration is not loss of national identity or the comforts of home. It’s the loss of those most dear to us, and accepting this too late.
Originally submitted as part of the Irish Times’ ‘Ireland and Me’ competition.