Of Being an Immigrant

Of Being an Immigrant

You know every immigrant, regardless of where they come from and why they move, struggles with two identities: who they were vs. who they’re trying to become.

There’s always a part of you that doesn’t want to let go while the other is struggling to come out — to figure out how you can fit in without losing your real self or compromise your integrity.

Something so dumb as all of a sudden liking peanut butter, can quickly turn into a silent interior struggle. I never liked peanut butter, you think, what’s happening to me.

You think about home more than your average person and quickly come to realize your definition is by all means and purposes undefined.

But how could it not, when to be like you means you uprooted your life and propelled yourself in the unknown.

After some time though, you settle on calling home whatever or whomever you interact with that makes you feel some connection to your roots, even when you don’t go back to them for months at a time.

You learn you possess a natural ability to nurture the feeling of home so it is no longer a location outside of yourself but it’s within you, somehow embedded. So much so, that you manage to make yourself feel home anywhere — even a public bathroom if you really wanted to!

Sometimes you feel uneasy and awkward because you are, and always will be, a transplant. You might not say it out loud often, but you know and everybody else does too.

It’s one of those unspoken truths amongst family, friends and yes – even yourself.

But every immigrant also knows what it feels like to know nobody and be somewhere where nobody knows anything about you.

Terrifying? Perhaps. But it’s also the chance of a lifetime.

You’re suddenly strapped of any and all labels you might have had in your home country. In a way, you are reborn. This time, instead of being a toddler, you are well aware of your surroundings, just enough to see that the glass isn’t half empty; it’s half full.

Maybe you used to be rich. Or poor. Maybe you used to be a geek. Or a rebel. Maybe you used to be fat. Or skinny.

None of that matters anymore. You have a clean slate.

You’re nobody.

How would you like to build a somebody?


Inspired by Gabe, one of the lovely readers who participated in the #ThisIsHowWeLive Q&A in March.

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