Saying goodbye to things isn’t as easy as it looks. Anyone who has ever left home, even for five minutes, will tell you that.
Maybe that’s how the idea of the “Irish goodbye” (slipping wordlessly out of a room) was born: it’s much easier to avoid the emotional strain of parting ways than to confront it head-on.
After spending more than a year and a half here in Ireland, I’m taking my first trip in ten months to my native home. If I can’t find work in Ireland, I’ll join the estimated 43% percent of Americans aged 25-34 who live at home with their parents. And I'll be one of at least 65,300 people who have left Ireland this year in search of work(Ireland has seen the highest net emigration this year since 1989).
Lately, life feels a lot like that Keane line, “Everything’s changing and I don’t feel the same.”
After 12 weeks, I bid farewell to my journalism students at our holiday party - just as I had finally gotten to know them all. I spent my free time looking at new, smaller apartments, where my sister can live, just in case I don't return to Dublin.
And today, my cousin Dawn called to announce that she officially moved out of the house she had been renting and into her brand-new permanent home. Her old house was the place where she had generously allowed my sister and I to live when we first arrived in Ireland.
It was in that house where we watched Dawn’s daughter Kate grow, learn to speak, and use the potty. I don’t know how many times we danced with Kate around the kitchen to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.”
We made many a memory in that house, and now it’s somebody else’s home.
Even my old favorite museum is changing. A few weeks ago, I watched in dismay as the Yeats exhibit at the National Library was being dismantled.
Initially, I came to Ireland with my Dad and sister last summer, just for a few months, to receive treatment at a holistic clinic. After several months of treatment, I returned to full health, and was offered work at a start-up web company. The job started in March, so I went home in February, and officially returned to Ireland for as long as it would have me.
I spent the entire 7 hour flight from JFK to Dublin airport bawling my eyes out, as I thought about everything I was leaving behind.
While packing up my things recently(the job didn't quite pan out as planned), I came across a notepad in which I had scribbled a few tear-stained notes during that flight. I wrote:
“Places always look more beautiful when you’re leaving them... Even the faded blue-and-red intersecting lines of your empty notebook page stare back with vivacity and beauty – like they’re taking mischievous delight in calling you to take account of the loveliness you never took the opportunity to cherish before.”
As I prepare for the possibility that I may not return to this country for a long time, everything around me, like those lines on my sheets of paper, is a reminder of what I may not have fully appreciated.
Good conversations with my sister’s now ex-boyfriend, Mark. Endless laughter, dancing, and silly chats with our cousin Dawn. Learning from, and listening to stories with, my Dad. Music, music, and more music, with many new and inspiring friends.
Spending this time, this borrowed time, living with my older sister in a city full of so much culture and history, was a gift.
When we were young, my sister Cornelia was the one who walked my brother and I to school – made sure our zippers were all zipped, and buttons buttoned – but she was also the first one to shake a wet tree branch over our heads on a rainy day. She always looked for ways to make us laugh – even on damp mornings on the way to school – and taught us never to take anything too seriously.
The childish admiration I have for my older sister has only grown after our nearly two years together in Ireland.
I think that’s what I’ll appreciate the most about my time in Ireland: the unique opportunities I’ve had to build, or strengthen, relationships, which I never would have had the chance to, if I had never left home.
None of us is the same person today that we were yesterday.
The people we meet, the knowledge we earn, and the activities in which we participate in a day undoubtedly make us different, changed somehow, from the way we were the day before.
I am not the same person I was before I moved to Ireland.
In my short time here, I’ve lived, I’ve loved, and I’ve learned. I’ve been lucky enough to have met some wonderful people, and make memories that I will cherish all of the days of my life.
So as I pack my bags, and prepare to leave this home away from home, at least, I can quote my high school’s Latin motto with a clear conscience: “Ac fui.” I was there.