Beginning to feel at home in a new place
Everything is a new lesson when you move country and it can be overwhelming at first, writes Lucy Montague-Moffat
I stood at the tram stop in Manchester feeling an odd mix of fear and excitement. It was my first full day living in this city, having moved over on an early flight from Dublin the morning before. I slept the first night in my new apartment with uncovered pillows and a thin quilt which had come with the apartment to cover the uncomfortable leather couches with. I had woken several times during the night, whispering the realisation to myself “I live here now!” before nodding off again, in a haze of first night celebration cocktails from a local bar.
“I already have a local bar!” I had exclaimed the night before, as though that had been my main concern before moving over – what if there isn’t a nice pub near me? Now, squinting in the light of day with my ticket tight in clammy fingers, the reality of the situation was hitting me, like a tram to the face.
The decision to move from Dublin to Manchester had been very quick as I had never expected to get a place in the master’s course that I had applied for over here. After finally receiving my acceptance letter after many expensive phone calls about my lack of qualifications, a degree to be exact, I was left with a mere three weeks to pack up my life and move country.
Everyone always tells you about the fun aspects of moving country, the new friends, and new sights, how you are instantly interesting due to your accent. No one ever talks about the woes of trying to open a bank account, or negotiating a lease with a huge sea between you and the less than helpful letting agents. Thank god I didn’t need a visa to move to the UK or I think I would still be in Dublin, weeping over a pile of forms.
But when all the formalities are pushed to the side, you have finished signing your name on many contracts and have a bank card with your name on it in the “new country, new me” purse you bought, it becomes even scarier. Suddenly it is just you, in this new place, everything is fresh for your eyes, everything is a new lesson. And it is up to you how you react.
I can feel myself, standing at the tram stop, being pulled in two directions. One way I crumble, let all this new responsibility fall on top of my body, leaving me struggling to crawl through this new life. Afraid of everything, hoping that familiarity comes soon, and admitting defeat when it doesn’t. In the other scenario I am a strong, independent, Beyonce lady, who takes this sudden move in her stride. Making new friends at every turn and forgetting my old Dublin life in a flash. I can’t predict which way I am going to turn, but I find myself sitting down on the cold, metal bench because I think I had one too many cocktails last night.
I was happily living at home before I moved. I get on really well with my family and was content to live another 24 years under their roof if that was necessary. If I had stayed in Dublin I know it would have been years until I moved out, with my house’s proximity to town and the convenience of opening the fridge and always finding food, I don’t think there would have been much to push me out.
But even though I was happy, I still felt the pull of being left behind. All around me people my age were leaving the country. My Facebook feed was full of photos from other people’s adventures. While my friends danced around Canada, Australia and Scotland, I was giving my mum my washing to do and being made redundant from my job of two and a half years.
There was so much to hold on to in Dublin, the few people who haven’t moved away, that number still diminishing by the week, and my love of the city I grew up in. I love Dublin, I really do. I get butterflies when I look out from O’Connell bridge, along the line of bridges combing the Liffey, as cheesy as that sounds. And it is a place of opportunity for a young writer trying to get recognised, like me. But there was so much more pulling me away. I am now hoping that following that pull was the right thing to do.
The tram is due in three minutes. I think about how this will be my regular tram stop. I look around, trying to feel settled in. Learning every curve of the tree-lined tracks, taking in the first floor windows of the red-brick houses which peek over the gates.
A man joins me on the otherwise empty platform. He wears a hat and huge headphones which blast out a repetitive beat. He doesn’t make eye contact with me as he stands near the edge of the concrete, the yellow line of paint disappearing under his feet.
As suddenly as a train roaring into a station, he begins to sing, loudly, and jerk his body to the beat, as though he is dancing in the mirror alone, not performing for an audience of one, lost Irish girl.
“We are faaamily,” he croaks, eyes closed, chin tilted up to the sky, “I’ve got all my sisters with me!”
The tram comes but he doesn’t get on, even though this is the only train which stops here. I take my seat and watch him continue to dance as my window slides past him. And I smile content in the knowledge that there are crazy people everywhere, they are a constant.
And I finally feel a little more at home.
Lucy Montague Moffatt is a 25 year old writer and comedian from Dublin. Her work has featured on RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany, published in the short story collection 30 Under 30 and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. She is currently studying for an MA in TV and Radio Scriptwriting in Manchester. Examples of her fiction and poetry can be found at quickflashflash.wordpress.com.