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Everything changes

Last update - Thursday, August 13, 2009, 01:46 By Tara Fannon

Even as mature, confident and experienced grown-ups, do we continue to be the product of our environment? I ask this question because I’ve noticed some changes in myself since living in Dublin. One might say that this is a given – it’s a completely different culture to the one I’m used to, after all.

From what I wear to how I interact with people, I’ve been undergoing a transformation. For example, there was a time when I loved wearing overalls. They were my thing. I wore them everywhere, and I was convinced that if I pinned a flower to the pocket or carried a sparkly clutch, then I was dressed up for a night out (needless to say my friends didn’t agree).
When I moved here, all four pairs of overalls came with me, and shortly after arriving my favourite pinstriped pair made their first – and final – appearance. I’m not sure if it was the awkward looks in my direction, or me seeing my reflection in a storefront window for what seemed like the first time, that persuaded me to ditch them for good.
But what about the changes that creep up on you slowly, like the ones that challenge your character? I’ve always been a gregarious type with no qualms about approaching people to get to know them better. At the same time, I don’t like the idea of anyone being left out, which has resulted in me making many wonderful friends over the years. I appreciate people and think it’s important that they know what’s special about them. But it’s these very aspects of my character that have been shaken since coming to Ireland. I never envisaged how difficult it would be to socialise here.
Suggesting a cup of coffee with someone you’ve chatted with at the gym, at work or at yoga class doesn’t really work here. Even telling another woman that you love her shoes because you really do (and because you’re trying to break the ice) is usually awkwardly received and done so without reciprocation. I’ve even tried the ‘friend of a friend’ route to meeting people, just in case the Irish are gun-shy about allowing strangers into their circles. Even that pretty much bombed. It has never been so hard for me to fit in.
As time ticks along with little to no validation, I’m beginning to lose confidence. I’ve gone from wondering what’s wrong with me to asking what’s wrong with them. Often when I see a group of women laughing, being silly and seeming like they really know one another, it makes me feel sad because I don’t have that here, despite all my trying, and it’s something that I don’t do well with not having.
I’ve noticed myself slowly adapting to the way things are done here, and abandoning those parts of myself that I considered to be special. I’ve given up on the idea of having that intimate group of girlfriends I can call on for advice, meet up with for brunch or invite over for dedicated chick-flick nights-in. If it hasn’t happened after six years, it probably won’t happen at all.

Living in Dublin has influenced how I act, how I interact with others and how I feel about myself. It has required an adjustment far beyond what I was prepared for – and far beyond what I’m comfortable with. In this I can say I’ve definitely become a product of my environment to some degree. But fingers crossed it’s only temporary.

Tara Fannon is a Sociology student at UCD. Her column appears fortnightly in Metro Éireann

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