Immigrating: A Journey in Life and Words

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When I was asked to write about my personal journey as a newcomer, one word immediately came to my mind: emancipation [definition: the act of being set free]. Having arrived from a Western country, I’m not necessarily speaking of female liberation, gender roles or job equality for women. That has nothing to do with it, and everything to do with it – but let me explain this contradictory statement.

The day I arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport, with my Canadian-born boyfriend and two German cats in tow, I was a young woman in my 20s, excited, scared and full of idealistic visions about this new country and the journey I was about to embark upon. During my first weeks in Canada, I was nervous to go to the grocery store by myself, doubtful I would ever drive a car on those gigantic highways and uncertain even of how to engage in small-talk with the locals. Today I’m a single mother of two, a home owner, a self-employed professional, and last but not least, a confident driver on Canadian roads (with a speeding record to prove it, but let’s keep that under wraps).

Am I proud of my personal development over those past eight years? You betcha – as we like to say here. Indeed, during this time, I have not only become more polite than my own mother thought was possible, learned to dress warmer and less stylishly than I ever considered possible, and become more confident than you may currently think you could ever become. I also got used to finishing my sentences with “eh”, and despite the fact that I still have noticeable accent, I now say “aout ‘n’ ab-aout” rather than just “out and about”.

Humor aside, this journey of integration hasn’t always been easy, and I certainly haven’t reached the end of it. Finding work, friends, a place in this society and a sense of belonging has been a long process during which many tears have been shed. Today, the main reason why I moved to this country is no longer with me, but will always be bound to me through our common children. There are days now when I wonder whether I should just go “home”, or whether I even have a home, either here or there. After eight long years, I’m still not a Canadian citizen (by choice rather than by legal restriction), but I’m also aware that I don’t feel German any longer, regardless of my passport. Whenever someone asks me where I think I belong, I usually end up feeling a little bit rootless, aware that home is always and only where your heart is.

Writing for Canadian Newcomer was one of the first professional opportunities I was given here. It had profound impact on my feeling of acceptance in this marketplace, and it has remained a constant in my life ever since. Looking back at all the stories I have written for Canadian Newcomer and how they document the different phases, events and feelings along the way, I’m truly thankful I have been given the chance to make this not only a journey in life, but also in words.

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