Sunday 17 December 2017

A letter from my heart to my friends who are thinking of emigrating

Claire O'Keeffe, herself a returned emigrant, speaks to some of the 5,000 young people planning to move abroad

MY dear friends, I know that lately you've been thinking hard about a future somewhere far from here and that you were among the 5,000 at the Working Abroad Expo over the weekend. I get the feeling you want to go, that you need to go; that your options are becoming increasingly limited here at home.

But I know too that you're torn. Don't be.

I too, left home and went abroad -- only for a year, but the experiences I had helped educated and shaped the person I am today.

Of course, I'd rather you didn't go, that you stayed and braved it out with me, but I can understand the weary rage bubbling away inside because of the decisions you are now faced with. The constant struggle for survival, the fear and uncertainty for the future has forced you to contemplate leaving your country behind.


It's a difficult situation but not uncommon. This is the reality of today -- but maybe it's not going to be terrible.

It is true that our Ireland is injured. We've been hit hard by economic hardship and it's not going to get better anytime soon. And your talents simply cannot, for the most part, be exploited to their full potential, certainly not in a way that would make you content in the way you want to be, the way you deserve to be. Be sure, Ireland will bounce back and we'll hold our chins high again ... some day ... but not now. So don't feel like you're deserting us. Instead, go.

Go and realise your potential.

If, indeed, your hopes lie far beyond the horizon, you should travel there and open the eyes of those who meet you, like those who have gone before you, as to how hard we can work, how good we can be and how great our ideas are.

Open your own eyes too -- and your hearts -- to all the opportunities that will present themselves. Harvest whatever new skills you can, whatever knowledge you can pick up that has made other countries great. You should do all this and then come home to us, if you can, bringing these gifts back with you.

We Irish are irreverent and curious souls and we have a way about us that is welcomed around the world, so just be yourself.

And remember who you are.

As you flag down a New York taxi or scan Sydney's cityscape, remember the green of the rolling mountains back home. Recall the happy bustle of the city on a Saturday afternoon or the chime of clinking glasses beside a roaring fire in your local. Find the time to savour the memory of laughing with friends and family over a Sunday roast. Keep these memories in your heart and someday you will return.

Find courage in the millions of others who went before you. Like you, they left out of necessity. Many of them left with little more than a bedroll, in more recent times a backpack, but filled with hope and expectation and the same apprehension you may well now feel as you face the possibility and decisions ahead.

So many have left legacies of absolute success behind them, as will you.

Be courageous and please come home when you can.

Enjoy the feeling of boundaries broken and challenges posed. Relish in discovering new and exotic sights and sounds. Entertain the idea that anything is possible. Become the best version of yourself. This is your opportunity.

Don't listen to the naysayers. And if things don't go well for a while when you get to where you're going, give it a chance. You are our brightest and best. Wherever you're going, they're lucky to have you.

It's a shame that we who remain here must live with the fact that we couldn't offer you the future you deserve at home.

But for all that, you'll always have a home here.

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