In a sadly ironic turn of events, I had planned on "working from home" several times this year. My idea was to take at least four trips back to Ireland in order to spend a bit more time with my parents. I had even prepared a small home office space for myself when I was home in December 2019.
I wanted to spend more time with my family but I also wanted to address something that has been niggling at me for the past year or so. I turned 29 in October; I have spent nearly all of my twenties outside of Ireland. This. naturally, has been a very formative period in my life and I have begun to wonder what impact this has had on me as a person and how I see the world. How different of a person am I after all these years in Chile?
'Irishness' is a vague and fluid concept where stereotypes often come into play. Thankfully it also seems to be moving with the times as Ireland becomes more diverse and modern. As the years go by I sometimes wonder if part of my own 'Irishness' has been chipped away by all this time abroad.
In that sense, Christmas time has always seemed like an opportunity to “top up” that 'Irishness'. An intense two-week period where you are bombarded by emotions and clichés alike. This concentration of experiences is always reassuring; home is still there and it always will be. You may have changed but you are still very much Irish and you revel in the reaffirmation.
The events of this year have ripped away a degree of certainty from all of our lives. Each country has dealt with the pandemic differently. Chile’s initial success was quickly followed by more than 100 days in a very strict lockdown: 10pm curfew and 2 permits to leave your home PER WEEK and only for essential trips at that. Things have been relaxed over the past few months but we are now returning to weekend lockdowns in order to calm things down before the end of the year.
I dealt pretty well with the lockdown and the accompanying work stress until around September. Then my brain started to melt down on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, the arrival of summer and the return of freedom have alleviated the burnout symptoms. As the end of the year approaches there is nothing that I would rather do more than go home for Christmas. Ensconcing myself in familiar surroundings with friends and family would be the perfect remedy. Two weeks of unmitigated Irish Christmasness cleansing the spirit and recharging the batteries for another year. I have made it home for the last 4 Christmas periods in what is now a well established routine filled with all the important things:
But I am not going home for Christmas and if you are living abroad then you shouldn’t either. On the whole, Ireland seems to have done rather well in the fight against the virus. Our lockdowns have been effective, much more so than in Chile for example. In part I put this to the fact that we seem to all possess a healthy amount of common sense. My own parents would be particularly vulnerable and they have been carefully minding themselves all year as I am sure have many, many others.
I would imagine that the last thing the country needs is an influx of young visitors from all corners of the globe. I don’t care how many tests you do or how long you quarantine for, the likelihood is that people coming home for Christmas will bring cases of the virus with them. The draw of meeting friends and the raucous nature of Christmas antics will inevitably lead to an increase in cases. With the vaccine so close, it would be a shame to let things slip now.
Christmas can be a tough time for many. You might want to go home and your family might want you to come home. I am lucky enough to have people who I can spend the holidays with but I know that that may not be the case for everyone. It has been a hard year but this is hopefully the last hurdle. As soon as my parents get vaccinated, I will be booking flights. I suggest you do the same.