‘I don’t consider myself an emigrant. I had a choice’
‘Ireland and Me’: Eimear Kelly, Vancouver, Canada
Eimear Kelly: ‘In Vancouver I live my seven-year-old-self’s dream. I work on animated Barbie movies during the week and sail the gulf islands at the weekend.’
“The rain here is not wet, you should go to Ireland. The rain there is wet rain. It’s real rain. That’s why everything is so green.”
I’ll often find myself saying this to a Canadian at the bus stop or walking to lunch with my colleagues. As they struggle to put their umbrellas up, I reminisce about my old life on film sets, working on hill-tops looking over the Atlantic, wind howling around me, waves crashing below, sheep roaming around the cliff edge and dreaming of adventures beyond.
It’s a romantic vision. Standing in that rugged landscape I looked out on the ocean knowing another land and life was beckoning. It’s not a new dream. It’s a dream that is as current today as it was hundreds of years ago, a common theme throughout Irish history.
I don’t consider myself an immigrant or an emigrant. I had a choice. I didn’t leave out of necessity. I just had a desire to explore, discover, push myself and find out if I could go out into the world and make it alone.
The stories of Irish travellers before me had inspired me. So many Irish people went out into the world. They became outlaws and presidents and ordinary people building new communities. Irish people travel; it’s what we do. It’s hard not to seek adventure growing up on an island with a coastline that was a gateway to some of the greatest voyages of discovery in history.
In Vancouver I live my seven-year-old-self’s dream. I work on animated Barbie movies during the week and sail the gulf islands at the weekend. I embrace Canadian culture. I drink craft beer watching hockey wearing yoga pants eating poutine. I live for statutory holidays so I can pack up my all-wheel drive and either go skiing or camping depending on the season.
It hasn’t always been easy. I have faced many life challenges and struggles setting up a life away from family and friends. Even though Alice was in Wonderland and Dorothy was in Oz they still thought of home. I love the life I have built here but I think of home and the memories I made there often.
When Seamus Heaney passed away, I had my whole office read Midterm Break and explained to them his contribution to Irish history and culture. I will often email the national anthem to a colleague to prove Irish is an actual language. My friends laugh at my attempts to pronounce my th’s.
I’m currently purchasing a sailboat that I will fittingly call Grace O’Malley. Maybe I will sail home on the boat, or maybe I will bring my stories of Ireland to a new land. There is a great comfort in knowing that Ireland will always come with me even if I never step foot on her soil again.
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