Changing careers: ‘I panicked only slightly when I handed in my resignation letter’
I bought a house, then moved out. Marched against austerity. Tried to get thin. Had a romance. Finally, I packed in my legal career and moved to Norwich to do a master’s in creative writing
Catherine Conroy: ‘I knew that if I ran away, I’d have to take myself with me.’ Photograph: Barry Du Monde
In September I left my job and moved to Norwich to do a master’s in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.
I had been working as a solicitor in Dublin for six years. I was restless, but you don’t want to keep complaining about your job. So I tried hard to appreciate what I had. Perhaps I was just a bit depressed. I tried to have an Oprah-like gratitude for every lovely day. Appreciate, appreciate, be consciously grateful. I reminded myself that if I ran away, I’d have to take myself with me. I took up hobbies, joined a gospel choir, sang at music festivals. I baked. I joined a writing class and wrote as much as I could in my spare time.
I thought maybe if I had my own home, I’d feel rooted. In 2007 I bought a house. In the TK Maxx homeware section I gathered up armfuls of shabby-chic flower jugs and picture frames. I pretended it wasn’t a huge mistake to buy in an area that hadn’t gentrified on schedule. Gardaí walked up and down the road. Kids jumped on the roof and graffitied the walls. People said: “They are just children and they will grow out of it.” Then the front windows of the house were broken. Then there were petrol bombs in the garden; just little ones behind the rocks in the flower bed.
I went on a crusade. I called Sinn Féin. I called the local GAA manager. I had meetings with juvenile liaison officers. I was in the back of a taxi one day, shouting down the phone to a local councillor, and the driver said, “Get out of there love. They were there before you and they’ll be there after you.”
I left. I rented the place out and rarely visited it again. I try not to think about the negative equity; it is more money than I will ever have, so it is ridiculous and impossible, like receiving monthly demand letters from someone who wants your leg. I moved to a nicer neighbourhood where there are trees, even a river nearby.
I was made redundant and went on the dole for a few months. Then I got a new job and willed myself to like it. My aunt said: “Since when was anyone ever supposed to like their job? This is a new idea.” A few months in, I interviewed for a permanent role. They asked: “How exactly does a free spirit like you fit within the rigid structures of our organisation?”