‘Emigrating is a process of learning to accept what you have lost’

Generation Emigration ‘Ireland and Me’ competition entry: Bronwen Keyes-Bevan, Toronto

You may be reading this because you are considering leaving Ireland. Perhaps you have had enough of the unemployment statistics, the rain, the mé feiners let loose in parliament.

Perhaps you’ve charted the trajectory you’d like your career to take and decided it’s not going happen in Ireland. Or perhaps you just looked around, observed the familiar nooks and crannies of your home and decided it is time for a change.

Eight years have passed since I left. I've wandered back and forth between the old and new world but I now call Toronto home. For me, to discuss Ireland is to discuss the neighbour's home-life having only caught glimpses over the garden fence.

Reading The Irish Times headlines and scanning status updates about water taxes does not qualify someone to comment on the cut and thrust of daily life in Ireland. And it is with that knowledge that I have come to accept I am from Ireland but it is no longer home.

When you leave Ireland there will be many things you prepare for: foreign workplace etiquette, colloquial differences, the practical need to sand off the corners of your accent. What nobody prepares themselves for is how the dynamics of your relationships with those at home shift. As months turn into years, the grammar of your daily life changes, you lose the shared language you had with close friends. You become acquaintances with the confidantes you left behind.

Emigrating is a process of learning to accept what you have lost: friendships as you knew them, the feeling of belonging. And it is a process of learning to embrace what you will gain. Yes, the job opportunities and the quality of life that you have heard so much about. But more than that, too. You will gain a deeper sense of belonging, safe in the knowledge that you have chosen your place in the world. You will recognise that you are just one of billions of world inhabitants who, at a fundamental level, are just like you.

Be under no illusion, emigrating will be one of the hardest things you ever do. And it is true what they say, that once you leave, you can never truly go home. You will not be the same person who left and you will wonder if there would even be a place for you if you were to return.

To dig oneself from home ground, re-house in a sunnier spot and burrow deep roots on the other side of earth is not for everyone. But those who go will blossom.

I’m not from Toronto but it is home.

This article was received as an entry into the Generation Emgiration 'Ireland and Me' competition. To be in with a chance of winning a hamper of Irish goodies, email your piece about your relationship with the old country in under 500 words, with a pic, before this Friday December 5th to emigration@irishtimes.com. 

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