(Wrote this yesterday but saved it in draft instead of publishing it. Apologies dear readers. Befuddled mind.)
I had coffee this morning with a neighbour.
She’s recently returned to Ireland after living in USA, Germany and a few other places. She told me she was finding it hard to settle back in. People she used to know, and had kept in touch with over the years, didn’t seem to be making any effort to meet up with her.
I think she missed her old friends and was a bit lonely. She’d come back ‘home’ expecting to knit in with her old mates, and somehow that didn’t seem to be happening. She’d made efforts. She’d phoned people and tried to arrange to meet them, but there always seemed to be a reason why it couldn’t happen right now.
This reminded me of Brian with whom I used to be good friends throughout my youth. About ten years ago, after not having seen him for 20 years, we met up. We drank and played golf. I went back to the UK and we exchanged a few emails. Contact petered out. But when we moved to Ireland, I phoned him.
“Sorry, can’t meet this weekend, but leave it to me I’ll get back to you.” I’m still waiting.
The returning emmigrant comes with hopes.
Hope that someone will remember him.
Hope that someone will be pleased he’s back.
Hope that someone will want to see him.
The migrant is dimly aware that people have been getting on with their lives, without him as a presence. A nagging feeling that it’s been a much longer time than ever intended, a sense of being a bit of a stranger to the daily lives of folk at ‘home’.
Off the boat loaded with hope & expectation: “it’s great to be back” - uttered before any testing of the water.
Down the RyanAir steps with a spring: “it’s great to be back… when are you coming to dinner?” - imagining a host of invitations.
Instead, it’s not Christmas or a special birthday celebration. You are here to stay, and that means you haven’t a clue what lies behind the front door of everyday life. No one has a clue what you’re like these days: whether you’re an untrustworthy gossip, or an almighty bore, whether you simply don’t understand the basics that underpin modern social interaction in Ireland.
It’s changed. You’ve changed. Nostalgia is fine for fleeting visits but it means little when it comes to being fitted in to a busy & packed competitive life.
Too much has changed for comfort.
The returnee is the outsider. Watch out, he might be judging you. At least if he was from Afganistan, you’d know where he was coming from.
Is it any wonder the invitations to join the old gang don’t materialise.
You may have to serve a long induction and probationary period.