Photo courtesy of the “We’re Not Leaving” campaign.
SINCE 2008, Ireland has watched more than 200,000 people emigrate, of which a massive proportion has been those under 25. Last year, 1,000 people emigrated every week – around half of these were under 25. These figures are not pointing to a new lifestyle choice, but the obliteration of an entire generation.
A study conducted by UCC and the Department of Geography earlier this year showed that around 80 per cent of the people who left recently were under 35 years of age, that 62 per cent had a tertiary qualification of three years or more, and almost half left full time jobs.
Up until now it seems as though this generation has been relatively silent. But now – whether because of the recent changes in state support or the assumed label of the ‘lost generation’ – something has woken up the youth of Ireland.
An organised voice has come together in the shape of the ‘We’re Not Leaving’ campaign, whose motto boasts:
‘We’re students, precarious workers, the young unemployed and combinations of all three. We’re angry and we’re not leaving.’
The first ‘We’re Not Leaving – Young People’s Assembly’ took place in Dublin on the 9th of November, at which a charter was decided upon that outlines the issues on which the group are building their campaign against forced emigration. This provides us with the proof that the young people of Ireland aren’t all awaiting a golden ticket out of here…
I stand here in my soul destroying part-time job and wonder what it’s all about? Why struggle and work tirelessly toward something you quite frankly may never achieve? Why do some people have so much ambition while so many others seem to settle? Or are they forced to settle?
I fall into the first category – I have big ambitions and hope for my life. I have to. I’m not sure I could go through daily life without that. I have a fear of the mundane, repetitive lifestyle that so many people seem satisfied with. I find myself asking why, though? Why do I strive to succeed? Even in the smallest aspects of my life.
What is it that has me genuinely believing ‘you can do this’? As a child my parents always held me in high regard – on my pedestal. An only daughter after four sons I was immediately deemed special in their eyes. I was my mother’s doll and my father’s sidekick. I was a dancer – a champion. Success was my only option from a young age; I was a silent sore loser. I never had a hissy fit when I lost but inside I was devastated. Some losses would knock me more than others but I always came back fighting. And to this day I still apply the same attitude to life.
Now I haven’t done anything truly noteworthy in my life (yet). I haven’t won a Nobel Prize or saved a life. I don’t really even give a substantial amount to charity. In that regard my ambitions seem selfish. I have always had the utmost admiration and respect for those who dedicate their lives to helping others. I would hope that someday something I write will touch someone on the same level it came from within me. I would deem that a success – at this point in my career I would deem anyone even reading this a success, to be honest!
Why am I even bothering to write this? Is it to pass time in work? Or maybe to waste some receipt paper so I will have to go and get more, which would pass a bit more time? While on the scale of my work day I would view that as a little victory – no.
I write because this is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life. Despite all the obstacles I face now, and I know I will undoubtedly face in the future; this is still all I want to do. That being said I do know dreams aren’t always the viable option. Sometimes life intervenes and you have to take the job just to pay bills and rent. I’ve had to do it. We all may have to at some point. That’s life today.
I find it unsettling the amount of talented, skilled people wasting away in ‘essentialist’ jobs just so they can get by, because society no longer allows for their talents to be an option. It’s almost as if society has killed ambition.
What happens when the most gifted and talented people aren’t the wealthiest? Or when the only voices that can be heard are of those who could afford the microphone?
It scares me to think that following my dreams has pretty much robbed my family, as well as bleeding myself dry of every cent possible to pay for college fees, rent, bills and even food (if you have ever wondered how to do a fortnight’s food shop on a budget of €9.87, get on to me!).
It terrifies me that the money I am spending to educate myself will be a long time coming back after I graduate. I know I will more than likely struggle. I also know that if I had stayed working in the shop I worked in while I was in school I could have worked my way up and been very comfortable financially by now, like some of my former colleagues. But I wouldn’t be happy.
Budget and funding cuts, lower wages, higher rent, extra bills and fewer jobs are making things difficult, or next to impossible, at the minute but I am still here and I know I am not alone in that. I am still struggling on, one word at a time.
I have sincere faith in the belief that in the past five years we have lost too much talent to shores abroad and it’s our own fault to an extent.
I thought about it – emigration – but no. Why should I leave? Ireland is my home; everything and everyone I love is here. I will continue to struggle on and do whatever it takes to get one mile further down my career path. I’m not leaving.