Is it time to accept that Dublin isn't the centre of the universe?
This pandemic has shown how fracturable society is.
What we have always known is no longer fit for purpose. The routines we were consumed by now seem outdated. Our way of life flipped and altered.
However, look at how quickly we have adapted. Humans are the most malleable creatures. It doesn't take long for us to create new habits – 21 days in fact. Although we don't want this current situation to last, there are aspects of it that may be catalysts for much-needed change.
This pandemic has forced me to move from Dublin back home to the Kingdom of Kerry. It was not by choice but by necessity. It was as if I could feel circumstances beyond my control physically push me away. Like many others, my housemates and I collectively could no longer afford the rent and so, we broke the lease.
I have the privilege to be able to live at home with my parents and sleep in the room I have known since I was a child. Grateful isn't an ample enough adjective to describe the feeling.
Before this though, Dublin was beginning to exhaust me. I adore the city and as a Kerry woman, this is difficult to admit. I love its quirks and mannerisms. Its life, in both day and night, is positively radiant and many of my friends had made nests there too.
But I was consistently gripped with financial worry. From morning to night, I was checking my bank account to see what funds I had left. More than 50% of my monthly wage was going towards my accommodation, bills and travel.
Cursing buses became a daily hobby and my frustration was growing more and more with each traffic light.
People often talk of the struggle and the grind, but at what point does it stop?
How much longer until it has fully chipped away at a life?
Now I am working from home in a job I delight in, but for the first time in three years, my financial stresses have eased. The slower pace of life (which may be forced currently) is suiting me. I am working more efficiently and I am writing better. The feeling of compression has subsided – I feel free.
This is not to say that in two months I will feel the same. By then, I may yearn for city life and the hustle and bustle will be a welcome reprieve from the silence, but Dublin has to change. The city was on a slippery slope. It was increasingly overcrowded. Rental prices were extortionate. One breath cost €1. It was beginning to push people away. We experienced a rent increase in January and it would prove to be the final nail in our housing coffin.
The crisis has highlighted some of the issues with Dublin's property bubble, one of the most staggering being AirBnB. When it became clear quarantine was imminent, rental options shot up in numbers, due in part to the amount of empty properties usually spared for tourists. This tweet below demonstrates the effect.
I've had a saved search query on the daft app for ages that I check periodically which is:
• 1 bed
• under €1400
Last time I checked it 2 weeks ago there were 9 properties active (all of them basically sheds/tiny bedsits).
Today - 94
— Naoise Falafel (@naoisefalafel) March 19, 2020
The government had attempted to regulate AirBnB in Ireland but enough was not done, and prices remained overwhelmingly high.
This pandemic is like a showroom with options. It's not breaking news that rural Ireland has suffered. The push towards Dublin has left other cities, towns and villages reeling. Some choose to go but others are forced to by default. Dublin is where the jobs lie and opportunities thrive. I have many friends who would prefer to settle at home, but the corporate world won't allow it.
Here exists a chance to change this.
Not everyone likes working from home, nor can everyone do it in actuality – but why not give people the choice? Flexible working can invigorate a workforce and create new possibilities. Technology has transfigured how we work. How many businesses are now depending on Zoom and Skype and are managing?
In working life, we lose a sense of control. We are dependent on the office environment, the daily commute, and the price of rent. Choice is liberating. Being able to choose where you live or how you work can add another dimension of light to your life. The two-hour commute – that should only take 20 minutes without traffic – could cease. The fire may be reignited in communities across the country. In the long run, people may be happier.
Dublin is the capital, and of course, it will always offer something more.
However, for those who want to live a different life, why not give them an alternative?
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