“I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience for us.” That’s what I wrote in the email I sent Thiago when we were close to getting the confirmation about our move to New York. When everything became real, a mix of feelings took over me: the anxiety for change, the excitement for a new life, the discoveries, the desire to do many things, and the fear of the unknown. I was hungry for change – but I had no idea what the future would hold. Today, seven years after this shift, I can confirm that message I wrote to Thiago – it was and has been a wonderful experience. But back then I knew nothing about being an immigrant in the United States – and I think there was nothing I could have done that would have prepared me for this new title.
Yes, I tried to prepare myself for a new life, but at that point, I didn’t realize what it meant to start from scratch. You can even make the analogy with a baby, someone that literally needs to learn everything. As an immigrant, you need to relearn everything – the difference is that you are an adult. Somehow, you need to learn how to speak a new language or get used to it. You need to learn to walk around the city; to understand the system, the weather, and even the grocery store shelves. You have to meet people, gain their confidence, and build new relationships. And in the middle of it all, you have to reinvent yourself and find out who you are in that place. Einstein once said that “the mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.” Comparing this to an immigrant’s life, I believe that those who leave their country will never be the same. And finding yourself in the middle of all new things — between your past, your present, and the future to come — will mess with you a lot.
I didn’t know much about this so-called “immigrant” title. Although I will have the opportunity to become an American citizen one day – this will not erase my past, nor the fact that I am an immigrant or Brazilian. In New York, I have found a place to call home, and several things in the city make me feel like I belong. Maybe it’s the fact that I know that there are millions of people here like me. It is as if we all live in a parallel and cosmopolitan country that has given my life a new meaning. But to be an immigrant is to be different, in some way. It is not to be better or worse, just different. I don’t feel the emotion they feel when I listen to the national anthem. I also don’t know how to sing all the Christmas songs that they listened to when they were kids. I have no references or affective memory about some American foods. I’ve taken a different line to enter this country many times. Before getting my permanent residency, I was reminded several times by the immigration system of my limitations while living here. I also have an accent when speaking English, and I learn new words every day. My family lives in another country. I still cheer for Brazil in the World Cup or any other sports competition.
On the other hand, I also learned to be grateful and look forward to Thanksgiving the same way I used to look forward to Christmas in Brazil. I started to celebrate every achievement. I know how to make better choices in how and with whom I invest my time. I learned to appreciate every season and every minute of sunshine. I also created memories: I saw the snow for the first time; I married the same person again; I tried oysters, caviar, and other foods that I never thought I would eat, for the first time; I saw idols that my teenage self never dreamed of seeing; I wrote books; I went blonde; I learned how to make bread, pizza, and pasta; I set up furniture; I made incredible friends; I cried on the subway; and I saw the sunset from unexpected places several times. In this city, I learned to be aware of my privileges, understand differences, and respect stories different from mine.
Yeah, I think I’m writing a story. Perhaps some circumstances will never change and will always remind me of who I am. But who said that erasing the past would be necessary to live here?
Yeah, I didn’t know anything about that “immigrant” title.
Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!