Irish family in San Diego: When we went back to Ireland, we thought, ‘Is this a mistake?’

After getting Green Cards in the ‘diversity’ lottery, the Fitzgeralds left to embrace a new life in San Diego

Andrew Fitzgerald: I would advise anyone who emigrates to get 'comfortable with being uncomfortable'

When the Green Card was secured, we had six months to get ourselves to the US.

San Diego was our port of call as we had spent some time travelling there and had fallen in love with the great weather. The positivity and optimism, the cultural diversity, the different ethnicities, the great variety of food, the pristine beaches, golf courses and the ability to drive for an hour inland to the mountains and pursue our favourite joint pastime of hiking. That all sold it.

On landing in San Diego and completing our final paperwork, we set about opening bank accounts getting our social security numbers, finding a place to live, finding work, and of course getting “into debt to get into credit”. One of the strange realities of the US is that you need a credit rating as the Irish Credit rating is not recognised.

We did all the above quickly. I continued with my extensive sales experience in the beer business, working with a local distributor, and Jane revisited her finance career with a local bank.


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Quite soon we started feeling homesick and longing for the familiarity of the status quo.

We became uneasy and uncomfortable in our new surroundings. This led to a retreat from pushing ourselves socially and meeting new people even though we were active in exploring our new surroundings. As I have said many times to people, “we found comfort in each other’s discomfort”.

My first Christmas away from home in 32 years brought a longing to be around the family dinner table sharing laughs and the clinking of glasses. It was a tough time.

Added to that was we only had Christmas day off from work and were straight back into work the next day, which was a totally different experience and hard to accept. It was like Christmas did not happen.

Our feelings of discomfort continued and we decided to move back to Ireland but before that, we decided to travel all the west coast of the US. We journeyed into Oregon and Washington, crossing the Canadian border into Vancouver. Finally we took a month in Florida before taking the flight back to Shannon, Co Clare.

On landing in our homeland, a strange feeling came over us. We looked at each other and mouthed “have we done the right thing?” and “is this is mistake?”

Back in Cork and in the house we had rented out when we left, Jane and I went back to work. We were there one Friday night, curtains drawn, rain hitting off the windows and watching the Late Late Show. Regret started to set in.

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Jane, Alfie and Andrew Fitzgerald

Regret about not being tougher on each other, regret about not having given each other a kick in the butt. Regret that we hadn’t leant into our discomfort and pushed ourselves socially. Ultimately we regretted that we hadn’t made use of a permanent US resident card.

We quickly decided to go again and off we went back to San Diego with a new plan, a stellar attitude, and a commitment to each other to give it our best shot.

After settling back in and after 11 years, we are now living in Oceanside in north county San Diego. We are flourishing, socially and professionally as we are successful in our corporate careers in national sales.

In 2019 Jane gave birth to our son Alfie, who is our hero. After Jane suffering four miscarriages before he came along, we are so grateful to have navigated the grief and loss we went through. Alfie is now a dual citizen of the US and Ireland.

I have recently written and self-published a book called How Did I Get Here? Traveling The Road to Resilience, which recounts my time of emigration and the resilience needed around this.

The core theme of resilience has been very evident in my life, and I would advise anyone who emigrates, to embrace it, lean into it and get “comfortable with being uncomfortable”. Then in time you will grow into your new surroundings.

Ireland will always be home but there is so much adventure out there waiting to be discovered.

Andrew Fitzgerald lives with his family in Oceanside California. From Blackrock, Cork, he is a global beverage brand builder and has worked with Heineken, Budweiser, Guinness, Coors Light, Newcastle Brown Ale and Coca-Cola. He is the author of How Did I Get Here?

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