It is not easy to leave a life you to which you have grown accustomed. It’s comfortable, familiar and warm. So, why did we choose to fly halfway across the world to a new place where we would need to start from zero, work extra hard to be accepted, and learn to embrace the cold? Well, some may be fleeing wars, famine or oppressive conditions. Others move because they need better paying jobs, clean air, or a better environment. There could be a multitude of reasons but it all boils down to our desire to have a better life for ourselves and our children.
So for the moment, let me set aside my worries and rave about my new situation and my new home. Allow me to share with you the top five things I love about being an immigrant:
Tell me, the first time you experienced snow, did you stick out your tongue to taste it? Well, I did. And I felt foolish and exhilarated at the same time!
Your sense of awe is activated
You can be a totally new person
You are shaken out of complacency
You develop a new appreciation for your home country
You appreciate your strengths more
When you move to a new country, you observe everything closely and with great interest, trying to decipher a pattern or decode some meaning. Things like food, the ways people talk and interact are major categories that you have an inbox for in your head to sort bits and pieces of data every day.
Just like a child, even the simplest things cause wonder (“Wow, I didn’t know that they had that here! “Oh, so that’s the way they do it.”). And somehow you feel more alive because you are experiencing new things. Tell me, the first time you experienced snow, did you stick out your tongue to taste it? Well, I did. And I felt foolish and exhilarated at the same time!
Not everyone is given a chance to reboot and live their lives in a totally new way. When you’re an immigrant, you have the luxury of choosing a new path, maybe a new career, style of clothing, even a new perspective in life. Most of the people who know you aren’t here to keep you in check or mock you about your new choices. You get a chance to leave baggage from the past and start your life anew.
If you’ve lived all your life in a certain place, you start to take many things for granted. You go about each day the same way. At a certain point, you become satisfied with the status quo. In this comfort zone, the danger is that you don’t strive for anything more or learn anything new. But when you are an immigrant, continuous learning becomes a way of life. And it never ends! Part of assimilating is breaking free from your old ways of thinking and embracing new concepts, new perspectives.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Especially when you have a bad craving for your favorite dish and nothing seems to satisfy you even while dining at a local ethnic restaurant! And yes, Canada’s natural beauty is amazing, but there’s nothing here that could compare to my country’s beautiful beaches.
It’s also a surprise that I sometimes miss some of the most annoying aspects of city living that made me move to Manitoba. For instance, in my country, there are ubiquitous jeepneys that ply the streets almost 24 hours a day. These cause traffic jams because jeepney drivers never follow traffic rules. These vehicles also contribute a great deal to the pollution. But after a particularly challenging day of figuring out which bus number goes where, I realized that I would not be in this predicament if I were in Manila because of jeepneys that seem to go everywhere, anytime.
It was not until I experienced starting from zero in my career that I discovered that I could be resilient and mature in handling adversity. And while I’m still working on it, I know now that it’s possible to develop patience, expand your way of thinking, make mistakes (and forgive yourself for them), and continue to learn new things at whatever age or stage in life you are in.
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