If you have been following the news, you know we have a new President who isn’t well liked and is regarded in many ways, reprehensible. And, recently he made it tougher for the world to like him, by signing the executive order on immigration law and sending the nation in a protest spree.
Quite frankly, I am not politically savvy to make arguments and discuss details in an open blog, as I do not completely understand either side of the debate. May be it is a horrible plan and very much against the American values, or may be it isn’t any different than the plans Presidents before this one put forth. But it is clear, that this plan was not executed correctly which created chaos and confusion. It also put every Americans’ story front and center, as we all came from somewhere or our forefathers did. It didn’t matter if we came in legally or landed here on a boat, the event struck a chord within us. So obviously, the event reminded me of my own experiences as a gawky teenager who migrated here with her family.
My family was not a “refugee”, but my parents worked hard and stayed separated for five painful long years to give me the life I live today. My dad came here first and legally completed all of the paperworks in those five years, so we could join him. The long distance relationship took a toll. Obviously in the long run, the blood prevailed and we came together. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the distance created a never to be filled vacuum between each one of us. There are times we don’t understand where the other one is coming from.
These are minor struggles though, as the life we live in this country is far better than the one we did before. Things we take for granted today – air conditioner, unlimited supply of water and electricity, were luxury items for us. And most importantly, my brother and I today have what my parents worked hard for – opportunities…opportunities for proper and higher education, opportunities to make our own decisions, opportunities to vocalize our opinions, opportunities to choose, to vote, to live our lives the way we want. So, I do not for once take that for granted because it wasn’t easy for my parents to give it to us and it wasn’t easy for my brother and I to transition into.
Today, I am vastly different than that 16 year old who first landed in Pittsburgh to meet her father after five long years! The six months we stayed in Pittsburg were the TOUGHEST for us….no one looked or talked like us. We stood out like a sore thumb, and my brother and I had a tough time adjusting. Coming to the “land of opportunities” as a teenager was exciting until we landed here and faced the realities. It was hard to break in, make friends, talk to people, and do “normal” things that we took for granted previously. We had to start the social and school life from scratch. My parents had their own struggle as they worked hard to make ends meet, make sense of the new culture, and comfort their whining and culturally shocked teenagers; all the while putting effort in their own relationship after the long gap. What remained fundamental to them and to us, is that life here was going to be better…….we just had to ride through the tide…together…..as a family.
Today, I don’t feel any less “American” than a person who was born here. When I talk to people, I don’t remember that I am not from here….because I don’t think that’s relevant. I don’t think of the color of my skin….hair…eyes…because none of that matters to me. Technically, my feelings say the label of “immigrant” even gets blurry for me. I wasn’t born here and neither were my parents. But I am one of those oddballs who is stuck somewhere between the labels “a child of an immigrant” and “an immigrant” because I feel like I am neither but at the same time, I am both. I had no say on whether or not I wanted to move to the country. So technically, I am not the first generation immigrant in my family….but since I wasn’t born here, I am.
Any time someone asks me where I grew up, I say “Arlington” because that’s where I finished school and that’s where I feel like my “growing up” happened. I hadn’t learned to be resilient, be headstrong, be proud of my identity and learned to be me; before I moved here. So I tend to box my “growing up” days to the days I lived in Arlington with my parents.
It is one of the most beautiful thing about this country; people can land from any part of the world, and feel at home without any prerequisites. It is because we all came from somewhere, our roots have touches from other parts of the world but we all are deeply rooted here….together.
“All Americans have something lonely about them. I don’t know what the reason might be, except maybe that they’re all descended from immigrants.”
— Ryu Murakami, In the Miso Soup
Before I end my wandering thoughts, I want to share the 21 Most Powerful Things Ever Said About An Immigrant that was published by BuzzFeed. My favorite is #16, “All Americans have something lonely about them. I don’t know what the reason might be, except maybe that they’re all descended from immigrants”, because it speaks to every one of us and, resonates the core American values. If you can’t relate to being an immigrant, you may know of someone who does……..be it family, or a friend, or even a coworker. Which is probably why the current event has touched us. I hope that during this chaotic time, we continue to remember that America would not be the same without the influence of the numerous cultures that has come to this nation with the “immigrants”. And that, at the end of the day we all value the same things, “freedom and opportunities”. It doesn’t matter what side of the debate you are on, or what one person decides the new policy should be, at the end of the day we all are proud of what this nation stands for.
Until I wander again………