Since I was a child, I always said I could never see myself living in Dublin; I thought it was a place that lacked any possibility of opportunities for aspiring young people. Going into my early 20s, I felt this even more than before. Catherine Prasifka wrote, “Dublin is not a place where people can comfortably exist,” and I resonated with her. The housing crisis and the cost of living are only two restraints young people face. Also, the fact that I willingly pay five euros for a vanilla cappuccino is delusional. On paper, Dublin is not made to be lived in by the younger generation — everything is against us. However, this week I had a moment where I questioned whether I truly believed this.
“I left him and found myself alone, stranded, and sad in a strange Scottish town.”
After meeting what I thought to be a nice boy when I visited Edinburgh last month, I talked to him for days, and when we both realised we liked each other — he came and visited Dublin. Wandering the streets I grew up in, I constantly told him how I “hate it here” and “can’t wait till I finish college so I can leave”. After a day that seemed too good to be true, I booked a flight to visit him in Edinburgh the following week. However, I arrived to meet a different person than in Dublin the previous week. It was obvious he only wanted me for one thing after I refused to sleep with him (at 10am, might I add). At this moment, I thought about a lyric by Taylor Swift: “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending”. I left him and found myself alone, stranded, and sad in a strange Scottish town.
I did what anyone would do: I cried and then rang my Mam. She also began to cry, and we decided that I should just come home instead of spending eight hours alone in Edinburgh. I booked the next flight and got a taxi to the airport. I have never appreciated the kindness of strangers more than the taxi man who took me to the airport, who watched me cry as I told him about the boy I liked being someone I never really knew. He listened to my plans to move to New York during the summer. He handed me tissues the entire journey. He assured me that love still exists in the world, recounting his heartache after his wife left him, and the hope that followed; he is now married to the love of his life at 57. He hugged me goodbye and told me he was glad he had met me. He restored my faith in humanity and men.
I felt the gaze of strangers as I cried hysterically while walking through Edinburgh airport. I boarded my flight and listened to Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers to drown out the thoughts of how I would never find love in such a loveless society. I browsed bookstores, hoping to cheer myself up by buying a new book. But I realised I wanted no memory of the trip and nothing more than to forget that it ever happened.
“…searching for romantic love will never compare to the comfort of the love that I feel from being at home.”
I opened my eyes as we began to land and looked out the window to see Dublin. The thought hit me that searching for romantic love will never compare to the comfort of the love that I feel from being at home. What I was looking for was for home to be a person, so when love had failed me, I felt as though I was untethered and the foundations of life had been uprooted beneath me. Now, returning to my physical home, I realised I was searching for something that will remain unchanged and will always await my return. For the first time in my 21 years, I realised the place from which I longed to flee was actually the place in which I belonged. It is my home, and it always will be.
Again, I started to cry as Wash by Bon Iver played. Despite feeling failed by love, it is the love we experience in different forms that helps us to realise love is not lost or hopeless. Rather than searching for a grand romantic love, it is the physical love for a place and the non-romantic connections that tie me to Dublin. It’s the love that surrounds us every day that heals you. I love it when people stand and watch buskers on Grafton Street during the day and the drunk people who stumble down singing horrifically at night. I love that my Nana breaks bread to feed the ducks in Stephens Green. I love College and especially the Lecky Upper, even if you can’t get a seat during exam season. I love seeing the weekly campus couture posts. I love Trinity FM. I even love the clueless tourist who stops me and asks to take their family photo on Front square. I love sitting on my friend’s balcony overlooking the city knowing that they will be in my life forever. I love the Pret on Dawson Street even if they don’t have the monthly subscription because it has held so many conversations over a needed coffee break. I love Dublin Barista School and the flat lids on their iced coffee.
I love Dublin in the rain and the sun. I love walking into a pub at Christmas and ordering Guinness. I love the silly little pantos with the staff wearing cute animal headbands because The Jungle Book was on. I love seeing people buy flowers from the stands off Grafton Street around Valentine’s Day. I love when people cycle around the city. I love Flannery’s — even if I lost my phone there, and it costs far too much for a double vodka dash. I love my Leap card. I love the Luas because I know that when I get off at Ranelagh, my best friend is only two minutes away. I love seeing people holding hands. I love that my family is here, always a shoulder to rest on after a long day. I love how my Mam makes me a cup of tea when I’m sad, and my Dad assures me that he will always love me, even when I make silly decisions to fly to another country for a boy.
I love how Dublin is a place full of history and culture, where everything has a purpose and meaning. I love the bullet holes in the columns of the GPO because it shows that there’s always something to believe is worth fighting for. I love walking the streets that I read about in Ulysses. I love that Eavan Boland lived here and that her poetry is why I study English. I love Country Girls by Edna O’Brien, and I love that Normal People is my guilty pleasure. I love how Irish students are getting represented in emerging Irish fiction. I love going to random book launches with my friends and getting drunk over free wine. I love the National Art Gallery because it has my favourite painting and I can see it whenever I want. I love the progression of Jack B. Yeats’ work.
“…no matter how far I tried to run from Dublin, I would always come back.”
Back on the plane, looking out the window, I knew that no matter how far I tried to run from Dublin, I would always come back. All the reasons I love living here, whether big or small, remind me that this is why I belong here. Yes, I’ll still complain about paying five euros for a coffee and say “cost of living crisis” when I notice something more expensive than usual. But this city gives me a sense of purpose that I don’t think I’ll ever find anywhere else. Life is not bad, and although bad things may happen, it does not mean we are incapable of loving life. And it’s not that I don’t ever want to experience love, but I no longer have to hope to find love in another person because I have so much love in a city that I am lucky enough to call my home.