At some point today, I know at least ten of our immediate family members will sit around the long wooden table in our kitchen, enjoy a feast of mash and meat, share stories, and laugh about all of the silly things our nephews will say.
So, what lies ahead? ‘Sticking it out’ for a few months longer in Ireland. Trying to find more freelance work, more hours at this and that odd job. Or, returning to New York City.
Grand Central Station. The smell of toasted bagels and burnt pretzels. People buzzing quickly through jam-packed city streets. The dirty, stinky, frightening, altogether lovely, beautiful enigma that is the New York City subway system. The kind of coffee that tastes like it’s from the bottom of a pot that has been boiling all day – not the fancy, foamy, European kind. That new york city skyline, which has changed in my lifetime as much as I have. All that is familiar and comforting to me.
What would I leave behind? Some of the loveliest, most inspiring people who I feel privileged to call my friends. Learning to find my way from Dame Street to Cork Street. From Rialto to Rathmines. The town of Newcastle West, Co. Limerick and everybody in it. The way the afternoon sun makes sparkly diamond-shapes all along the Liffey. That fancy, foamy, European kind of coffee. Chocolate bars from Lidl. Camping in the rain. Getting to know and love family members you had previously only known by name. All that is new and fresh and exciting.
I’m not a quitter, I never have been.
But I’m getting older. I want a steady job, with a paycheck that will afford me the ability to be financially independent. I want to find my feet. That elusive room of one’s own. And I’m thinking Ireland isn’t the place where I‘ll find solid ground to build upon.
After all, Ireland is having troubles much worse than my own. The nation had to recently accept a humiliating blow to its ego in the form of an EU/IMF bailout that came with strict conditions. Without it, the debt that arose from Irish bankers, politicians and developers threatened to destabilize the entire Euro region.
And the Prime Minister just announced a 4-year plan for economic recovery that will involve letting 25,000 public sector workers go, increasing income taxes on the few earners left in the country, and cutting benefits for the neediest portion of the population.
Most of the people who live here are emigrating in order to find work, so what, did I think I would miraculously find the steady job that everybody else somehow missed? Did I, as I often have in the past, allow unwarranted optimism to shield me from the truth of the matter, which in this case, is that there are simply no jobs to be had here? And moreover, that if I’m looking for work, I’ll have to look outside Ireland, just like everyone else?
One of my favorite prayers is one you’d often see on the back of mass cards at funerals, a beautiful prayer for strength: ‘Lord grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept that which I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.’
I’ve instinctively found myself repeating those words these past few months, as I've never been more unsure of what tomorrow might bring.
Maybe it’s time. If I go home with my tail between my legs, in more debt than out after my year and a half abroad, at least I’ll be able to give hugs to my family members and dear friends whenever I want to. Surely, that’s worth more than anything else.
For today at least, most of my family members live in my heart, and my sister and live here in Dublin (and, of course, on Skype).
Originally published 2011.