The Decision


The logic and understanding of the personality originate in the mind. They are products of the intellect. The higher order of logic and understanding capable of reflecting the soul comes from the heart. The creation of this higher order of logic therefore requires close attention to feelings – Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul.

Cognitive Bias Alert!

There is a phenomenon known as Cognitive Bias whereby, after we make a decision, we actively seek things that affirm it. We also avoid those that do not support it. The alternative is to face the dissonance of being wrong. This entire blog may be biased by this phenomenon.

The Reaction

The typical conversation when telling someone we were returning to Ireland went like this.

We’ve decided to go back to Ireland for good.


…followed by silence and a sympathetic looks as if someone has passed away.

So what made you decide that?

…followed by some guesses, either from the other person or me. We Irish can fill a silence.

Family? Kids?

I agree and add ‘It’s a gut decision. It’s just time.’

Emigrants want to understand because they empathise and are curious. Most others seek an explanation. And nobody can argue with a gut decision, even those
seeking logic. Because the truth is, the answer is neither short nor simple.

That Question

And I wonder about the question “What made you decide?” That is often the exact wording. Were we forced? Did the decision make us or did we make the decision? Does it even matter?

I prefer to believe we made the decision – just like changing job or moving house. This allows me to feel more in control. Decisions involving selection are typically based on logical pros and cons, gathered at a single point in time, assessed and decided. But this decision was different. We cannot even pinpoint the exact times the decision process started and ended. Having gone back over it with Anne-Marie – to present an accurate picture for this article – the decision seems to have emerged to us over time. In hindsight, an inexorable series of events, leading to here.

The Facts

Here is what we do agree on – in rough chronological order. Some points are brief because elaboration would be a separate article in itself – more suited to a time when I am ready.

  • Early 2000: We emigrate, for a year initially. From that moment – and I suspect this true of all emigrants – we develop a deep-rooted feeling that stays with us every day. Let’s call it the Emigrants Ache. I have yet to figure out what it is. Guilt? Homesickness? An absence of belonging? Maybe a combination of all three. Over time, I might understand myself enough to know what causes it. I hope that, what we lose by leaving Australia, is replaceable. What we lost leaving Ireland was not. I hope Emigrants Ache disappears. How ironic to have options creating a yearning that can never be satisfied. Once we embrace our new life, we suppress the Ache and push on. It’s easier when the sun shines. The Ache ebbs and flows but never disappears. Time does not heal it.
  • 2008: We start a family. Our Perspective changes.
  • 2010: We buy a dream house and make it a home. We think we will be there for a lifetime. We are settled. Possibly related, we live opposite a nursing home. Occasionally, rarely but again possibly significantly – I consider the rest of my life in Australia. Somewhat morbidly, I find myself considering dying in Australia. I cannot get my head around it. Despite beautiful family and friends in Sydney, it does not sit well.
  • Anne-Marie’s father, Oliver (a model human being to whom endless words would not do justice), falls sick. We think he will recover. I suggest London to be closer to family and as an adventure. We don’t pursue that option, (we think) due to logistics and timings that don’t line up. Perhaps events overtake us.
  • Our children begin to correct our diction. They are Australian.
  • Dec 26, 2013: Oliver passes away. Anne-Marie is relatively fortunate to spend quality time with Oliver prior to his passing. We participate in the funeral over Skype.
  • Early 2014: Anne-Marie has a conversation with an Italian colleague who, after hearing we lived in Sydney with three kids and most family in Ireland, looks at her deadpan and asks “what are you doing here?” It isn’t just the words. It is the look on her face. Anne-Marie must feel something deep down for it to impact her this way. She mulls over it awhile.
  • Later in 2014: Anne-Marie suggests to me that Ireland is a serious option. But – and I love her for this – she never subsequently pursues it. This is a decision both of us will make together.
  • Early 2015, we are discussing returning fairly seriously. We have flights booked for a holiday in mid-2015. I am doing what I do best – working through all the options, analysing the pros and cons. Sell up and go? Sell up and use the holiday to investigate? I chat with a friend. He tells me to “sit on it for a few months. The decision will make itself”. So we do. Kind of!
  • August 2015: Our holiday in Ireland is lovely, as always. Family, friends, weddings, sentimentality, emotion. Most of our life decisions are made in the car on the way to kid-free weddings – we can hear ourselves think. On the return journey we chat. I often play the role of facilitator in work but this time Anne-Marie takes it on. She listens and helps me decide. Decision made.

The Recurring Questions

Here are the three questions that recur in my mind at the exact time the decision becomes clear. The answer is obvious with the advantage of hindsight.

If we don’t return to Ireland, will we regret it in later life? A resounding Yes! The Ache had not left us over sixteen years and I don’t believe would have.

Can we make it work? Sure, why not. We’ve spent 16 years figuring things out ourselves. We can do this. But it’s not a guarantee (Mam!).

What if it doesn’t work? Then at least we tried. We grasped the nettle. We lived. We learned and we will deal with it. We will have no regrets. Just as we don’t regret our Australian chapter. Leaving is not a failure.

Internal Overcomes External

In the end, there was no choice. The answer became obvious. We just spent time figuring out the right questions to ask ourselves. During the entire process, we weighed up external factors including weather, jobs, finances and education. But in truth they were only relevant insofar as they either enable or prevent our ability to choose. The external factors allowed us to choose. But they were also irrelevant to the choice itself. They became background noise to the internal voice guiding us.
The final ingredient enabling the choice was our faith in one another to figure things out. And everyone has that right?

Final Thoughts

I am grateful every day for having the choice we had in a world where people flee countries just to survive. It may seem that the decision was made for us because it was neither intellect nor our logic that determined it. But I believe it’s the opposite. We dived deep inside of ourselves to reach it. It was an intuitive leap of faith. I wouldn’t say it was effortless – but it was inexorable. We listened, we took time and it came to us. That’s how intuition works.
Ultimately we listen to our lives, to our innate wisdom and to our heart. I trust the decisions of my heart more than those of my head. I have rarely regretted decisions of my heart. Maybe it’s because, our intellect evolved by design to survive, but our heart has always been about living and loving. Both work in tandem. We made this decision with our heart. Then we planned and executed the shit out of it using our head.

Coming soon… some more post-decision justification, reactions and conversations we had with expats, as well as the first weeks settling in.

7 thoughts on “The Decision

  1. Elaine Reply

    Very well written James. Excited to read the next installment.

  2. Triona Quinlan Reply

    What a beautifully written piece. It has given me much food for thought. Well done James.

  3. Col Reply

    Mate, very best wishes to yourself and Anne-Marie for your return home. The time here has really flown. CB

  4. Linda Moloney Reply

    You write very well James. Love thought provoking literary pieces.

  5. Steve Reply

    Hi James, my sister and her family are about to embark on the exact same journey. They have lived in Sydney for the past 16 years also and are now returning to Ireland. I have passed this onto them. A great read, best of luck for the future from Steve from Cobh

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