Like We Never Left (First Published in The Irish Times 18th Dec 2012)

On the 28th of December, a group of young Irish will meet in a Limerick bar a stone’s throw from the University from which they graduated in August 2011.
 This will be no chance encounter. A Facebook invite has taken the place of the Star of Bethlehem in this modern Christmas tale. We’ll come from near and far. Dublin and Edinburgh, London and Korea, even Clare.
 It will be more than a meeting of old friends, however. It will be one in the eye of the recession that for 364 days of the year keeps us apart.
In small groups we’ll arrive, seeking familiar faces in the crowded bar. The joy of reunion will be displayed in all its forms. Tears, laughter, hugs and pats on the back. We’re home.
 The warm glow felt after the first few pints will prompt the storytelling. Ten stories will be told at once, many which have already been told via Skype or Facebook, all of which mean more when told face-to-face.
At no point during the night will we forget friends half the world away. Friends who are spending their Christmas in the Far East, on Australian beaches, in Canadian cities. Our sorrow at their absence will ensure we are as aware of them as we would be were they there with us.
I’ll sit there smiling among my friends and inwardly I’ll wonder. What does 2013 have in store? Will I spend next Christmas half a world away from the homestead, or will I be one of the lucky ones in gainful employment within the confines of these shores?
I’ll shrug away these questions as I shrug on my jacket. There is a far more pressing matter at hand. Which bar next?
The night will hurtle toward its inevitable conclusion, and as closing time approaches it will be as though the last 16 months never happened. None of us have joined the rat race, the dole queue, or the masses leaving this country in search of a better life.

Morning will bring with it cold reality and hot tea. Friends will slip away from the hotel one by one. No goodbyes.. There is more promise in “see you later.” We can’t predict how 2013 will pan out, but we’ll content ourselves with the knowledge that we’ve ended 2012 in good company.

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