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Abhaile 2024 sought to bring together members of the Irish diaspora from across the globe to contemplate contemporary return migration. The conference, dedicated to addressing the challenges and opportunities for those considering a return to Ireland, was filled with insightful sessions, engaging discussions, and practical resources on all things returning to Ireland. As no Irish gathering would be complete without paying homage to Ireland’s rich cultural tradition, Abhaile culminated in a moving spoken word piece by the talented Karl Byrne, titled ‘Returning Home.’

Karl Byrne, who returned to his native Bray, County Wicklow after over seven years in the UK, took the virtual stage Friday to deliver a piece that beautifully encapsulated the essence of the conference. His spoken word poem, ‘Returning Home,’ was originally performed at Seanoiche and captures the complex (oft conflicting) emotions of leaving, longing, and ultimately, the joyful nostalgia of coming back to one’s roots inherent to the question of where one calls home.

A member of Back for Business‘s 2018 class, Karl references ‘network connectivity issues’ in his piece, calling upon his passion for UX and coinciding perfectly with Abhaile 2024’s final panel which also aired Friday, Back for Business. In reflecting upon his professional transition with Back for Business, Karl hit upon a common theme for returnees of unexpected turns on the path home: “I found the experience really helpful at that early transition time and much good came from it. Although I didn’t end up pursuing that business idea, the ethos of what I was working on has carried through much of my studies to this day.”

We at Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project are so grateful to Karl for sharing with the global Irish community – we hope it resonates with you as much as it does with us.

A Note from Karl

Hi folks,

I hope you enjoyed Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project’s Abhaile conference and that you found it helpful on your journey back to Ireland. I’m very grateful to be part of this closing session. 

Karl is my name, and as someone who lived abroad for a number of years, I wanted to share some of my experience of returning to Ireland.

There’s a pull of home, but also reasons why many of us leave, so a strong tension can exist between the two. Returning not only to my hometown, but also my family home (and although grateful to have these options) it naturally presented its own set of challenges. 

Not to mention a certain virus that came along in between too and threw everything up in the air. 

So this is a spoken word piece that I wrote to capture that experience, that particular period of time. Possibly because there’s a strong reflective and nostalgic element to it, I ended up weaving in lots of pop culture references, particular from the 80s and 90s. I hope they’re not too obscure. 

I do have to say that many things have improved since writing this. There are still challenges of course but also many opportunities and much to be grateful for. 

Hope you enjoy, thanks

Returning Home

By Karl Byrne

There’s no fanfare

No confetti

No victory lap glory day Mario Andretti

No Ferris Bueller parade with the leopard skin waistcoat all sweaty

The question is

Do folks even know you’ve been gone for all these years

Your worst fears

Not being forgotten or not being remembered

Click here to reset your password

Time and space getting blurred

Into one another, into the absurd

The reality is

No one is waiting for you to move on with their lives

I know that sounds contrived

So what am I trying to revive?

As I open up that dusty archive

Into a quasi-reality nose dive

And fragments of an old life pour out overdrive

Memories just come up and slap you in the face

Jostling for attention, to replace

The present moment copy-paste

Control C Control V

Lack of control, ah woe is me

Slowly transitioning back across that Irish Sea

I spent so much time, so much energy

Deliberating about where I wanted to be

Long walks by the sea

Long walks on the prom with my sis

Talking about all the things I missed

So much to embrace, yet so much to resist

Push and pull factors fighting on top of the list

Hard to see a future in either to exist

That’s not somehow obscured by mist

But events came to a head

And a decision had to be made

Next step on the journey post decade

So here I am

Pretending like I have a life

Making a start and playing the part

But not whole heart

Like Descartes

Things fall apart

At the roots or at the seams

This recurring theme

Of trying to build a life while on the train in a scene

Like Buster Keaton clearing sleepers from the tracks in my dreams

What does it all mean

When you’re playing the stunt man in a film on screen

Playing someone else’s character, seen yet unseen

Like Marty McFly disappearing from the photo at seventeen

All is just not quite what it seems

Doc you gotta help me, find a way, intervene

Coz I’m about to Edvard Munch on a painting as a scream

I’m about to get trapped in the space in-between

My life drawn on a canvas, what’s real, green screen

Lost in time, a machine

Delorean, Mezzanine

 

Inertia starts to creep

What the hell am I doing here, black sheep

Stepped in too deep

That should I wade no more faith seeps

To return as tedious as go over, too steep

Struggling with sleep

The balm for hurt minds that weep

Counting 478’s, no sheep

But cogito ergo sum

Doesn’t always add up

When the I questions me questions self in rhyme

Somehow existing and not at the same time

A dead ringer for Schrodinger

Singer

Do you have to let it linger?

Starting to realise

Just how much I compartmentalise

My so called life

Into separate chunks

Primary. Drafts. Junk

From bento box to bed bunk

Daft Punk to G-funk

But I don’t really know Thelonius Monk

All around me the kids, honey I shrunk

No fatherhood yet, but my costs sunk

Fallacy, where rhythm is life

And life is hidden

Behind a glass wall, access forbidden

 

You see it’s the wider context that’s so desperately lacking

I’m having network connectivity problems and it’s nerve-wracking

Servers overheating lights blinking and blacking

Living in a type of hoover, sucked in so vacking

Ever the outsider through undergrowth hacking

Shame sitting on guilt piggybacking

Where’s the Wallace to my Gromit what’s cracking

Want to turn and go back

But go back to what?

That life doesn’t exist

And I can’t shake the feeling

That a big deal for me

Is just something small in someone else’s life

My paragraph their line

Wait a sec

Incoming call, accept-decline

Choice is mine

Look it’s fine

Opportunities there, don’t whine

Or resign (yourself)

To a syndrome

Shifting baseline

System endocrine

Adrenal saw the sign

Don’t drink grapevine

Buttered oat breadline

Still space sublime

Getting closer keep climb

Fin

About Karl Byrne

Karl Byrne. Photo by Richard Hogan.

Karl Byrne is a returned Irish emigrant from the UK. In his own words:

A reluctant generalist. Along with a love for spending countless hours crafting & learning spoken word pieces, I’m a big believer in the power of design. 

Having most recently moved into digital design and UX, I then returned to education in 2020 (after a long gap) to study design thinking and sustainability, two of the things I’m most interested in. Since then I’ve invested most of my time & energy in that space. 

I’m particularly interested in the role that design and storytelling has in helping to address big global issues, such as climate change and nature restoration. As such, I’ve been steadily focused on trying to weave these strands together (along with some sustainable finance thrown in for good measure). 

I’m also very passionate about the benefits of getting out in nature (particularly around County Wicklow), and in community building in outdoor spaces. This comes about through attending & organising events involving physical activities (including movement, yoga, running, hiking, and sea swimming).

If I had a cheesy tagline it would go something like- healthy thriving ecosystems help to support healthy thriving people. 

If you’d like to find out more, you can reach me on any of the following; 

You can find me on LinkedIn here  

On Instagram you can catch me here  

My website is www.showyourroughwork.com   

And for outdoor community events on Eventbrite here 

Abhaile Resources

Thanks a million to all who took part in our inaugural returning to Ireland conference. We hope you found it useful on your journey. You can watch back the panels from this year’s conference on our YouTube channel.

Our dream is for #Abhaile2024 to ignite the conversation on contemporary return migration to Ireland. You can find information on returning to Ireland here on our website. If you need support or simply want to share your thoughts, please contact us here or by emailing irishdiasporasupport@crosscare.ie.

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