Not since Famine Ireland has there been such mass exodus from the island to lands of seemingly better opportunities. Despite a general improvement in recent years, stunning views and an abundance of potatoes, young people continue to emigrate overseas. Countries like the United Arab Emirates have lured our best homies with their sexy climates and promises of Middle-Eastern adventures. Meanwhile the Emerald Isle is left here waving like a soccer mom, asking if we’re going to return for this year’s Ploughing Championships.
When did Ireland get so uncool? Big city living has been popularised to such a degree that people question why we are still in the country. They wonder why we would choose to swim in our tiny gene pool when we could have a chance encounter with a French stranger or live in a penthouse apartment on Park Avenue. Movie tropes have killed our originality and turned us into blind followers of what we believe we should do with our lives. Why stay in our native land when we could Eat, Pray and Love somewhere else?
As a recent college graduate, I assumed I would be globetrotting for most of my twenties. It has become the new norm to travel extensively, getting as far away from Ireland as possible. As well as fulfilling the rituals of the Leaving Cert and moving to college, it now seems that we must also live in London, J1 in America and teach in Dubai. I did not realise the extent of this ingrained culture until I found myself mourning missed opportunities that I actually wasn’t that bothered about. It’s as if we feel that our youth is wasted if it’s not spent in a different time zone.
This leaves the rest of us to ponder our own presence on the island sans our nearest and dearest. The person who offered the advice that you should count your friends on one hand clearly never lost one to Generation Emigration. And at the ripe old age of 23, new friends are hard to come by. It’s not as simple as bygone schooldays when friendships blossomed from a shared love for Pocahontas lunchboxes. Our virtual friends now live inside computer screens and it is not acceptable to take Skype to brunch or to a nightclub. Not yet anyway.
As the diaspora are crying out for extra stocks of Cadbury’s chocolate and Barry’s Tea, it’s important to remember that Ireland is not just the homestead from which we must flee at the earliest point. It is also not a twee little isle where the likes of Hilary Swank and Amy Adams can come prance and coo at the small-town wonders of the world. THEY’RE JUST FIELDS, HILARY. Go if you must, but remember where your roots lie.
To my Canadian and soon to be Aussie expats; please come back soon! I’m far too cynical to seek the approval of new human beings.