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Image / Editorial

I left New York for Ireland because my old home was stalking me


by Ellen Bird
16th Jan 2019
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It wasn’t endless packets of Tayto crisps and Irish soda bread that made me miss Ireland so dearly. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know what it was. Most likely, it was a mix of different things, but stupidly important stuff – simple things, like having a fireplace in winter, Penny’s fluffy pyjamas and not spending an entire paycheque on a New York City cocktail.

I moved to New York City when I was nineteen to study fashion. Usually when I say that, Irish folk raise their eyebrows, their eyeballs widen, and people begin nodding their head with approval. But they’re also slightly bewildered looking and obviously confused about why on earth I would move back. Let’s be honest, Irish people have a deep fascination with New York. It’s been the preferred hub for emigration for much longer than you or I have been alive.

Honestly, I moved with an intention of never coming back. I was gone, and that was it. I thought I could completely emotionally (and physically) detach myself from Ireland. It’s quite laughable actually. I flew across the world to study what I loved most, but also because I secretly wanted to escape many other things going on within myself. While I lived in New York for four years, I never really called myself a New Yorker. Basically because, well, I wasn’t one – but I did like thinking of myself as one. I had quickly self-proclaimed “New Yorker” status, but with an Irish brogue and an overpriced New York City apartment lease.

Upon moving, I adapted the social mannerisms of New Yorkers. An eager exploration of belonging pursued without patience. I quickly developed “New Yorker Rules” – like constantly looking like you’re rushing somewhere (even when you’re not) and getting severely pissed off at a confused tourist abruptly stopping right in front of you. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t anticipated a challenging transition. What I thought would be a simple unpacking of two overweight suitcases, soon became a daunting realisation that it wasn’t going to be that easy – a discouraging thought for an underage, impatient New York wannabe, a mere two months in.

I probably first realised how much I missed Ireland on my very first Christmas away. On St. Stephen’s Day (known as just another working day in NYC), I was working fifteen hours days, without a mulled wine in hand. I missed the festive celebration Ireland did so wonderfully. That Christmas, it was like 2014 and 2015 just rolled into one. I fantasised about being with my family, celebrating with friends and lush greenery.

Don’t get me wrong, living in New York as I grew into my twenties was by far the best thing I’ve ever done. But, there was always something missing that I could never really pinpoint. My old home was stalking me. I could never shake Ireland no matter how much I wanted to. In Ireland, there’s a strong sense of belonging that New York City doesn’t have. Perhaps I was a little lost and caught up in the novelty of it all. It’s a city that can be very lonely.

As my graduation approached this past May, I decided to leave New York. Nothing was forced and leaving just felt natural. New York has taught me so much about myself, both good and bad. I feel wiser and more open to the world. New York will always be a part of my growth, and that’s what I’m most grateful for.

There are so many little things I’ll miss about everyday life there. But I’m taking those little things as satisfying, incredibly fulfilling memories I’ll always cherish. I’m so happy back in Ireland – I’ve moved onto the next chapter of my life, but I’m looking back smiling.

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