25 years ago today, a mother and her three children (ages 13, 10, and 4) moved to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life in the United States. They left behind all of their family and friends, and they stepped out of their comfort zone and into something that felt very foreign to them. They didn’t have much more with them other than a few outfits, some kitchenware, their family photos, and some items that reminded them of home. Everything else had been sold to help pay for the move, even a piano that had been in the family for three generations.
This is how my family started our adventure in this country. I was the four year old.
The only person we knew when we moved was my American step-father, and the rest was just my mother stepping out in faith that she and her children would have a better life in America. She later told me, when I was in my early 20s, that she almost said “no” to her new husband when he suggested we move the family to America. She knew she would be leaving everything she knew behind, and, even worse, she would be leaving her entire family behind.
For a while, it was hard. We tried to become accustomed to our new surroundings and culture, and each of us was going through a barrage of emotions. We all felt out of place and we yearned to be back with our family. Some of our elderly family members died relatively soon after we moved, and we were all heartbroken that we could not afford to go to their funerals. Tensions were high in our new home. It’s not easy being different (especially as children), it’s not easy being torn from your family, and it’s not easy trying to acclimate to a completely different way of living. To make matters worse, we were all made fun of or ostracized by our peers.
After a while, we all learned to cope. We slowly but surely started thriving, in our own unique ways. With some of us (such as yours truly) you wouldn’t even guess we weren’t born here, if you didn’t know any better.
However, there will always be lingering effects from that move. We don’t have a large family nearby like we would have if we stayed. Instead, our family is now spread out in multiple countries. My siblings and I all have talked about how we feel like we don’t truly “belong” anywhere. We’re a bit too quirky to be from around here, but we don’t 100% feel like we belong when we go back “home” to visit either.
We’ve each learned to own these feeling, even laugh at them at times, and we’re all thankful for the opportunities presented to us from that move. My mother and step-father eventually owned their own businesses, my brother has an amazing job and lovely wife, my sister has two great kids and has found a pretty cool network of friends where she currently lives, and I was able to have some amazing musical experiences that probably would not have happened otherwise, met my husband, and had our sweet boy.
Here’s to 25 years of learning, meeting genuinely awesome people, and having unique experiences that have formed the quirky person that I am. I may forget who I’m talking to and pronounce or spell things differently, I may not always be able to relate to certain experiences, but I will always do my best to treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve. You never know what people are going through, and everyone deserves to feel included, even if they are a little bit different.