In a couple of weeks I’ll be witnessing the two year anniversary of my return to Ireland, after fifteen years in Amsterdam.
When I parachuted back into Irish life, in August 2015, I was clear in my head, that this (hopefully) triumphant return was merely to test the waters.
I had only ever intended to stay in the Netherlands for a couple of years. The fact that my time there ballooned to decades, didn’t alter my feeling that I was a transient. A temporary resident in the land of the clog. I knew that before I could acknowledge to myself, that perhaps I was now a permanent fixture in Amsterdam, that I would have to attempt living in Ireland again first.
Never previously having any desire or ambition to live in the Netherlands, it happened that, while job-hunting in Dublin in the year 2000, I was offered employment by a company – who said I could work either in Dublin or Amsterdam. Without pausing for thought, I replied ‘Amsterdam’.
A mere 30 days after my interview, I was landing in this new country, with my suitcases in tow. A plucky, little emigrant boy who’d left his wailing family, keening at the harbour back in mythical, mystical Ireland, lamenting the fact that they’d only ever see me again when the budget airline schedules favoured them.
The years rolled by so fast. Until one day in 2015 I decided ‘It’s time Murphy, get off your behind and do something.’ So I put my apartment on the market. Within a very short space of time it was sold. To help me process my impending departure I sublet a friend’s flat for two months to make my arrangements for my return. In August 2015, I left Amsterdam.
My initial plan was to try Ireland for a year.
However it became quickly apparent that one year was not going to be sufficient time to get my bearings. The first few months at home were spent at my mother’s – having no job or home lined up, upon my return. I soon sourced employment and accommodation in Dublin.
Those first months in our nation’s capital were probably the bleakest time of my life, ever. It was November – the start of winter, and my least favourite month; I was sharing a flat with an insane, wretch I nicknamed Flatenemy; I was working in a job on the outskirts with colleagues who all seemed like settled suburbanites. I had some friends in Dublin which was a saving grace – but other old friendships simply couldn’t cope with the reality of my magical reappearance in Ireland – they dissolved into the ether.
Meanwhile I was acutely conscious of what I had left behind in Amsterdam – the life I’d built over many years. I knew that visitors from Amsterdam would be scarce – it was me that was running away – therefore it would be my job to visit – the same as it had been when I left Ireland all those years before. What had I done? Had I lost my senses?
A friend advised me that two years in Ireland was probably a more realistic timeframe to spend at home before making any decisions about whether the return had been successful.
And has it been successful? Well I have absolutely no idea.
On plus side I have rekindled some old friendships; made new friends; written and performed in more theatre pieces than I have in my life to date. I live alone in a very centrally located apartment, have a good social life. I have an interesting life.
On the minus side – I still work in the suburbs. I am not sure I want to live in Dublin – things are exciting here, but day-to-day life is not for the faint hearted – either in terms of cost of living, or quality of life.
I still miss Amsterdam – I guess I always will. But I miss it much less than I used to. I can always move back (and not feel like a failure if I do, having given Ireland, two full years), but I am not sure that would be a good decision. It would be great to be close to my friends again, but I’ve got friends here now too.
I could stay in Dublin. This might be the wisest option?
I could stay in Ireland, but not in Dublin – and try life back in my old hometown of Limerick as was my original plan when I returned?
I could try Manchester – potentially the least wise choice, as it would be starting from scratch all over again, in Brexitland. I’m not sure I’d want to subject myself to that? Although I have always fancied myself as Manchester resident.
No pressure to make a decision. Anyway the wind blows I suppose.
But for the moment, Dublin.