The Clash asked all the right questions

So it has been almost 7 months since I returned to the motherland

After 15 generally happy years in Amsterdam I decided early last year that it was time to hang up my wandering boots and make a go of living in Ireland.

I am not sure if I have written about this on the blog before. No doubt I have and I am at the point in this blogging lark where I am starting to repeat myself.

For certain it was the subject of the play I wrote and performed in last week. But the actual, non-fictional impact of the return home? How is it going? Why is it so confusing? Because I am genuinely bewildered by the whole thing.

Was it a good decision – only time will tell?
Was it a bad decision – let me get back to you on that one?

When I left Ireland in 2000 I was an accidental emigrant. I had been living and working in Dublin for 4 years and was largely happy with my circumstances. The one area which was unsatisfactory was my working situation – I was working shift – earlies, days, evenings and nights on a rotating weekly basis. This left me in a state of near permanent jetlag. I was looking for a day job.

One Friday evening I bumped into an old colleague having a big party in the Front Lounge. She was not my friend, more a friendly acquaintance, so I asked her if it was her birthday. She replied by saying that in fact she was moving to Amsterdam. Interesting. The next week I was doing night shift and I randomly looked at jobs in Amsterdam. I had no real desire to move there – never having even visited the place for the weekend.

Absent-mindedly I fired off a CV. The rest is history. 5 weeks later in late November 2000 I began my new life. I love Amsterdam but while living there I always felt like an impostor emigrant – I was not fleeing unemployment, or poverty or oppression. I was on an adventure.

But then the years turned into decades, and I was still feeling temporary. Neither Arthur nor Martha – not Dutch, but fairly integrated, fully Irish but sort of stuck mentally in an Ireland from the year 2000.

Last year the stars aligned and enabled a return to Ireland. I put my flat on the market and in a matter of weeks it had been sold.  This was far too fast – I had been planning a 6 month process.

No can do. Shit got real very, very quickly and by the start of August, at the age of 40, I rocked up on my mother’s doorstep. It’s been a frenzied blur ever since. Technically homeless (although living with the Mammy), unemployed, single and back in a country that seemed entirely familiar and utterly alien.

Where had all these eastern Europeans come from? Now obviously I’m not looking for a reply to that question. It’s just that when I left the EU was smaller so this lovely segment of the population were not present. We used the punt as the currency when I left.  The Celtic Tiger nonsense had yet to happen Finding work proved relatively easy. Finding a flat also was pain-free – my couple of months living with Flatenemy notwithstanding.

But it’s not really that which caused the confusion. It’s the sense of shock at being in a place that you dreamed of returning to for years and feeling alien in it. Like an outsider watching from the sidelines. It’s not a bad feeling necessarily. It’s just bizarre and strange. When you emigrate you know that you are the foreigner and you expect to feel a bit dislocated and strange and unsettled. But when you come back it seems even weirder – probably because you are not expecting it. And the people you have come back to don’t experience it and simply carry on with their own lives that they’ve been living throughout the decades that you have been away.

I’m not complaining about my situation, but for the life of me I can’t decide whether I have made the right choice. I wanted this. But I didn’t think that leaving what I had behind was going to be such a shock to the system. Should I have come to Dublin? Theoretically yes as that’s where I found work? But Dublin is not home. Should I have waited to finds something in Limerick – something would have materialised had I waited. Where do I want to be in 12 months? I suppose I shouldn’t think about it too much. I should just keep putting one foot in front of the other and maybe one day the penny will drop and I will know the answer to the Clash song.

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