How are you settling in?
This is a question that I love and hate to be asked. I love it because I know that the people who ask are truly being kind. I hate it because I never know how to answer it. What if I am having a bad day and feel that I will never be truly a part of this place I call home? Do I tell people or do I just smile and say “I am settling in well. I’m grand!”?
The hardest part of moving to rural Ireland is that here everyone knows everyone, what they are doing nearly before it has been done, and who their people are going back generations. I never knew how much of my confidence came from knowing my purpose in my community and feeling like I honestly belonged. In the States I had “a slot” I fit into. I was daughter, sister, wife, best friend, nurse and Mum. Initially upon moving to Donegal I felt lost while trying to find where I belonged. The first six months were quite hard for me. More than once you could have found me crying alone in my car where noone could find me. I missed being the one people called not out of kindness but because I was needed / wanted. Ronan’s family were/are wonderful but they couldn’t be and shouldn’t be responsible for my fitting in. The task ahead of me was (and still is) to find my true self in Donegal.
Luckily I had comitted to my husband and children that we would stay on for at least two years. Why was this lucky you may ask. The reason is that because I knew I didn’t have a quick escape clause, I had to make things work even if it was only for the two years.
To be fair I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Our local airport, Donegal Airport, has recently been voted the most scenic approaches in the world and National Geographic Travel named us the top of their cool list in 2016. There isn’t a lack of beautiful locales, festivals, and restaurants; you just have to be willing to have a go.
If you find youself in Donegal you will be surrounded by some of the soundest people you could meet. If you put yourself out there, there are a lot of things in which you can be involved. The hard part is to have the confidence to go out and do this when you are still finding your way. I had to “fake it before you make it” while trying to make friends. Signing up for clubs and activities that I would never have done in my pre-Irish life.
Myself and one of my best buddies, Marie G., after a cross country 5k training run. She is a life line for me.
Myself and Ronan did go out of our comfort zone and started running and cycling with the local sporty types and clubs and our health is better for it. Surprisingly despite the fact that we did these activities at first a bit begrudgingly they are now a part of who we are. Not only because of the love of sport but also for the people who are now a positive part of our lives. If you knew us back in the States, you would hardly recognise us with our level of fitness and energy levels. We are by no means Olympians but we are healthy and happy.
The two of us also learned to play the fife (we put the local feral cat population to shame while we were learning 😀 ). Putting in the practice was well worth the effort when we joined the local fife and drum band marching and playing alongside them at the NYC St Patrick’s day parade this past March. What happened in NYC stayed in NYC 😀 but needless to say it was a fabulous trip that helped forge stronger bonds of friendships with our bandmates. It truly is as if we have found family (well half of them happen to be cousins of sorts of Ronan anyway but that’s beside the point) in athletics and music.
Myself and my friend, Deirdre S., waiting to line up to march on Fifth avenue NYC. It was a trip of a lifetime.
The truth is to settle into a diferent culture is not an easy process. There are days still where it is still tough 3 1/2 years on but those days are getting fewer and with longer stretches between. I can’t expect to fit in as snugly into a community as well in that short time as I did where I grew up and lived for 43 years but surely I can make an effort to keep moving in that direction.
I am embracing both where I grew up and where my home is now. Up the Rosses and Maryland!