When You Moved To The U.S., Did You Find What You Were Seeking?
With two birthdays celebrated and my second anniversary in the US getting close, this is a good question to trigger much-needed reflection. Especially because “what I was seeking” before I moved, what I was seeking when I moved, and what I seek now have been in a constant state of flux.
When I reflect on the differences between my birth country, Cameroon, and America, I realize that a lot of these “differences” aren’t really what most people think. Add this constant comparison to the individual journey of the immigrant, and things can get a tad complicated.
For me, it was simple: my fiance who is a US Citizen and a student, was in no state to drop her education and move to Cameroon to be with me. That future already seemed bleak, not just because of the difference in economic statuses for both countries, but because she had already invested so much time and money on the path to becoming a medical doctor. It was a no-brainer for me to move.
Considering that I moved to join my wife, which is what I was seeking, then yes, I found it.
I left my job at an advertising agency, left my family, left my budding career as a literary event curator. I left a lot behind — but all these, I would only find out when I started asking myself if the move was worth it.
You see, the excitement of moving always comes to an end. It doesn’t matter if I can see the streets of New York in real-time, or gaze at the majestic art at Denver International Airport or watch the Avengers on the day it comes out in theaters. At some point, all the stereotypes, expectations, anticipations — they all die down. The reality of snow, insurance, organic vs inorganic, hourly pay, student loans — the reality of America nudged me to reconsider what I wanted.
Add my young marriage, my nostalgia, my conversations with a therapist — and what I seek starts taking new forms and new directions.
I was in this confused state for a while: wondering if I should drop it all and go back.
I have started working on a book to address this specific instance of immigration — the soft pain — everything that is not overt racism or culture shock. Soft pain is very individual and in my opinion, drains immigrants even more than joblessness, subtle racism and the other things that many people think about when they think of moving (to America).
I wrote an article featured in a Medium owned publication which covered a lot of the racism I felt, and now, when I read it, coupled with what I want for myself, it is clear to me that this phase — what I am seeking now — is one I may never have a clear answer to. It’s not just about what the global conversation on America is — it’s never just about race or culture differences.
I am married. We are working on our marriage. We both have jobs. We both plan the future. I am going to college. I am working on my creative projects.
With an eagle’s eye view, what I was seeking beyond my marriage was opportunities to make use of my creative gifts. I can’t say I have done that — or not. I’m barely adjusting to school and work with only one day off. I’m mostly exhausted, waking early and always feeling like I need to work harder else I will never achieve freedom.
My birthdays and anniversaries always bring me those thoughts — am I where I want to be? What do I need to do? Where will I be in 10 years?
I think I would still ask the same questions even if I moved to France, Nigeria or Senegal. I would still look at my life and ask more of myself.
America is a place that has a brand many see from afar but need to live in to fully appreciate. Once that appreciation is over, it is left for the individual to decide if America is for or against them.
It’s a work in progress — as it should be.
It’s never over. I don’t mean in a voracious — must-be-hustling-always manner. No, no. I mean in terms of once we arrive at a new phase in life, growth is inevitable.
We’re either growing into our true selves or we’re regressing.
I know people in Cameroon, who would never move because they’re thriving and growing in Cameroon. Others in America who would probably do well in life if they chose to go back to their birth countries. Some who doubted their lives here and were able to find a way to follow and achieve their dreams.
All this to say: it’s not a simple question to answer and it depends on where you are on your journey as an immigrant in America.
At least, that’s how I feel — I’m always learning and growing and right now, America is showing me that there is a lot of room for personal growth.
So, did I find what I was seeking when I moved to America?
I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out and will probably do…forever.