Michelle Kilgannon in Toronto

“Leaving Ireland was one of the hardest things I’ve done”

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Michelle Kilgannon calls County Sligo in the rainy North West of Ireland home. In November 2016, she relocated to Toronto, Ontario.

She earns her keep working as a Laboratory Analyst and is passionate about reading, music, current affairs, and bacon. In her spare time she likes to get out and see the sights and tries to experience new things often. 

In this article for the Moving2Canada Writers’ Community, she tells us about the challenges that accompanied her dream move to Canada.

Leaving Ireland was one of the hardest things I have done.

I left my job, my home, my family, and a future that seemed to be set out in front of me like it was on rails. I am lucky. I left by choice – because I wanted to live life and explore a new world.

Most people leave Ireland because they have no choice, they need work and stability. I just needed to live.

My life was fine in Ireland. I just didn’t feel ready to settle into a life that seemed to plan itself. I was in a stable job; I was even offered a permanent position before I left. I could see it all in front of me, the mortgage, the house, the family.

Michelle Kilgannon in Sligo

Michelle Kilgannon at home in Sligo.

But it was too soon, and I wasn’t ready. I imagine that would be quite annoying for someone who was forced to leave Ireland to hear, but everyone has their reasons, and those are mine.

The hardest thing about emigrating was leaving my mum behind. She thinks I will never return, and she’s probably right to worry. Lots of people leave and never come back. As Colm Tóibín wrote in Brooklyn, my body is here, but my heart is still at home in Ireland.

However, as time goes on I can feel myself becoming more a part of this foreign land. I find myself saying words that I would never say at home, “for sure”, and “eh” are slowly making their way into my vernacular. It’s in human nature to adapt to an environment, but I didn’t quite envisage myself adapting so successfully.

Sometimes I say “home”, but I’m not talking about the little cottage in Sligo, with the stunning view of the sea that would take your breath away. Instead, I am thinking of my apartment near Eglinton and Yonge where all my belongings are, where my partner lives, where I live and breathe and exist.

It almost feels like a betrayal. I am cheating on that little cottage where at this moment, daffodils are trying their best to stay upright in the squally weather of the Atlantic, where my brother bends his back under the bonnet of a car to fix things that don’t need fixing yet, where my father peers out the window with a trained eye to the life-giving sea to figure out just by looking if the tide is in or out, and where my mother drinks tea in my cup and thinks of me.

It breaks my heart every day that I left her, and it frightens me every day that my resolve to return weakens.

When I first arrived, I suffered from the dreaded home-sickness. An illness that only time can cure. I went through the motions every new immigrant does: get a SIN number, find a place to stay, find a job. I did all of these things in a kind of haze, and then one day I opened my eyes and realised I was living my life in Canada.

The new dream, thanks to Trump.

In my town, people emigrated to the US first and always, then Australia, then Dubai, now Canada. I am a member of the string of Irish people now calling Canada home.

I have faced struggles, most of them small. They are silly little things that somehow make you feel like you’re a million miles away.

You want a stamp? Oh, you need to go to the pharmacy down the road.

That item you want to buy costs $5 on the sticker. You need to add taxes, because it costs more at the checkout.

Worst of all, the absolute worst of all, is that you need to pay $2.50 to send a Christmas card home. That is not a gripe about the cost of it, but it was a moment of intense sadness for me at Christmas time to know that I needed to pay that much to send a card to my mum.

Michelle Kilgannon in Toronto

Michelle Kilgannon’s first snowy winter in Toronto.

Life here is better, there are more opportunities. The culture is undoubtedly different, but it’s refreshing to be in a place that is so diverse. I am a minority, but there are so many other minorities here. This city is made of minorities, and now I am a very small part of that.

I am living in a city that’s almost 50 times the size of the town I used to live in, with a population that is 130 times bigger.

By living here, statistically I have better employment opportunities, more free time, more money, and a longer life expectancy.

I am getting into art, and rock climbing. I can go skiing after a short drive north. I have more time to read and listen to music. And the bacon, oh my God, the bacon.

The air is dryer, meaning that as an asthmatic I find it easier to breathe. It’s easier to breathe in more ways than one.

Leaving Ireland was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I am worried that returning home might be harder.

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We’re building a community of writers, who want to share their insights on life as an emigrant. Email editor@moving2canada.com to learn more about the Moving2Canada Writers’ Community.

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