I think identity is a personal thing. How you identify isn’t really up to anyone else (though they certainly like to judge). My identity has been defined by a few things; my family, upbringing, travels and experiences. It’s also been defined by something my lecturer once said.
When I was 18 I got my Irish citizenship, thanks to my Grandpa. His family came out on a boat to Australia when he was 2, from a town called Kilrush on the west coast of Ireland.
In 2007, I decided to visit his birthplace and meet my Irish relatives. It was an amazing experience. The family, my family –made me feel like a long lost cousin (which I kinda was). I stayed with them at the family dairy farm, watched my cousin exercise his greyhounds, drove around town, went to watch football at the pub, went clubbing and went to church (which I don’t do here. Ever). I felt overwhelmed at the generosity they showed me, especially since I’d never met any of them before.
After I left my family, I spent a month travelling the country with one of my Aussie cousins. I went to the North – Belfast, Derry, the Giant’s Causeway, saw the Bloody Sunday Murals and Carrick-a-Rede Bridge. I hung around Dublin, went to Trinity College and saw the book of Kells, went to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery and stayed in Temple Bar. I did a 6-day Paddywagon tour (recommended!), which started in Dublin and ended in Dublin – on St Patrick’s Day. Awesome, awesome, awesome. We drove the Ring of Kerry, went to the Burren, Galway, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, went on a horse and carriage in Killarney National Park, kissed the Blarney stone and went to the Guinness brewery. The whole trip was incredible, one I won’t ever forget.
It was also an identity shake up for me, to meet my family in Ireland and have all these incredible experiences – kind of made me unable to ignore my ‘Irishness’. Not that I’d actively tried to do so, it was just something so far removed from my everyday life as a teenager in Australia that I didn’t really think about it. But going there, seeing my family, made me think ‘wow, this fits too’. I want to bottle this and keep it with me always – this ‘Irishness’.
Over the last few years, I’ve thought a bit about my identity – as Australian, as Irish, as a Queenslander, as a Tasmanian. My lecturers’ message is always in the back of my thoughts – I am allowed to identify as all these things and still be ‘authentic’. Between my lecturer’s comments and the epic identity search of 2007-2012, I found that I’m a bit of an eclectic mix, but I still have an identity – ‘Me’. Just because it’s made up of lots of different parts (that change all the time) doesn’t make it any less real.