Getting On With It: Lessons in Making A Life

One of the things that simultaneously aggravates and inspires me is the Irish notion of, “It’ll be grand”, of just getting on with it, and making do. It seems so casual and whimsical, but “getting on with it” has made them an incredibly resilient lot.

Despite (or maybe in spite of) the relatively recent excess of privilege that pervades Dublin, throughout this tiny island there is a social undercurrent that I find incredibly empowering. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had to be adaptable, and I’ve believed resilience to be one of my best traits. But, for whatever reason, I find the Irish notion of just getting on with, “it” (whatever “it” may be) admirable, if at times a bit maddening.

It’s simultaneously a way of saying, “Yeah, we’re rich now, but we’ve been poor before, and likely will be again”, and also of saying, “Yeah, times are tough, but they’ll turn. They always have.” But, as an American, it infuriates me to see the Irish simply settle for things (bureaucratic or otherwise) that could be handled more efficiently.

I find myself screaming inside, “How can 4 million people whose ancestors fought so long (and so often) for independence simply give in like this?” But, the longer I stay here, the more I see that that’s mostly about my Americanness.

Out of the polish of the big city, and away from the parts of our lives that have become routinized after four years, we recently got to see a different part of Ireland.

Stopping at a roadside tavern in the middle of the country we watched the local soap opera while the publican (a woman) prepared our roast holiday lunch, with chips of course.

Reading a bit of famine history written on the walls of the old pub, I began to realize how real, how visceral, the history books are to the people who live here. They don’t just, “know someone who knows someone lost I the famine”. Nearly all of them lost family members just a few generations back. They all know people who fled (whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason), or have reasons why they themselves couldn’t leave.

The writing of famine history sits under tasteful abstract paintings inspired by the famine and rendered by a local artist whose family had skin in the game and continues to make a go of it, in spite of the weather, the economy, and in spite of, well, everything.

As I stood in that pub, I listened to three men in the next room laughing, enjoying their lunch pints, and likely having lunch conversation #6b (with today’s laugh at O’Shaughnessy’s expense). And in that moment I realized that despite what we think of it, and all our foolish attempts to dress it up, life goes on, and, ultimately, the best we can do is get on with it.

Ireland has given me that.

Sure, it’ll be grand so.


Glenn K.
Dublin, February 2016

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

The Immigrant’s Guide to Hobbies and Activities: The Value of Getting Involved in Your New Home

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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11 Responses to Getting On With It: Lessons in Making A Life

  1. Lois Farley Shuford says:

    Another fine post, Glenn. I always look forward to what you have to say.

  2. Dan Price says:

    In spite of a proofreading error on the first word of this post, I always appreciate your posts. As I read this one, I realized something the fundamental about nature of your profession.
    I’m an engineer. We engineers do engineering. Whether we work on missile guidance systems, sports equipment, or children’s toys, the idea is the same; we use the basic principles of engineering to solve whatever problems we encounter in an effort to produce a better product. Most occupations are similar; builders build buildings without regard for how those buildings will be used; barbers cut peoples hair without much concern for whose hair they may be cutting; sales people sell things, whatever those “things” may be.
    I see writers differently. I don’t think of a writer as someone who writes and therefore needs something to write about; I see a writer as someone who has something to say and therefore takes up writing. Perhaps a better description of the craft would be “observer.” Observe the world and then share some perspective on that observation. How you use words and grammar to craft sentences is important, but the best writers are good observers. Thanks and keep at it.

  3. Seán says:

    Nice to have you Glenn and thanks for not leaving, we could do with more people like you – anyone who cares enough about a place to give out about it is showing some commitment to it – sure you’re one of us now 😉

  4. Robin Edmonds says:

    Thank you. Love he perspective. While entertaining, it’s informative and too the point. I haven’t explored past entries extensively so this question may have already been asked. When moving to a different region in the US, you can’t help but exchange views on allergies and pests (mosquitos, alligators, wild cats, bears, gnats). Ireland being a green country, is pollen/allergies a problem? Do you have to beware of rapid moose (joke)? Thnx from Maryland. I look forward to reading about hobbies in the emerald isles. I am a beginning SUP, enjoy hiking/walking, sailing, quilting (yep, that’s what I said) and love casual biking and these seem like a great match for that country for a visit, extended or otherwise.

    • Hi Robin,

      I’m glad you like the blog, and thanks for taking the time to post your questions?

      As for allergies, I’ve been more affected here than I was in the US, but I suspect tat’s down to individual variation. Everyone will react differently. That said, it doesn’t seem to be as big a thing over here. They sell Claritin (under a slightly altered name and packaging) and Zyrtec, but don’t have quite the ad blitz you see in the US.

      All of your hobbies are well supported here.

      Come on over.

  5. John Brown says:

    Hi Glenn , would you ever do a Ireland or America comparison as to the pros and cons of both countries , would be nice to hear your views as you lived in both.
    Im Irish but also a naturalised American citizen

    • John,

      Thanks for writing.

      Probably not.

      The thing I’ve discovered is that comparisons are not very useful or practical. There are simply too many variables to make anything like a “fair” comparison. That’s why I’ve avoided comparing Ireland to the U.S. Despite the misguided beliefs of many Irish who read my posts, I’ve never consciously done that. Because I’m from the U.S. they assume that any criticism of Ireland must be rooted in my egocentric American bias.

      Haha. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      There’s A LOT wrong with Ireland. There’s A LOT wrong with the U.S. Some of that is the same, some different. They are not better or worse, just different.


  6. Jenny says:

    Hi Glenn. I’ve just found your blog- I missed the whole ‘things I don’t like about ireland’ furore. I thought it a little facile but well-meant. In comparison, your excellent piece in the link above completely encapsulates the irony of the American Dream (money=happiness, capitalism=success). So although you might be ticked off at local level inadequacy, generally you have realised that living in a country with a social conscience is a better place. (Btw there’s a range of cat litter called ‘The Best Cat Litter in the World’ which could never be sued for misreprentation, available from Petworld or one of those superstore. Amazing stuff). I am an Irish citizen who returned her Morrison Visa to the US Embassy and received a thank you and permanent visa in return..Jenny

    • Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment.

      I have learned a few lessons since we moved here.

      I wouldn’t say the U.`s. has “no” social conscience. That’s mot quite accurate either. But it does seem to play a larger role here.

      And, I’m sorted on the cat stuff. I found Zoo Plus.


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