Immigration is a humbling experience. First, you and your life choices have to be assessed for suitability by a whole host of institutions – in an "is this person a good ingredient for the big American melting pot or is she likely to spoil the stew" kind of way – then one day you're officially home with multiple seals of approval rubber-stamped on your shell that show that yes, you are indeed a good egg.
I don't know what is most disconcerting about this new life of mine, a new life made possible by the love of a devoted husband. The Marrieds is an exclusive club neither of us thought we'd join because after a certain age – in our case late 30s, early 40s – all your peers are paired up. And yet here we are, still remarking daily on how amazing it is to have found that one person you love unconditionally and who loves you back the exact same way. We both had unusual childhoods so this is a discovery.
For the first time ever, home is no longer a concept but a reality with geographic coordinates. It is a country with a name, a country that sent me two official welcome letters. Acceptance in print, no less, and twice! In contrast, the country where I was born treated me as a foreigner from day one because of my last name, because I was – shock, horror! – a third generation immigrant. My parents would balk at this description which is nonetheless factually accurate. They would be ashamed and embarrassed even. Not me, because that would be an insult to the memory of our ancestors.
I left the country of my birth as soon as I could then hopscotched my way around the European Union, where you never really immigrate anywhere because being a EU citizen allows you to live and work in any other member country. To an American, the equivalent would be settling in any state, and to a Canadian, in any province, the one difference being there really is no common language in the EU. It makes moving around a lot harder than it seems.
Here in the United States, I have gone back to a life in English, a comfortably familiar life in a new landscape. Everything is similar yet different, turning every day into a subtle learning experience.
I can now look for a job, and this week I sent out my very first application. I was terrified because this is for a position that encompasses everything I love; terrified because I spent the last few years as an free range – independent – journalist battling red tape, dwindling budgets, and crushing editorial indifference; terrified because I am a 37 year-old applying for an entry level position, and I'm afraid of being laughed at for being prepared to start again from scratch. That's the curse of vocation for you.
Immigration is a humbling experience because it generally means starting anew. It is also final in my case, hence the title of this post which may in time also become the name of this blog. The hatching process from permanent resident to citizen will take me three years, which means I now have three years to learn America, three years to strengthen that sometimes too thin shell of mine, three years to become a productive and valuable member of a society that has, to date, mostly welcomed me with open arms.
Put simply, immigration is a freshly laid egg and as such, a little fragile and a little messy.
It also contains a new life.