We have a year left in Dublin, at least, technically. Twelve non-consecutive months broken up by three months in the states this summer, that’s it. It’s been two and a half years since we moved here; it hardly feels like that’s possible. We’ve started thinking about the move back, starting to bring things stateside on our visits to prepare for that eventual departure.
I feel like I’ve spent my twenties coming home. But I never stayed that long, and this time, it’s more permanent, there is a distinct sense that this is the big move, coinciding with the end of our twenties. Though I have no qualms with turning thirty, having felt my twenties were all I could have hoped them to be. They’ve served their purpose and I’m excited for the next decade. But somewhere else in my mind is a slow rustling, an agitated-jumpy feeling about this move back. It just feels so permanent. For the first time in our lives, we know what’s next. We can see the next ten years clearly. Our future looked like a question mark for a long time, a great abyss of possibility. That is coming to an abrupt end. People talk about acts in their lives, usually in terms of three-youth, adulthood, and retirement. But for us, this is the end of a momentous decade; it feels very much like the end of a great act. One where we fell in love, got married, traversed continents, earned degrees, moved abroad, and had a lifetime’s worth of adventures. Of course, there is much joy and adventure (and difficulty and growth) in our future, and I look forward to all of that as well. But I can’t help but feel a small sense of loss when thinking of this move.
Dublin is home. But not in the way home is usually envisioned. I don’t feel some deep connection to the city, or the country. We have no close Irish friends, only acquaintances. We operate on the fringe of the culture, utterly clueless to many major happenings. And yet, this is the way I like it. Though on occasion, I wish I interjected myself more fully into life here in Dublin, it was a choice not too. I do wish we had more Irish friends, it was not for a lack of trying. In general, I prefer, in many aspects of my life to keep attachment an arms length away, I prefer to observe, to be an “other.” I’ve spent much of my adult life post-college being an outsider to different cultures. In a lot of ways, it’s become a part of who I am. And with it comes the unique opportunity to define one’s self in terms less dictated by society. Though, of course, we are all culturally conditioned to a degree, there is a sense of freedom to choose an identity separate from expectations. We, as others, are not expected to conform, so we don’t. There is little pressure. And it works for back in the states too, as long as we’re abroad we feel like rules or cultural expectations don’t apply. While our friends back in the states buy houses and have babies (and we toast their joy from afar) we plan our next adventure, knowing while we’re here those things aren’t options for us, so they remain on the fringe of our awareness, eventual joys we may take part in, but not to be concerned with at the moment. There is a peacefulness to that.
When one of my best friends moved home last summer she told me how difficult it was for her to move back. Before, she was an American expat living in Ireland. Then all of a sudden, she was just an American, for the foreseeable future. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, nor is there anything innately superior about being an expat. It is not elitism that made her feel displaced, or what I fear for when I make the same move. But, it does feel like a real loss of identity.
I didn’t expect to want to stay in Europe. I expected to enjoy my time here but always look forward to that eventual move home. And I do look forward to some aspects of state-side life, namely, being close to family. But I have to admit, I want to stay, though, not in Ireland. I want to stay abroad. I want to move somewhere new and have all of those brand-new to a place adventures. I want to discover a new city, and culture distinctly different from that in which I grew up. Of course, there will be opportunities for sabbaticals and travel later in life. But I’m already itching for them, and I know this desire stems from feeling like the moment we step on to that plane next June that a big part of our lives are over. The opportunity to take a month to walk across Spain, or weekend in Amsterdam visiting friends, or be in Africa in a few hours is put on a long-term pause as our lives shift into a more traditional mold. I didn’t expect to feel so content here, being “away” feels so natural, right.
Sometimes I think, how can we go back? But I know there is no point to carrying a torch to this phase in our lives, all things must end, and there is comfort in that knowledge. Dwelling serves little purpose. America is where is best for Alex’s career, and our family’s future. And this magnificent adventure we’ve had? Well, we’re damn lucky, and we know it. It’s been a great privilege, and we have so much gratitude. Perhaps the next adventure will prove to be incredibly fulfilling, and we’ll view this time with simple, joyful nostalgia. I’d like to think that’s how it’ll go. And yet, here I am, having grown attached to being unattached, untethered. To being an expat, an other, an outsider by choice. I have to keep reminding myself we still have a year. We have time to soak it in. I never anticipated this life, and while we’ve been thrown a lot of curve balls, what resulted was better than I ever imagined. I know when the time comes, I’ll be leaving a bit of myself here in Dublin, a place we never thought we’d call home and grew to love anyway.