Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

“I’m heading off for a while, don’t pity me”

Knowing that finding work in Ireland would be tough, Rory Gleeson took up a construction job in London after finishing his final exams in Trinity College last summer. We shouldn’t feel sorry for him, he says, he’s excited about seeing the world.

Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 10:24


Knowing that finding work in Ireland would be tough, Rory Gleeson took up a construction job in London after finishing his final exams in Trinity College last summer. We shouldn’t feel sorry for him, he says, he’s excited about seeing the world.

I saw home for the first time in five months last week. Nothing really has changed. I met my old college class, we lashed on some robes with an odd fur lining (to keep us warm while we try to get a job with an arts degree, we were told), listened to about an hour and a half of Latin and then picked up our degree from the hero that is Mary Robinson.

A week’s holiday from a construction site in London to attend a Trinity grad. Last week I was mucking about on a rather large, wet concrete slab making obscene gestures at carpenters and avoiding the edge; four days later I was poshing it up in the Shelbourne with my wee dickie bow and now I’m back, slapped over my couch exhausted, getting ready to pull on my steel-toed boots and wolf whistle at passing girl-cars.

That’s not really odd though, is it. Turns out you have to work to earn money. There’s not much work back home so you make money abroad then fly home, see everyone, drink yourself silly and then right back at it. I’ve started to confuse myself over which home is home; home-home where the ma pulls at weeds in the garden is obviously still my main home, but in recent times the flat in London where I peel off my sweaty socks has been referred to as home. It’s not confusing in your head, just when you try and tell people you’re going home for a few days it gets a bit muddled. London is cool. Dublin still charges €3.50 for a take-away coffee.

I’ve never really seen myself as an emigrant. It is kind of sexy to think of yourself as a wild goose, forced out of his homeland by circumstances beyond his control, forced to find solace in a new and mysterious land. But I’m not really, I’m just working in London for a bit. I don’t know for how long, probably a while, but I will be back eventually.

Did I need to leave? To be honest, not really. I could’ve slugged it out back home, sent C.V.’s, bothering managers and pestering admissions clerks. I could’ve made an internet start-up from the pillow fort on my bedroom floor. But London sounded like good craic, so here I am.

I know, I know I helped create the Ireland in which you all live now; I voted, I protested, I put on face-paint and blew a whistle in the direction of the Dail, I signed an online petition, I shouted at my tv showing Vincent Browne being cosmically frustrated by some  toe-rag politician, I complained in the pub. But outside of that I really didn’t do much, and then I left.

The fact that I felt myself getting so apathetic at the age of 21, finding myself shrugging my shoulders when yet another European asked us why we don’t make two rights a left and wrong the people who wronged us; that I was starting to use the phrase “well that’s just how things are”, scared me out of Ireland. To be utterly burned out with frustration at our political system at the age of 22, when my idealism should be at a height, when I should really believe that myself and my generation can make a difference,  to be stripped of this ambition and self-belief at such an age really does something odd to you, to how you feel about where you live and what you value.

It is entirely my fault that I let our dulled pessimism become my dulled pessimism and so forth. Believe me, it’s just easier to tag along. I’m sorry for it. I should stick around and pay my tax and gripe, then swoon and die at 76.8 years, but nah. I should stay put and really try to drag myself out of the trench of smart-arsery and pessimism that I’ve sunk myself in to, but I think it’ll just be easier and quicker if I go somewhere else and learn it there.

So I’m heading off for a bit, let’s just say I’m taking some time to myself to just caaaaaalm down. I know this whole emigration malarkey is starting to hit home, that people are saying goodbye to their families, husbands so long to their wives; I know a lot of people don’t really have much of a choice. There are however, whether in a large minority or small majority or otherwise, plenty of young people who are very excited by the idea of leaving the continuous rain in the wake of their €90 Ryanair flights.

Those that may get homesick or whatever, or need to get back, we know it’s not a one-way ticket anymore. It’ll be harder, and much more expensive, for some more than others, but right now in London I can get home if I need to for the price of a pre-recession chicken fillet roll with extra cheese. I’m starting in London and I’m going elsewhere. I’m excited about seeing the world, and what at least one year of a 50-hour week on a building site will do to the toughness of my hands. Don’t pity me, don’t go all gloopy over my going away, I think you people have had enough of me for a while anyway. Eire is not the sentimental centre of the world, and though it’ll always be home for me, and I’m grateful to it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with travelling around Europe for a while. I’ll see you all in a bit.