Expat Life Travelogue

An Update, The Re-Invention of Me, and Homesickness

*I am in the midst of changing up this blog’s theme and design and I am extremely indecisive and un-techy.  Please bear with me, I know the design looks crap right now.*

I have been terrible at blogging in the last few months.  When I started this blog I had plans to post 2 or 3 times a month.  Since moving to Ireland in March of last year, I think I have posted exactly twice.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to.  I have just had a really hard time putting into words everything that I have felt since we packed up our lives and moved here, hit the reset button and started from zero.  Turns out, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  I thought it was something I could easily do.  After all, I was no stranger to packing up and moving to a new country, so why should this be so different?  How wrong I was!

When I moved to Italy, it was relatively easy in the emotional sense (not in the legal/bureaucratic sense, I think we all know how insane that whole process is).   I knew the culture inside out.  I already had a job there.  I knew more or less what to expect.  It was just me and my man, together on the same boat.

Moving to Ireland meant a total upheaval in my life as I knew it.  Starting over meant actually re-inventing myself, and I didn’t realize how not ready I was for that.  Finding a job was tough.  While we came here to start a business, we needed jobs in the meantime until that got up and running.  We had read on the news over and over again about what a great country Ireland was for working, that there were hundreds of jobs here because the economy was booming, and so many companies were setting up shop here because of the tax haven that entrepreneurs can find in Ireland.  Well it turns out the rest of the world read the same stories as us, it would seem, because the competition for a job was tough.  I had to trawl through the bottom of the job barrel and do some really shitty temp gigs (some were great, others were really awful… ugh!) but finally, job number four is the one that stuck!  It *only* took 10 months to find it 🙂  It’s a normal 9-6 desk job. Very unusual for me but it pays the bills!  

Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square.  He's smirking at me, as if to tell me, "Well, you hit the re-set button on life, what did you expect it to be easy?"

Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square. He’s smirking at me, as if to tell me, “Well, you hit the re-set button on life, what did you expect it to be easy?”

This whole topic of finding a new job has been the toughest thing that I have had to confront.  This wasn’t just about finding a job in order to make a living.  I realized in late summer of last year after moving here that I was actually  in mourning.  I was mourning my old life and who I was, in the professional sense, before I came to Ireland.  I mourned for the more carefree confidence that I had in myself, and for the lifestyle I had led where money and travel came easily to me, and the world seemed to move effortlessly beneath my feet.  I was no longer Bea the Italy Tour Leader and Expert on all Things Italian, I was no longer the girl you turned to when you wanted to design a trip to Italy or learn about bike routes in Italy or Mediterranean food, wines and history.  Looking at my CV, I wasn’t worried at all, in fact I was full of confidence.  In Italy, I had plenty of job offers and I was quite “marketable” and for some reason I thought that would carry over to anywhere I went.  I also had the wonderful privilege of working for one of the greatest travel companies ever, in which I acquired such an amazing set of skills I even impressed myself with the stuff I could do.  None of that experience and passion that I had in the professional realm, however, was worth a single damn over here in Ireland.  Even though I felt like my work experience was so much more than just taking tourists around Italy, and could really be rendered and adapted to other lines of work, on paper I just looked like an Italian tour guide, which is fairly useless over here on the Emerald Isle.  It felt traumatic, like wiping clean my entire history, knowledge, and passions and saying “OK, what now?” How could I translate my work ethic, my abilities and knowledge to Irish employers who were looking for… what, exactly?  I had to say good-bye to the person I was before.  I had to actually re-invent myself, and not in the Madonna way, but in a cataclysmic shift kind of way.

One of the side effects of moving to Ireland which really surprised me was the amount of homesickness I feel.  Homesickness was something that I had not really experienced before.  Sure, I always missed my friends and family, but I never got so sad that I would just burst into tears and feel awful inside.  Strange, because I have already spent over 8 years living away from home.  Now, instead of being homesick for just California, I was also homesick for Italy, and I still get a little pang of nostalgia in my heart when I see pictures of Florence.  But it really hit me when I realized that my fiancé was in his hometown, and we could see his friends and family (all of whom I love to pieces) any time we wanted.  Was it jealousy or resentment?  I don’t know, that doesn’t sound like me at all.  I think it was just the longing for being able to invite my parents or my brother and sister over for a cup of tea, or dinner.  Or being able to go visit them anytime I want, as if they only lived up the road.  Or calling up my girlfriends and having a night out on the town to lift our spirits or celebrate some big milestone in our lives.  For the first time in my life, I felt Expat Guilt and Homesickness, and they are two ugly monsters from which I try my best to keep away.  This is part of being an emigrant.  No matter where you are, you always feel like you are either coming or going, but not 100% present.  No matter how hard you try to lay down roots, those roots just don’t reach far enough to the other side of the world, where the other half of your heart is.

These two... Best parents in the world! Here they are pictured with their Irish hand-knit sweaters, made by my fiance's very talented auntie, commissioned by his very generous sister :)

These two… Best parents in the world! Here they are pictured with their Irish hand-knit sweaters, made by my fiance’s very talented auntie, commissioned by his very generous sister 🙂

Luckily, one thing that has actually helped me deal with this is knowing that I am not the only foreigner living in Ireland and dealing with some of these thoughts and concerns.  Before moving here, I scoured the internet for blogs of other expats and foreigners and I found a few that I really loved and with which I identified.  I really like A Mexican Cook in Ireland, written by a lady from Mexico who really misses the food from home and she not only posts recipes of delicious Mexican food, she even opened up her own shop in town where I can go and buy the ingredients!  Absolute lifesaver, that’s all I can say.  And weirdly enough, I found a blog called An American in Ireland, written by a woman with whom I have a crazy amount of stuff in common!  Like me, she is from California, but has parents from another country, has a twin sister, and lived in the Bay Area for a while.  Whoa.  *Twilight Zone music*  The other blog I love is one called Farmette, written by a woman from New York who married an Irish farmer and now lives on a farm, and most of her blog posts are about traditional recipes and farm and country traditions, which she has apparently become very good at, judging by the gorgeous photos of her cooking and handiwork.

If these last few months have taught me anything at all, it is this:  We are braver than we think.  We are stronger than we realize.  We are more capable than we ever dreamed of.  And even when things look bleak and hopeless, they are not.  Tomorrow is another day and anything can happen to turn your situation around in the most surprising way.  To get to all these realizations, we just need to keep moving, change our environments a little every day, and try to meet as many people as we can.  And, home is just a phone call away.

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  • Reply
    Sandra Ageno
    February 1, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Honey, I got all emotional reading your blog. I missed them! All will be OK, Look at us, We emigrated too, And I was carrying you and your sister, newborns,
    and I missed my family sooo much! Love you!

    • Reply
      February 1, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Everything is more than ok mom, just wish we all weren’t so far away! xx love you! xx

  • Reply
    February 7, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Queen Bea! I can identify with the challenges you felt when you came to Ireland but you proved that you’re resilient and adaptable by making it work for you, getting closer to Keith’s family and friends and finding a good job. I like your point about the challenge of being 100% present as an emigrant, but I’ll tell you this, most people aren’t 100% present in anything they do, regardless of their immigrant status. So much love to you -AB

  • Reply
    August 3, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I’m playing catch up on your blog. You are so very brave Bea! I know this is an old post but I’m glad that you are more settled now and that you and Keith are doing so well. I think the reset button always makes us stronger even though it’s crazy scary.

    • Reply
      August 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks Shenine, that means a lot 🙂 xx

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