Growing up in the boom years it would have been hard to believe our generation would become a generation emigration. We had it so good and we didn't know it. Oh we were told how lucky we were and how the older folk hoped "it stayed fine for us" but we just didn't get it. We knew no different.
It felt like the whole country was young and having fun, I thought it always had been and would be this way; Work do's with free bar tabs, paid health insurance and full time jobs.
It's safe to say we get it now! Traveling is exciting but not when it's forced upon you. Slowly things began to change, in trickles at first and suddenly a large proportion of my peers had moved abroad, some to the UK others Canada, Australia and it seems everywhere in between.
"It's easier to leave than to be left behind" or so Michael Stipe thought. It certainly feels that way for a lot of those of us at home, as a significant portion of our peers emigrate. I first heard this song long before I understood the impact emigration could have on my life.
For me, I've seen emigration from both sides and I currently inhabit a somewhat middle ground. I've lived abroad and enjoyed a new culture and it is exciting. Now I'm home missing those who have left.
I moved to Qatar a few years back because my boyfriend was working there full time. Nothing prepares you for that moment after you've checked in at the airport with a one way ticket in hand. It's a feeling filled with doubt, fear and apprehension. The pit of your stomach kind of apprehension! It takes courage to leave what you know and your support network behind. Make no mistake to leave is a brave decision. I loved the sun, the lifestyle, the tax free money, it was a fantastic experience (and before anyone asks, no it's not a 'dry' country). I genuinely loved it but to follow my own career aspirations ironically I eventually had to come home. This decision was almost as difficult. What was I coming home to I wondered? And not just what, who was I coming home to?
I currently live a rotation limbo type of life. My other half works between home and Qatar, not fully emigrated but not here to enjoy all the big events, bank holidays, birthdays and weddings. Skype and Whatsapp keep us updated but it's not the same as a cuddle or even watching TV in silence together. Half of the time it's like living the single life calling my gal pals begging them to ditch their other halves and then for 6 months of the year we are like velcro shutting out the world for some quality time. It's better than what a lot of people have, I know that and it suits us for now, but it's not ideal. And as jet setting and exciting as it sounds, it's not easy by any standards.
Generation emigration may describe those who have left our shores but it's a generation that has counterparts left, not so much behind as that almost holds negative connotations. It needs to be recognized that generation emigration has some people who are just as much part of this phenomenon but live in the UK; parents, friends, wives, fiances, children. It needs to be acknowledged that this phenomenon is not easy on those who still reside at home. For the thousands who have emigrated there are also thousands left in a changed Irish landscape not least economically but socially.
I don't think that's the end of my emigration story. I might even go back for a while. Something is drawing me to the Middle East, the sun, the lifestyle I don't know, but I have such affection for it that when I landed there for a holiday earlier this year it almost felt like a second home.
It's nice to have the choice and familiarity of another country as an option should things ever go awry here again. The recession might have forced me to try something new, completely out of my comfort zone but now that it is passing it has left me with courage and the choice to return, on my terms this time.
In the long term however I plan to live at home and raise a family here and I hope, in time, most of our best exports will return although as every day passes this becomes less likely as friends build their lives in foreign lands. Like a lot of others at home at the moment waiting on children, fathers or lovers to return "loneliness, It wears me out, It lies in wait."