On success & failure as an immigrant
Updated: Apr 7
What is your anchor in this journey?
What does it mean to be an immigrant?
Being an immigrant is a state of mind.
I moved to US in 2015 on a temporary visa. This visa was called temporary visitor. On paper, I was temporary. But, in my heart, I knew that once I was out, I was not coming back. I didn't know if I would be able to stay in the US or not, but I knew I was not going back to Turkey.
I just knew. I made my mind.
I came across a lot of people from many different countries during my time in the US. On the same visa with me. On paper we all looked same. But in our minds, we were not.
and it make a world of difference. It changes the way you behave, how you plan and how you live.
Deciding to leave your home country and living in another PERMANENTLY is a big decision. It changes you.
And big decisions are not taken lightly.
Why people choose to immigrate?
Immigration is a global social issue and people may migrate due to voluntary or non-voluntary reasons, including political or social turmoil, poverty, better education or employment opportunities.
Therefore on the surface, immigration reasons may look economical or educational, yet I believe there is always a personal reason underneath all the reasons. I bet it all comes down to one thing: BELONGING.
Most people decide to leave their country behind, they feel that they do not belong to there anymore. It may be the political climate, life expectations or religious/spiritual beliefs or something else. Once you feel like you don't belong, either you have to leave or you need to change yourself...
Immigration is always personal.
There are ALWAYS layers of reasons, why one person may choose to immigrate, which means they are not coming back.
Lets put it this way - Why would people leave everything and everyone they know behind?
Their home, their car, their furniture, their family and friends, their city, a whole level of consciousness behind?
That is the question we need to ask to ourselves.
Humans are social creatures and we need to feel belonging and acceptance in our community. We need to feel that we are surrounded by like minded people. Hence, if we don't get these two needs fulfilled, we move. Outside a country, a career or a relationship.
For me, the answer to this question is complicated, yet simple. we need to belong to a culture. We want to live around like minded people. we want to be respected for who we are and be treated with decency.
And this concern for belonging, it doesn't change once we move to our new place. New immigrants face a variety of challenges such as economic setbacks, lack of a support network, trauma and grief, employment obstacles, social integration and communication issues at the beginning. I see these challenges that immigrant families face as the limiting factor for how well and fast they will be able to integrate into society and feel a sense of belonging.
What is success and failure as an immigrant?
Well, that sounds like a bizarre question one might say. Immigration is a highly personal and subjective journey. It can take years to become a permanent resident and even more to be come a citizen of another country so how do we define success or failure as an immigrant?
My personal take is, there is no failure in this journey really.
Immigration is one of the hardest things I had to do in my life.
Leaving everything I know, everyone I know behind. (Twice.)
Not knowing anyone once you move to a new place.
Not having a doctor or dentist, or a grocery place, basically not knowing anywhere.
The constant learning , frustration and comparison with your "home" - wherever it might be...
Knowing the language (English) but not knowing what to say where (the daily language) ...
Not knowing where to expect what from other people (social norms)
Not knowing the job market and not having US/Canadian/... experience to break into the industry,
Second guessing yourself, whether you did right or you could have done more somewhere,
sometimes letting people educate you or take advantage, because you don't know the system or your rights well and too embarrassed to ask,
Not knowing the way of life, basically.
It is hard. It takes years to build a social life as a new immigrant. From scratch.
How to find your peace in this role?
Again, I believe there is no failure in this journey, no matter what your status is. It might take you a long time to settle somewhere, find your people and feel like you belong. But, that is perfectly okay.
Immigration is a marathon.
You need to pace your energy, resources and patience.
I think it takes a huge courage (and guts) to move yourself from where you feel like don't belong and look out for something new. That itself alone, is a huge step.
You will be beaten up and I grant you, it won't be easy.
But it will give you the strength and resilience.
Even if it takes many years to become a citizen,
dealing with the mountain of paperwork,
years of visa challenges, delays...
with endless government bureaucracy,
a global pandemic wreaks havoc the whole system,
huge expenses that you have to pay for...
not having your family/friends/loved ones close to you when you most need,
dealing with loss, grief, and loneliness,
you are already a champion.
What I would recommend for those, who are just starting out their journey or looking for strength in the middle of it - Find yourself an anchor.
Whatever that maybe. It is something to remind you why you are doing this. Like a mantra.
Why you re going through all this pain, loss and struggle. If you find that anchor and hold on to that, you will find the inner strength to go on, even in the direst conditions, believe me.
For me, it is my daughter.
She is my anchor.
Everyday when I look at her, her bright and happy face,
I remind myself why I am doing this.
That I will do my absolute best to give her the best future that I can.
She will have the opportunities and choices that I never had and she will not have to deal with what I had gone through.
The idea that she will hopefully have a better life than us, keeps me going.
At least, I would rest in peace knowing that I did my absolute best.
So, what is your anchor? What keeps you going when things are tough? or what is the REAL reason why you decided to become an immigrant and leave your home behind?
Whatever that might be, hope you find your place, your people eventually.
and remember that, there is no failure in this journey. You are much stronger than you think.