On Wednesday evening I went to a Damien Rice concert here in Boston. While it was absolutely wonderful, it also gave me food for thought. The singer interacted a lot with the audience so that we could hear much of his beautiful Irish accent. And that was what brought out many memories from within me. I remembered how much I used to love Ireland. So much that I did not only complete one internship there in 2005, but then returned for another one, and eventually moved there for a year of the Erasmus Programme from 2006 to 2007 and then stayed the whole summer, too. Around the same time I listened to Damien Rice’s music for the first time and I have been a fan ever since. Since I finished that year at University College Cork, I have only been back to Ireland twice. Once alone in 2008 and a few years later [here] together with one of my best friends. My English also had a strong Cork Irish accent and when I started teaching English in Istanbul, my students couldn’t even understand me in the beginning.
I asked myself where my love for Ireland went to. I used to spend so much of my university time there. Even when I did the Erasmus Programme, I didn’t interact so much with the other foreign students, but with Irish people, many of whom I had known from the previous internships. I lived in a different part of the city, away from most students, but where the average resident lived. Having worked at one of their public schools, at the time I could even imagine moving to Ireland one day. But then I just left and never really went back. One reason certainly is that my love for Ireland was eventually overlain by my love for Turkey. I did not apply for jobs in Ireland, but went to teach in Istanbul instead (not actually because I specifically wanted to go there, but I just applied to this job pool of all German international schools – definitely the easier way in contrast to looking for a job as a German teacher in Ireland). And once I lived there, I wanted to explore that region of the world rather than going back to places I already knew. Another reason is that I define and live my life in periods, one after another. Before I lived in and loved Ireland so much, I was a huge fan of Denmark. Afterwards, there was Turkey. And even though I’ve been back to Istanbul three times since I moved to Boston, I also notice that those visits become less and less frequent. So now there is my period of living in the U.S. and who knows what comes hereafter (or maybe I just define this as the period of living in Massachusetts and then I can still live in plenty of other states without thinking I don’t have enough change).
But what is more, I then wondered what happened to my personality. I still remember to have been quite outgoing when I lived in Cork. I was never afraid to talk to strangers and get to know new people. I would even say that my self-confidence was at the absolute peak back then. My circle of friends and acquaintances was vast. I could be friendly, happy, easily psyched; at the same time I could be cruel – towards others and in a way to myself. Other than for my goldfish at the time, I didn’t assume much responsibility. I mean I cared for my friends and I was always there for them. But I also remember a few nice admirers who I sharply rebuffed without thinking twice. During the day I spent my energy on studying Chinese and Gaelic Irish for fun, I also visited a few English and German lectures. In the evening I went to different club meetings, ended up playing the lead role in a theater production, and I partied a lot. I didn’t look after myself as well as I probably should have. Too little sleep, too much fast food esp. at night, too many hangovers. But at the same time I remember being immensely happy, self-confident, as well as very creative and productive.
So what happened to that young version of me? At first it felt like I had lost her although she was me once – left behind in that period when I lived in Ireland. But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that she is still inside me. In a way, of course, she grew up. I moved on from the sweet life as a university student and started working, dealing with insurances and tax filing, etc. I since have lived in two more different cultures and socities. Those experiences have defined me, too. In Turkey, for instance, I learned to be more careful and not chat with strangers – I mean there were people following me in the street after I had only made small talk with them in a cafe. In the U.S. I have learned that it is hard to make new friends. One reason is that adults usually already have their circle, but also Boston is a place people move to for work and they leave the city just as fast. And the mindset is different again. If people who once told me they’d text me and invite me to this or that event really did it, I’d probably be busy every weekend for the rest of the year. At the same time, the lack of a bigger circle of friends and also of just the possibility of running into acquaintances every now and then definitely impairs my self-confidence. Of course, I am not partying as much anymore either. While writing this text, I am actually sitting in at a student conference, i.e. I am working and not having any proper weekend. This makes me also realize though that there is still a lot of energy in me – energy to work hard and long, energy to still write long texts, and also the energy to still go to a concert during such a busy week. Maybe it is rather easy to be more like my young Ireland-me now that I remember her so clearly. Only my lovely Irish accent might be lost forever, now that I have acquired more of a East Coast one.