Ciara Kenny

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

‘Emigration was supposed to be the easy way out’

Leaving Ireland takes organisation, planning and most of all, courage – as speech and language therapist Mary Coleman has discovered since making the decision to go

Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 01:00


Mary Coleman

Living in limbo was never going to be easy for me, that period of time after college before I got a job. It was supposed to only be a couple of weeks. I was going to use that time (two months at most…) to do some of the things I hadn’t been able to do while I was slogging away during final year.

I’ve always been a doer. Days off from college were always spent visiting people, or baking, or playing music. I thought I would have no problem filling time after college until I got a job. Six months later and here I am. I’m still in limbo. I’m still finding ways to fill my time.

The thought of emigrating was always at the back of my mind. I have always wanted to travel and see the world, I spent a summer in New York and vowed I would live there forever when I became a fully fledged grown up. When I qualified as a speech and language therapist last summer, all people could talk about was how there were no jobs in Ireland. Australia and England were becoming the buzz words in our circle of NUI Galway alumni. All of a sudden, people all around me were like butterflies bursting out of a chrysalis, quiet, tame girls and boys who I never thought would want to leave our fair shores were jumping at the chance to explore new worlds.

I joined in with the banter and the planning, but at the back of my mind I hoped I would get a job here. I thought it would be nice to have the comfort of home while I took my first hesitant steps into the terrifyingly real world of work. Then, after a year or two, I wouldn’t have minded flying the coop to get a job elsewhere. Would have welcomed it even. But it was not to be.

Part of me also felt that if I couldn’t get a job here in Ireland, where could I get a job? If people in your own country reject and refuse your applications, why on earth would people in another country recognise them? I have always been a doer but I have always been a dreamer too. Reality seems reason enough to dream these days. A grand total of three jobs were advertised over the summer and early autumn months. With three rejection letters in hand, and no prospects of any more jobs even being advertised, my dreams were left for dust, with just reality to face.

In October I decided to fill out my Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) application form, which is necessary to become eligible to work in the UK. I was coming around to the thoughts of emigration in October. I was only going to England after all. I had been to London on numerous occasions, absolutely loved it, and felt that it would be a great place to work. So, with new dreams of London dancing in my head, I awaited the confirmation of my registration.

I waited. And then I waited some more. I had been warned that it might take several weeks. I began to feel more like a caterpillar in a chrysalis who couldn’t seem to turn in to a butterfly. I had resigned myself to emigrating – wasn’t that enough?! I was beginning to feel low, beginning to feel like my life and my youth were slipping away from me – when I got the letter in the post just before Christmas. I was registered.

Since September, I had been telling anyone who asked that I was going to the United Kingdom after Christmas to work. After Christmas – this vague time frame which could mean anything. It could mean the day after Christmas day or it could mean July. I was using the phrase with gusto in every conversation I seemed to have. “I’m sorting my life out, after Christmas.” It was a nice get out clause, a nice way to make it sound like I had a plan.

So now it is after Christmas. I have applied for every job that comes up on the NHS website (the UK’s equivalent of the HSE). As yet, no one has jumped at the chance of hiring me. I am hopeful. But I am also disillusioned. I actually want to emigrate now, and it is proving a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I looked on emigration as something I would do this year only if I felt I had to. It was my second choice, my back up plan, the easy way out. But back up plans are supposed to be secure, a sure thing. As it turns out emigration is neither.

My naivety and simplistic view of the world has been blinding me to the harsh reality that nothing in this life comes easy. Getting a job in Ireland isn’t easy, but neither is leaving Ireland. A lot of people talk about emigrating but so many don’t actually do it. I have a new found respect for those who do, because it takes more than deciding to live a new life elsewhere. It takes organisation, planning and most of all, courage.

Now, as I invest my time into organising my Curriculum Vitae and planning to find a job before I move, I intend to work on the courage part. As Walt Disney (the man who I hold totally responsible for my idealistic views) once said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. So onwards and upwards and with any luck, the spring will produce a whole host of butterflies for the world to contend with!

*Mary contacted Generation Emigration today to say that since the piece was written she has been offered two jobs, and will be moving to Edinburgh to take up one of them next month.