“whiskey in the jar” – thin lizzy (1972)


Two days ago, I was finishing up a pretty standard day at work.  I had just left a meeting with my boss to discuss arranging some upcoming travel for him.  It was around 4 PM when I returned to my desk and received an email about a package shipment.  It took me a few seconds to think about why I would receive this notification.  Recently, I made a purchase on Amazon but that would result in the email I just received.  I then noticed that the package was being delivered overnight via FedEx.  Amazon typically doesn’t send me packages via FedEx and I wasn’t expecting anything else.  However, when I read through the notification and saw that the sender was the General Consulate of Ireland, it dawned on me, my eyes went wide open, and I uttered “holy shit.”

The email was to alert me I would be receiving the results of my citizenship application I submitted March 2016.  I had finished the application during the weekend Chicago held their annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  Typically, I go down to the Chicago River and watch it get dyed green. I would have to miss it.  I had a full day’s work ahead of me going through documents, getting appropriate forms and letters notarized, filling out the final application.  I scheduled myself to do a volunteer shift at the Old Town School of Folk Music where it would be quiet, peaceful, and I would have access to a photocopier.  While everyone else was day drinking green beer, I was carefully and meticulously putting all the pieces of this citizenship puzzle together.

When Monday came around, I neatly organized all the application contents, purchased a money order that really hurt wallet (bye bye annual bonus), and visited the post office.  I had recently learned that it would be a while before my application would be reviewed.  It was March 2016 and the Consulate General of Ireland in Chicago was up to 14 months behind schedule while their counterparts in San Francisco and Boston were on schedule.  However, due to geographic proximity, I was represented by the Chicago office and would have to wait as late as summer 2017.  Once I handed over my priority mail envelop over to the postal clerk, all I had to do was wait.

Getting my dual citizenship with Ireland was several years in the making.  I talked about it with friends for so long that it seemed to be a distant unachievable fantasy and they were all humoring me.  I had always wanted to get it before I did, but circumstances surrounding my application were a bit more difficult than normal.

It was around 2010 that I started entertaining the idea of looking into the process in obtaining dual citizenship with Ireland.  My mother had a coworker who recently acquired his.  However, for a 22-year-old kid fresh out of college, I didn’t think too hard about it at the time.  I had other priorities.  I wanted to get my life together and make that transition into real adulthood.  The kind of life where you make your own way.  So, my energy, time, and money was directed towards leaving Alaska for Chicago and finding a job.

I’ve talked about my move to Chicago several times in this blog before, so there’s no need to do it again.  But the takeaways during this time were that I didn’t work and bring in income my first five months in Chicago, eventually landed a job that was too time consuming and soul crushing, and spent the next three years focusing on maintaining physical and mental stability my job threatened.  All that and saving money, of course, after such a big move and living on my own for the first time.

I didn’t start thinking about the citizenship application process until 2014.  That was a financially rough year.  I was unemployed for four months after leaving my awful job, but then I found work at a new place that seemed promising.  This new job was better in almost every way except pay.  I took a huge cut.  Though, there were developments that helped with that.  I had recently moved in with my girlfriend at the time and that took off undue financial stress that comes with living alone.

During this time, I reviewed the application process again.  The consular fees had recent increased (damn it), but I needed to take it one day at a time.  Before I would even touch the application, I had to acquire necessary documents.  I had my standard long form birth certificate, but I had to obtain various documents regarding my mother and grandparents.  This took some doing.

There were two challenges during this time while acquiring documents.  The first was money.  I had paid the appropriate agencies the appropriate fees for some of the documents while my mother covered some others.  There were some challenges with this that occur whenever people need to borrow money, but we worked through it.

The second challenge concerned the health of my grandmother.  Over the past few years, her mental and physical health has been on the decline and my grandfather has been working hard to care for her.  My dual citizenship application was being filed as a Foreign Birth registered through Irish grandparents.  In short, this means I had to connect myself to them with various documents tracking and confirming lineage.  Given the medical situation, it would have been inappropriate to burden them to locate documents they may not have.

So, this required some extra work.  My mother was adopted.  What we did know was that her biological parents were also Irish.  In the year prior, she had taken steps to investigate the identity of her biological parents.  I’m sure that wasn’t an easy endeavor for emotional reasons, but it provided a lot of answers.  IT was big step she had taken that benefitted me in my dual citizenship application.  The information she received were essential in getting the required documents for my application.  It added extra steps and required more money, but it a necessary step for a lot of reasons.

Finally, by August 2014, I had all the paperwork needed to begin the application process.  It felt good knowing I could just fill out a few more forms, get some things notarized, and finally mail them off.  However, September 2014, I received word from my company’s human resources department that my office was closing and I would soon be unemployed.  Again.  So, my citizenship application would have to wait.

During the fall and winter of 2014, I held a couple of temp jobs.  If you’ve never held a temp job before, consider yourself lucky.  They suck.  You’re extremely underpaid, ineligible for benefits, and overcome with stress because you don’t have a job that is considered stable permanent employment.  Yeah, you’re making enough to get by until something better comes.  But, you don’t know when that is.  And if you’re living alone without a spouse or partner to help share financial burdens, it is even tougher to make it on your own.

When one temp job would end, another would begin.  At the end of January 2015, I would land a temp job that would become permanent in May.  I was so happy to no longer be a temp.  I had it all now!  Medical insurance! 401K! Paid vacation days!  All those thing a lot of professionals take for granted were so amazing to me because I didn’t have them for such a long time.  Plus, I was getting paid $5 more per hour as a real permanent employee with the company I previously temped for.  That’s a big deal.  I had so many things I wanted to do that I missed out on as a temp, but those had to wait a little longer.  I would have to work hard, pull overtime, and save money throughout the rest of 2015 to get myself into a better place.

2015 flew by.  When 2016 hit, it was time to consider how I can reap the benefits of my work.  A family vacation in April was on the horizon and I was also entertaining the idea of doing some travel outside of the country.  However, this was also the perfect moment to finally, once and for all, finish this damn citizenship application.  I waited until March when I got my annual company bonus and then dropped a cool $351 on a money order to include with my application, paid the shipping fees, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was all done and I would just have to wait for the results.

I wasn’t expecting my application to be finalized until May.  So, it was a pleasant surprise that I received my citizenship confirmation on February 2nd.  It had been such a long journey to get that I thought it would never happen.  But, it is here and I can enjoy it after so much time and effort.

Thin Lizzy was a rock band that formed in Dublin during 1969.  These Irish blues rock giants would eventually go on to have an amazing career with songs like “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town.”  However, in 1972, they recorded “Whiskey in the Jar,” a traditional Irish ballad, as a single for Decca.  Allegedly about the death of an Irish traveler in 1650, the ballad is believed to have originated in sometime after that in the 17th century.  The ballad is about a man who robs an official of some sort and it betrayed by his sweetheart.  Like all great folk songs, the oral traditions give way to various interpretations over the years.  It becomes difficult to keep certain details consistent.

The most famous version of the song is from the Dubliners released in 1968.  And, frankly, that is my favorite version as well.  However, the Thin Lizzy version is a little more rockin’.  This a moment of celebration for me and I need more energy.  Their version of this traditional Irish ballad adds soulful elements that are catchy.  While the band hated the release of this song because they felt it didn’t capture their sound authentically enough, it was a hit for them regardless.

Now that I have my dual citizenship with Ireland, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.  But, it is good to have.  Just like before when I was trying to get it, I have to take things one day at a time now that I have it.  For now, I’m just considering what I want to do to celebrate.  St. Patrick’s Day is coming up.  Just in time!


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