An immigrant’s heart is always torn. Just like mine is.
When I was coming to the US 13 years ago I had not even imagined the journey that was ahead of me. I was just an excited 22 year old ready to conquer the world. I started saving for the plane ticket (that part took me close to two years) and applied for one of the youth exchange programs. Living on a small farm, sheltered off from the rest of the world I had never traveled before and I was quite shy. I couldn’t even believe that my parents were so supportive of my plan then. I remember when the phone rang and I got the news that a family in Washington, DC wanted to host me for a year, I was literally jumping from joy. It was mid August and we just got back from the field after digging out young potatoes; all of us literally dropped everything waiting for the second call that came a few hours later confirming the arrangements. I don’t remember much surrounding those 2-3 weeks before I left in early September, it was a bit of a blur. A mix of disbelief, excitement, imagining what my life in the US would be like.
When I said goodbyes, little did I know that I would see my mother only once after that. I did not know till much later that while I thought she was extremely supportive of me leaving she quietly cried at night for months after that. I do believe she wanted me to think that it was OK for me to spread my wings and make my decisions and she did not want to make me feel guilty for leaving. I think at that time she knew more than I did that I was not leaving for just one year like I promised. One year turned into 13+ years…
When I finally got to Washington, DC, (and then New York City) my focus was on exploring, meeting new people, polishing the language, finishing my MBA and making enough money to be able to support myself and helping out my struggling parents. I have done all of these and I have made myself at home. I feel at home in New York but my heart aches that I cannot just get into a car, drive for 30 minutes and see my sister for coffee or help her out whenever her babies are sick. I ache when my dad is not well and I cannot help care for him. I ache that I am not able to see my nieces grow. I ache that most of the time all I can do is to make a phone call. While not as painful as at the very beginning, longing seems to always be a part of me. I long for my family and quiet life when I am in New York and when I am back at my father’s house I can’t imagine giving up on life that I created for myself in the US.
I arrived at my father’s house just a few hours ago and my heart is full. Home, sweet home. My dad, who is almost 80, seems to be getting slightly older each time I see him. His hair is entirely white now and he seems very fragile. That first moment when we see each other after several months always brings tears (although both of us pretend it’s not the case). After the dinner the two of us made tea and just sat for a couple of hours at a kitchen table, talking, hugging and laughing. I cherish every moment I get to spend with him, with me living an ocean away time that we spend together is very precious.
I hope you make the time today to call or meet with someone you love but have not seen for a while. xo