Recently I have been on the lookout for a new apartment, and as anyone who has ever moved in New York knows, it’s not ever an easy or stressless task. I had done the usual -Craigslist, The Lee List (an email network within the artists community), and ‘Gypsy housing’ a group created on Facebook for sublets in the city.
I was almost at the end of my rope after weeks of searching when the seemingly perfect apartment came up in one of my favourite areas -Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a duplex apartment that had a backyard, hot tub, plenty of space, and although it was a little pricey, would have been worth the extra few dollars. I had worked with the girl who currently lives there a few years ago at an Irish run restaurant in the West Village. She was American, but the other roommate who occupied the ground floor was also Irish. “Great” I thought, how nice to be living with another Irish person, “this could be the beginning of a wonderful friendship”.
Oh, how wrong I was! As I began to plan my day around my visit out to Brooklyn, excitement growing, I received a text from my former work colleague telling me her Irish roommate was “putting his foot down” about being the only Irish roommate in the house. I was flabbergasted. Maybe he had a bad experience in the past, maybe he wanted to feel ‘unique’ , or maybe, just maybe he wanted to remain as far away from where he came as possible.
I have lived in New York now for five years, and as time passes I have become more comfortable with the reality that my life is somewhat existing in two parts of the world. While I love New York, and can finally, after having received my permanent residency card late last year, call it home, Ireland will always be where I came from, and I’m always eager to hear a familiar voice or see a familiar face that reminds me of a place I have such fond feelings for.
I’m realizing more and more that not everyone shares this view. Maybe it is an immigration issue/ I am lucky to have that all behind me now, but I know living in murky waters is difficult for anyone, and sometimes the easiest thing to do is turn your back on the place you are trying so hard to distance yourself from. Or are emigrants influenced and maybe even embarrassed by the generic Irish stereotypes we hear and see all around us in the U.S.
Or could it simply be a case of that age old Irish ‘begrudgery’?! Whatever the reasoning, it was sad to hear, and made me think that the time when one could ‘cross the pond’ and rely on the comfort of a fellow countryman to ease us into a new life was long past. Traditionally Irish inhabited areas like Woodside, and Hell’s Kitchen are slowly becoming non existent , making way for a new generation that occupies boroughs all over the city.
I suppose it is not something one thinks about until a situation like this arises. A time of difficulty that leaves you thinking how much easier it may have been twenty or thirty years ago, when the Irish seemed much more united.
Nostalgia aside, it is back to the grind for me, keeping my chin up that something even better will come along. As for this one seemingly disgruntled egg, I won't let him ruin a basket, but it has been an interesting realization that with fewer Irish emigrating to the U.S permanently, our community, and sense of community for a new generation may be walking on shaky ground for the future.