There’s no doubt about it. It made wake up and grow up. It made me responsible, angry, happy, disillusioned, excited and proud – sometimes all at once.
I first came to the city at 17, as a student. My first night was spent (where else?) in a bar, Hartigan’s on Leeson Street, where I drank pints of Guinness with fellow first year students at Trinity College.
Back then, in an era before a proliferation of coffee shops, restaurants and gyms, the pub still reigned supreme as Dublin’s social hub. Over the years that would change, and so would I.
As I prepare to leave (not for the first time but likely for the longest) a spate of memories occur to me daily – of events, places and people.
I can’t pass Trinity College without thinking of the May evenings, which seemed endless then, spent outside the Ussher Library on breaks while studying for final exams.Or the Phoenix Park without recalling the view over Kilmainham and along the Liffey, back to the city, that I’d encounter on mornings and afternoons when I’d jog around the Fifteen Acres and the Magazine Fort.
Or Talbot Street without remembering the 6am winter starts at the Evening Herald, where we worked furiously to get the first edition out by 9am.
Or, more recently, the long promenade running from The Sheds in Clontarf along the seafront to St Anne’s Park, as the sun shone over a high tide, across to Bull Island and the hill of Howth beyond.
More than 20 years after I first landed in Donagh MacDonagh’s “Dublin of old statutes, this arrogant city”, I’m departing. When I come back the city will have changed and I’ll be a stranger.
Or just more of a stranger, because the Dublin that I know is part 2016, part the emerging boomtown of 1995, part the battered crashtown of 2010 – and dozens of other towns in between.
I was never – and am still not – quite sure which Dublin I lived in, which one lifted me and knocked me and lifted me again. The city has always been an amalgam, of the here-and now and the conversations I had over the years, the work I did, the people I met.
I don’t know Dublin and I don’t know anyone who can claim they do. But I know this town made me.