Saying a sad farewell to America but longing to stay here


Irish Voice intern Eoin Brennan is returning to Ireland because his J visa is up, and so are his options for staying legally here, at least for now.  But with jobs virtually non-existent in Ireland, he won’t be home for long, and laments the fact that strict U.S. visa laws prevent him from building a future here.

This week I will return to Ireland following my one year stay in New York, on the J-1 graduate visa, which allowed me to work in the U.S. for one year following my graduation from university in Ireland. I have spent the year working at the Irish Voice.

The past year has been an incredible one for me, with challenges and rewards greater than any I had encountered at home. I have faced low points here and moved past them to reach some of my best moments. I have learned in the way that New York City insists, quickly and intensely.

In my life I have lived in three different cities and countries, in seven different homes and in the past five years I have packed up my belongings and moved from one place to another 10 times.

I’m not exactly nomadic, but I’ve done my fair share of clearing out rooms and packing up suitcases in the last while.  It never bothers me though, and I’ve always enjoyed it in a way.

However, the moving was always done with a solid base beneath me; a community and place I called home, an indisputable fact which meant that any sort of temporary relocation carried no real sense of displacement. In my mind I was just moving around a bit, home would always be there and I’d always be back.

However, now that I face the prospect of returning to Dublin following my year in New York I feel that solid base getting unsteady underfoot, a fear of displacement growing rapidly within me. I am almost certain I will not reamin there for very long.

Although I have only been gone from Ireland for a little over a year, the place I remember as home has rapidly changed since I left.

The places and landmarks are all the same, albeit with a few more boarded up businesses dotting the landscape.

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However, the thing which makes a place home, and which makes me love Ireland and Dublin so much -- the community -- has suffered monumental blows to the point that I fear it may be almost unrecognisable to me upon my return.

In the past year several of my good friends have relocated to London, while many others have left for New Zealand or Australia. When I go home there will be very few left of the group which have been my closest friends for the past 15 to 20 years.
A few will remain, the few with good, stable employment or personal circumstance keeping them at home -- but they are in the vast minority.
In many ways, it hasn’t been a massive shock to our generation that we would have to leave.
Perhaps the thought was always there, buried deep in our subconscious. Our generation grew up with grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts who had all left for opportunites elsewhere in the past 50 years.
However, this time many had returned to Ireland to enjoy the new found wealth and prosperity we enjoyed. It is only in the past couple of years that the reality of mass emigration returned, and it was with this reality dawning that I chose to move to New York to find work.
The major advantage this generation of Irish emigrants holds over those who left our country in previous times of hardship is that we are coming from a time of unprecedented opportunity and wealth for Irish youth, a time when Ireland was truly a credible force in many worldwide fields.
While the excesses of the Celtic Tiger were eventually a big factor in our downfall, they are now also playing a key role in the opportunities available to those who have left Ireland in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
While the young men and women leaving Ireland in the 1970s and ‘80s were most likely to find unskilled and low paid work, many in the current wave have enjoyed the benefits of free college education in Ireland and training in various skilled industries.
If you left school in Ireland in the past 15 years you most likely had the opportunity to study at college and earn a degree or take up well paid training in a skilled field.  As we arrive in New York, London or Melbourne we won’t need to carry brick for a pittance -- we can instead find work in skilled industries.
We also carry with us a wealth of experience and inspiration from the past 20 years of Irish success, a reminder stored in our subconscious which we might use when battling the darker components of the Irish psyche, most notably our seemingly national sense of our own inferiority.
We have seen Irish men and women reach the pinnacle of their chosen fields, whether it is in technology, industry, art or sport. We don’t need to convince ourselves that we can be as good as anyone else, we’ve had it drilled into us for a long time. We see ourselves as assets now to wherever we choose to reside, as individuals who can be good for whatever place we choose to live in.
The result of all of this is that those of us now looking to leave Ireland to find work have many options. The world is more accessible and welcoming to us than to any previous generation of Irish emigrants.
However, the United States remains an almost impossible destination for many to reach legally.
Stringent visa requirements and extremely limited opportunity means that nearly all of those who want to relocate here will find their path blocked, and instead take their money, work ethic and talent elsewhere.

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Ultimately this is America’s loss, and someone else’s gain. There is a vast well of highly talented people in Ireland desperate to make a life for themselves in the U.S. but, faced with a nearly insurmountable visa wall, they will turn elsewhere.