Dublin, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

Since March, Fionnuala Jones has been working from home in Dublin but as rent prices keep climbing, she weighs up the pros and cons of staying put or moving back to her home county of Cork…

Under normal circumstances, I would like to think that I would be away sunning myself in some far off land or least be in the planning phase of said sunning. The global pandemic had other ideas and I am at home like so many others; eating, sleeping, working, repeating.

For the most part, I found lockdown to be a relatively pleasant experience. I didn’t have the slickest WFH station set up – my spine is in a toxic relationship with my couch – but I had a roof over my head and housemates who I adored. However, Murphy’s Law meant that a room became available in our house at the start of “these unprecedented times” and it’s been a struggle to fill it since.

Dublin is starting to frustrate me and a lot of other people too. Attending concerts as a teenager, I remember arriving in the city and falling almost instantly in love with the place. I don’t know what it was but there was just something that always pulled me back and made a full time life in my home county of Cork seem impossible. 

Fast forward and I’m here seven years. There was the initial homesickness at the start, the realisation that you don’t have to head home for the weekend and that you should find ways to occupy yourself in your scary new playground. But you fill yourself with friendships, pints and brunches, as I did, and suddenly this new place carries equal weight to the place where I learned how to walk.

The harsh reality of this is that it comes at a price. What I pay for a room on the northside of Dublin now would have been viewed as daylight robbery during my college years. In today’s world though, it’s cheap rent.

Given the difficulties with our revolving room, myself and my housemates considered going for somewhere smaller, to avoid this scenario happening again. Despite this supposedly being “the best time to look”, the same limitations are still there. It doesn’t look like living on my own or with my boyfriend will ever be an option. Having reacquainted myself with Daft, I find myself wanting to hurl my phone into traffic when I get property alerts. On one occasion, I legitimately got one for a house that met all our requirements – in Letterkenny. Lovely place, not sure I could face the daily commute though.

It’s a privilege to be able to afford to live somewhere like Dublin – unfortunately, that’s where the privileges begin and end. The city I saw on day trips doesn’t match up with the lived reality, and COVID has simply highlighted the problems in fluorescent Stabilo green. How can the traffic be as bad as ever when the majority are still working from home? How are hotels still being prioritised while people die in the streets? How is there NOWHERE to sit in the city centre?

I’ve spoken to friends who, after months of working from a table or bed, share my disillusionment. One is heading to Kerry to work remotely for a month while plotting a permanent escape. That’s when my own thoughts creep in; what’s stopping me from packing up and high-tailing it back to Cork, where I can be with my family for longer than the occasional broken weekend? Where I can pick blackcurrants in the garden with my dad and go on walks by the seafront with my sister and her dog? Where I won’t have to stash away hundreds of Euro every month, money that I’ll never see again in this lifetime? 

The thing is, I don’t want that either. I don’t want Dublin to be a place where I’m too scared to change the address on my bank account in fear that I’ll be booted out by goons at any moment. I want every day to be like the good days – on Dollymount Strand, attempting to restart your senses after a particularly heavy night; trialling my private dance moves in public on The George dance floor; giddily ordering corresponding brunch options with my boyfriend so that I can try everything.

Alas, if only it were that simple. While the think pieces and radio slots will continue to mull over the new working world, the point stands: I shouldn’t have to leave the city where I’ve built my life just because I can.

Photo by Diogo Palhais on Unsplash