‘My first months back in Dublin were the bleakest of my life’

It takes time to settle when you move home, just like it does when you leave first

‘It was November – the start of winter, and my least favourite month.’

‘It was November – the start of winter, and my least favourite month.’

 

In a couple of weeks I’ll be witnessing the two year anniversary of my return to Ireland, after 15 years in Amsterdam.

When I parachuted back into Irish life, in August 2015, I was clear in my head that this triumphant return was merely to test the waters. I had only ever intended to stay in the Netherlands for a couple of years. The fact that my time there ballooned to decades, didn’t alter my feeling that I was a transient, temporary resident in the land of the clog. Before I could acknowledge to myself that perhaps I was now a permanent fixture in Amsterdam, that I would have to attempt living in Ireland again first.

I never had any desire or ambition to live in the Netherlands. But while job-hunting in Dublin in the year 2000, I was offered employment by a company who said I could work either in Dublin or Amsterdam. Without pausing for thought, I replied “Amsterdam”. Thirty days after my interview, I landed in this new country, with my suitcases in tow.

The years rolled by so fast, until one day in 2015 I said to myself, “It’s time Murphy, get off your behind and do something.” So I put my apartment on the market. Within a very short time it was sold. To help me process my impending departure, I sublet a friend’s flat for two months, while making my arrangements. In August 2015, I left.

‘Two years in Ireland was probably a more realistic timeframe to spend “at home” before making any decisions about whether the return had been successful.’
‘Two years in Ireland was probably a more realistic timeframe to spend “at home” before making any decisions about whether the return had been successful.’

My initial plan was to try Ireland for a year.

It became quickly apparent that one year was not sufficient time to get my bearings. The first few months at home were spent at my mother’s – I had no job or home lined up in advance of my return. But I soon sourced employment and accommodation in Dublin.

Those first months in our nation’s capital were probably the bleakest of my life. It was November – the start of winter, and my least favourite month. I was sharing a flat with a guy I didn’t get on with. I was working in a job in the middle of nowhere, with colleagues who were all settled suburbanites. I had some friends in Dublin, which was a saving grace; but other old friendships simply couldn’t cope with the reality of my magical reappearance in Ireland, and they dissolved into the ether.

I was acutely conscious of what I had left behind in Amsterdam; the life I’d built over many years. I knew visitors from there would be scarce, so it would be on me to visit them, the same as it had been on me to visit Ireland when I left home all those years before.

What had I done? Had I lost my senses?

A friend advised me that two years in Ireland was probably a more realistic timeframe to spend “at home” before making any decisions about whether the return had been successful.

As I approach that milestone, I am asking myself, has it been “a success”?

Well, the honest answer is I have absolutely no idea. On plus side, I have rekindled some old friendships, made new friends, written and performed in more theatre pieces than I have in my life to date. I live alone in a very centrally located apartment, and have a good social life. I have an interesting life.

I am not sure I want to live in Dublin; things are exciting here, but day-to-day life is not for the faint hearted , either in terms of cost of living, or quality of life.

I still miss Amsterdam; I guess I always will. But I miss it much less than I used to. I can always move back (and not feel like a failure if I do, having given Ireland two full years), but I am not sure that would be a good decision. It would be great to be close to my friends again, but I’ve got friends here now too.

‘I still miss Amsterdam; I guess I always will. But I miss it much less than I used to. ’ Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES
‘I still miss Amsterdam; I guess I always will. But I miss it much less than I used to. ’ Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

I could stay in Ireland, but not in Dublin, and try life back in my old hometown of Limerick as was my original plan when I returned?

I could try Manchester, potentially the least wise choice, as it would be starting from scratch all over again, in Brexitland. I’m not sure I’d want to subject myself to that. Although I have always fancied myself as Manchester resident.

I’m under no pressure to make a decision. Anyway the wind blows I suppose.

But for the moment, Dublin.

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