Posted by The Reluctant Emigrant—Denise Hession in Features.

How many of us have thought over the years about how great a fresh start would be. A clean slate, a chance to start again in a neighbourhood, city and country. Well, a new start is the happy by-product of emigration.

Embedded in your community in Ireland, you’re a wife, mother, daughter, friend, lover (if lucky), you could be a nurse, the girl who works down in the chemist, a mechanical engineer or a teacher, but one thing is set, your place in your society. Your sense of identity is established since you were like, 5 and compounded every day of your life since. The car you drive, where you live and the school you choose to send your children to, all taint/tint the already established identity, making your image of yourself and indeed how others see you certain. You have proven yourself time and time again to be a reliable sandwich maker for the camogie matches, you’ve proven over the years to be a reliable friend and a sound neighbour, the kind we all like, the ones that keep to themselves unless there’s a problem and you’ve proven to yourself that you are a stand-up person in the community, you’re happy that the kids go to Gaelscoil, you have an AGA and you take the mobile in Clon for the second two weeks in July for past 12 years. Everything is perfect except sometimes you feel hemmed in, you dream of a fresh start.

Then you emigrate, leaving the Gaelscoil, the AGA and the mobile behind. But without the taint of car and house, you’re unsure exactly where to live in a city like Doha. Not being surrounded by the people that gives you as a person, purpose and position, you’re not sure what you are if you’re not just a daughter, friend, local nurse/receptionist. Suddenly you’re left with two roles, wife and mother, and these two roles alone seem a little light considering you were juggling eight roles at home! So there’s a void you try to fill, you look in the mirror and you decide what should go into that void. Bear in mind, that nobody knows you, so it can be anything. This is the chance to reinvent yourself, reincarnate as it were, in this world, rather than waiting for the next. It feels exciting, a time filled with promise, think Madonna, think Kevin McGreever, you always wondered what and who you could be if you weren’t so etched in society at home and this is the chance, the big chance to re-invent yourself.

The smarts ones finish the TEFL course they bought three years ago online and buy another course, Learn to be a swimming teacher in 8 hours—online. By the time they’re on the third/fourth posting they’re a recognised English and swimming teacher.

Now the problem with this concept is that on the first trip out from home, Mary doesn’t know this. She arrives in Doha and is so eager to establish a recognisable society that she can relate to, she ends up trying to create a similar life to what she had at home. So Mary leaves Ireland to start a new life in Doha, She starts by moving into a compound with other Irish people, she joins the Irish Society and gets the kids involved in GAA. Unqualified to work as a teacher, unable to teach swimming and unwilling to leave the kids with a nanny, occupation is limited school runs, grocery shopping and long afternoons by the pool, all seems perfect, but Mary is disappointed, her chance to re-invent herself and she’s created the same person again!!!

However, for every 9 Mary’s that foiled their fresh start there is always 1 Mary, that truly takes the opportunity to re-invent herself. She, becomes a special needs specialist, writes a weekly column for a reputable daily, teachers Irish dancing, becomes a copy-writer, works as a part-time actress for an Arabic film company, runs her own relocation company, becomes a yoga instructor. So when emigrating, be the Mary that re-invents herself and note: always be dubious of a swim teacher that isn’t on their first post.

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