To make a long story short – we’ve moved back to Ireland.
Quick refresher: I moved to Drogheda in January 2008, to marry Frank Kelly. We spent a few years trying to make a living and build a family here, but the Recession had us beat. We saved up what we could, went through the arduous task of getting Frank a US spouse visa, and moved the whole lot of us (dog included) to Indianapolis in September 2013. Indy had its ups and downs, and we moved West in September 2014, eventually landing in California. We’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay area since then, working, living and raising our three kids.
But as of May 30 of this year, we are back in Ireland, so I guess you could say we’ve come full circle! It’s another huge transition, leaving some (including ourselves) asking why did we go through all this again?
I guess it boils down to age and life experience and deciding what is most important to you on a personal level. We had a great run in the States – nearly five years of adventures and memories and a few hardships, too. We definitely thought we’d stay longer, and when we landed in Cupertino I remember thinking “I could stay here – this feels like it could be home.” We certainly achieved what we set out to do: grow up, get out of our “rut,” become more financially independent, and start building a life that reflected our passions and beliefs. We learned a lot.
Yet, in the end, something wasn’t right. Silicon Valley is a very difficult place to live because it is so expensive and so high-pressure, but it’s also very hard to get “stuck in” as they say around here. Trying to find the time and outlets to make friends, create art, volunteer, get involved and grow as people beyond what our careers offered just didn’t happen for us. That’s not to say lots of people don’t carve out a good life for themselves there, but for us, it just didn’t come together. It’s kind of hard to explain.
We ran into some old acquaintances on the town recently and the gentleman said, kindly, “Ah, so it didn’t work out for you then.” And this, my friends, is the hard part to explain – that no, actually it DID work out for us! “It” just wasn’t what we wanted.
I think sometimes you need to travel the world to find what you really want. You have to spend a lot of time being unhappy in different places to find out what makes your heart sing. You have to listen to an awful lot of people saying, “You left IRELAND? For HERE??” and “You left CALIFORNIA?? For HERE???” to realize that the most important voice you have to tune into is your own.
We wrestled with this decision a lot ourselves because, somehow, deciding to go back to where you began is a bit scarier than jumping off the cliff into the unknown. Of course we missed family in Ireland, but we knew we’d miss the family we’d leave in the US! And though we kept talking about finding “happiness,” we also realized that life is just hard, and not always happy, and chasing this elusive (and probably imaginary) feeling would be naive. In the end, Frank and I each, separately, wrote up our own lists of pros and cons and then compared them. They turned out pretty similar, and the main two themes were the following:
- We missed the way of life in Ireland – having a community, knowing the people around you, giving our kids a different kind of upbringing, taking daily life a bit slower, having “the craic” and feeling like we could actually achieve our creative dreams more realistically.
- We did not like the negative atmosphere in the States – worrying about mass shootings, feeling angry and dismayed over the Trump administration and increasingly polarized population, struggling to find a positive school experience for our kids, and generally hating the corporate grind of Silicon Valley.
This is just a small reflection of allll the variables we considered, and we are well aware that Ireland is still far from perfect (the healthcare system hasn’t improved, for instance, drug crime is still an issue and the government here is just as corrupt as it ever was). I have also heard the murmurings of how unpatriotic, weak and wishy-washy we are for leaving the untouchable US of A. Why didn’t we look at moving to another state, or Canada, for that matter?
We did, briefly. (Well, we didn’t really look at Canada. That’s another whole visa process we didn’t want to tackle.) There are many wonderful places in America that do not share the somewhat warped values of parts of affluent California. We thought about going home to Bozeman, or Missoula, we looked at Santa Fe and Austin and Savannah, and others. But we kept coming back to Ireland. If we had to start over again (again), did we really want to take another full-on risk? Finding new doctors, registering for new schools, navigating new neighborhoods? Making new friends? Finding new jobs?
Meanwhile, Ireland has done a lot in the last year or two to present a very attractive alternative. The job market is strong, much stronger than anyone thought it would be after being hit so hard in 2008. Tech companies have moved here for the tax breaks and research institutes and others currently in the UK are planning moves over here due to Brexit. Based on what we observed, and what we had been able to achieve and save while in the US, we were pretty confident that if we moved back, we could have a better life back home than we’d had the first time around.
I have to say, I’m so glad we did. It’s been a very bumpy ride, but I am not sorry we’ve done it. While there’s something extremely sobering about deciding where you will live “for good,” within a few days of being back, I felt completely at peace with the concept and that feeling has pervaded for the many weeks since. It is a different life than before – we live outside Drogheda, in the country, in a gorgeous area known as Monasterboice. This time, we have a car to explore and get around on our own. We have the kids registered for a good school in town that has been nothing but helpful and welcoming to all of us. And there are dozens of good job opportunities, more than I can even apply for, and I’ve already had interest. Frank has also been beating the bushes for work, has had an interview or two and has been working part time with a local group who are making a film. We are also in the process of getting our own film going again, which we had started to think might never happen back in Cali.
We are exhausted. We are a little broke. But we are happy.
We are home.