I don’t think about the time when I moved to Canada too often. I normally tend to avoid the topic altogether, it isn’t exactly my favorite thing to talk about. I almost get embarrassed when talking about anything that involves my feelings (ironic, considering I’m writing this story).
No one has ever asked me about how I truly feel about immigrating, and I have never been the one to initiate that conversation either. That is, until last week, at therapy. When talking to a friend or a family member, it’s so easy to lie or to leave out little details. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with someone who has literally been trained to talk to people. A therapist can see right through your lies, and that scared me. Which is why I had been avoiding therapy for a good amount of time now.
During my session, my therapist brought up the question about ‘big life transitions’, if there was an event that took place in the past that could be influencing my behavior in the present. I immediately thought about moving to Canada. I was a little unsure about how immigration related to the session, but I decided not to question it.
When my parents first told my sister and I that we would be moving to Canada, I was overjoyed. I was really looking forward to moving here since I had friends and family that lived here. Every time I thought about moving, I would get this excited, tingly feeling inside me. I was happy.
The moving process, however, was terrible. I couldn’t fathom the fact that I was leaving the place that I had called home for my entire life. I couldn’t believe that I was moving halfway across the world. I couldn’t believe that I had to leave everything behind and start anew.
Regardless, I was looking forward to it and was still undeniably happy.
After long and hectic hours at multiple airports, we finally arrived. For the first few months, we stayed with our aunt and uncle who were kind enough to welcome us into their home. We would go shopping, sightseeing, and spend a lot of time with each other. And I thought, hey, maybe Canada isn’t that bad, maybe this could be my new home after all.
… And then I remembered I had to go to school.
To put it simply, I did not want to interact with kids my age. I was fluent in English, so I knew there wasn’t going to be a language barrier, but I was still so, so scared.
Every time I would see kids around my age walking down the street, or playing in the park, I would always try to avoid them. I avoided contact with these kids so much because I hated the thought of interacting with them. I knew I had to deal with this issue at one point, but I kept delaying it.
Having a kid acknowledge me or look in my direction was enough to make me feel panicked. At one point, my dad noticed and tried to talk to me about it, but I just brushed it off and changed the subject, though I really wish I hadn’t.
The first day of school was incredibly overwhelming. There were so many kids with so many different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. The school was really diverse, and I felt scared. On top of that, I was the only new kid in class. Everyone else had already established their friend groups and I didn’t want to interfere, leaving me to become the stereotypical loner kid.
When I got home that day, I didn’t talk to anyone. If anyone asked me how my day was, I’d reply with a halfhearted, nonchalant “good”. I didn’t have the energy to hold on to a conversation with anyone. I was exhausted. That night, I cried in the bathroom for a pathetically long time. I felt so frustrated that I had to go to school again, and that this is what school was going to be like every single day. At that time, the future was a very daunting thing to think about. I had never felt so homesick.
The second day of school, I was waiting outside with my parents. I had asked them not to leave me until the bell rang. And when it did ring, signaling the start of the school day, I started bawling my eyes out. I was trying my very best to not shed any tears, but the bell acted as a trigger and the waterworks began. My parents tried to calm me down and even suggested going back home if I really needed to. As tempting as that offer sounded, I refused. As much as I dreaded the idea of walking back in that building and having to go through the same thing I did yesterday, I knew I couldn’t run from school forever.
I knew I had to attend school every day, and that it was inevitable.
No one bullied me for moving here from a different country. No one bullied me for my race or my looks. Canada and the schools that I have been to so far are very diverse with low rates of bullying. I’m really thankful for that fact. Not everyone is that lucky.
Despite there being no severe bullying, there were occasions where I felt alien. If I pronounced a word wrong, put the date before the month, or accidentally spoke with an accent, kids would laugh at me. None of the books I had read about ‘life in Canada’ taught me what to do when someone laughs in my face or pokes at my insecurities. So I did what any other humiliated kid would do, I laughed along, adding fuel to the fire.
I used to be so annoyed at the way my life had turned out. I wished I was born in Canada. I wished I could fit in. I wished I was white. But wishing to change the past is pointless.
Instead of trying to change who I am, I tried to embrace it. It was hard, and it felt very unachievable at the time. I talked to people who had faced the same issue before and asked them how they had overcome it. I also researched and asked questions about my culture, which lead me to find beautiful aspects within. The thing that has helped me the most though, is therapy. Talking helps, trust me. It took me about three years, but I did it. Learning to accept yourself for who you are can be tough, maybe even painful, but it’s worth it. Being able to love where I am from has changed my life for the better in countless ways. It’s made me more confident in myself, inspired me, educated me, and given me a chance to better myself.
I am proud of who I am. I am proud of my culture and my background. I am proud of my story. No one can take that away from me.
What I’m trying to say is, it gets better. Immigrating is one of the most challenging things people face in their lives. Culture shock and an urge to ‘fit in’ can take people to dark places. But if you want to get better, you actually have to take steps to make that happen.
So stay calm. Breathe. Everything is going to be just fine.