I tweeted this video already, but want to share it here too. I left Ireland under very different circumstances than the current emigrants. When I left, Ireland was the fastest growing economy in Europe (or was it the world? I always get dizzy and disoriented with superlatives). The country was punch-drunk on boom times. I got back from a MA in Canada and didn't recognize my town anymore.
Dublin's grunge had been replaced by chrome cafes and flimsy housing estates. I hated it. It sounds like a right shithead perspective, but I left mostly for aesthetic reasons. And I left without looking back over my shoulder, with a ruthlessness that now shocks me and I wonder that I was capable of it.
And yet, this video resonates with me. Although I was a very solitary emigrant (the immigration officer in Canada said, Why would you leave? We think we should be there.) But, I think all emigrants are solitary ones. I mean, you can move somewhere with a bunch of your mates or with your partner, but belonging and identity are really things we end up finding within ourselves, not looking out into the world or hoping to be gifted it by a place or person.
On Christmas Day, I took a stroll through the Irish cemetery near me. It's most-often locked up, but it was wide open on Christmas Day. And I strolled among the headstones of Flanagans and Byrnes, Murrays and Hanlys, each with their birth-town named; Drogheda, Limerick, Trim, Mayo. Most of the people buried there were famine survivors and I thought about how they came here, how that path in the map is long worn by Irish people, long before myself and the current generation.
And I think of all that my own family lived through, though the specifics of our family history are forgotten. The Flanagans who stayed through famine and British rule, through war and the poverty of the sixties and seventies. Even the eighties, when we were still being told that Ireland was a third world country in geography classes taught by nuns. And I think how each generation of Flanagans might have said "we're staying" until it reached me. And I left, indulgent and unchallenged.
I'm nearly scared to go home in 2013, because my last trip left me so reeling. And as I change being away, I go back and see everything differently, see my own twenty-something judgements as hard and unequivocal and not admitting of ripped emotions that ought to be admitted. And as the reality of my life in Toronto has taken shape, I sometimes wonder was it worth it. Because of course, it's different than I hoped. Not that different is necessarily bad. And I like the video because it captures all of that and, in the end no matter when or why, we all stay or go from where we are.
Somewhat related: I wrote an essay on the subject of home for the first issue of Kindred journal, which is available for pre-order here and ships mid-January. Many of you have asked to read more of my writing, so thought I would share... I hope you enjoy it!