My work day begins like any other – I’m busy responding to queries and meeting requests in my minimum-wage office job with ever increasing responsibilities. In this economy, you are grateful to have work in a field you love as a graduate – the onus is on you to reap the opportunities such positions proffer. Mid morning I notice a text message from a long number with an unfamiliar area code. It transpires that my latest friend to leave home has procured an Australian mobile number and is checking in to let me know, as his Irish sim will expire soon. Initially happy to hear from him, my mood falters a little when I confess that my biggest news since we last spoke is that one of our few remaining friends here at home has just handed in her notice to her JobBridge placement with the intention of heading to London. Armed with a degree and a masters, she plans to progress her career and not have to work two jobs to get by over there. “She’s dead right,” he replies, and I agree.
Smiling at my friend’s excited anticipation of heading to a shooting range for the first time, I’m transported to Australia as we chat while I head to the ATM on my lunch break. What greets me is a slap in the face that jolts me back home.
Who would I like to invite home for the Gathering? My hand freezes half way to selecting ‘withdraw €10′ . I can’t take my eyes away from the photograph of young women my age smiling over drinks. My friends are now scattered across the world – San Francisco, London, Brussels, Spain, Australia and even New Zealand. My tax money has paid for this ad, I realise. My friends’ tax money has paid for this ad. With a lump in my throat, and brimming with anger, I join my colleagues for lunch. I am unusually silent throughout, and make an excuse to leave earlier than usual. I think of my friends, all asking me for the news from home. They tell me hearing that home is not the same is no consolation, as it means that even if they could realize their fantasy to return it would not be to the same home that they left. I don’t know what to tell them, other than make new Skype dates, post more packages and renew my promise to come see them as soon as I can.
A few evenings later, towards the end of the night I am chatting with a friend who’s home for a short visit. There is a pause in our conversation, during which she takes a deep breath, looks me in the eye and declares “I probably wouldn’t be saying this to you if I wasn’t a little drunk – but I really think you need to leave this city – there isn’t anything for you here. I love this place, it’s a great city, and I want to come back and raise my family here in a few more years, but even if you do get work – there are no people our age left here.” She gazes up and down the busy streets as if to prove her point and, I have to admit by doing so, she does.
As it happens, I am an avid traveller – but I am probably still here as I am also a stubborn optimist. I would love to be able to stay and become a bigger part of the place that I have grown up in. Perhaps the time has come to be a realist. I have to come to terms with the fact that my Irish sim will be more than likely be expiring soon too. In the meantime I hope to maintain this blog as an ongoing update to my friends, who, as recent graduates in the past few years, have all become reluctant members of the famous Irish diaspora.
This is how it is at home lads – they said to tell ye that ye’re all welcome back for The Gathering.