It don’t matter to meOh My God – Kaiser Cheifs
All I wanted to be
Was a million miles from here
Somewhere more familiar
The idea of emigration has become tainted with echoes of asceticism, as it is often portrayed on social media as a status symbol. Images of white Western partners, local cafes, hype restaurants, Sephora hauls, and other signs of capitalism are filtered through our perception of what it means to be a local. However, all of these representations, from dreams and desires to the present, come with an exchange rate.
As someone who has relinquished their old citizenship and embraced a new one, assimilating culturally, linguistically, and emotionally has been a challenging journey. Fitting in was not a natural process due to the daunting task of adjusting and the fact that I was alone throughout my journey.
When I moved to America, I arrived with just a few belongings in my luggage and a duffle bag. While I had my passport, wallet, clothes, laptop, and other essentials, I lacked the knowledge and understanding of the system, which made it difficult to survive. The family I moved with was also withholding in terms of financial education and peace of mind, which is often the case with immigrant mothers who choose to remarry white men.
Immigrating means expatriating oneself, requiring a great deal of mental fortitude and sacrifice. The image of a Western country always looks pristine, even in the grittiest movie scenes, with tall buildings and a hoodie for warmth, and the perception of 24-hour consumerism has colored our outlook on living in California. However, the reality is quite different. Everything closes after 8 PM, the food can be bland, and waiting for public transportation can be uncomfortable due to the biting breeze. I was taken out of my comfort zone, out of the routine I had been used to for many years.
Moving to a new country is a vastly different experience from the illusions of tourism. When I left the Philippines, I had to let go of my country, my language, and cling onto my memories and experiences from when I was still in Manila. I arrived without a steady source of income and had to navigate cultural barriers that were deeply rooted in race.
Honestly? It took me a decade for things to feel remotely normal. I’m now employed in a job and industry I enjoy, and I’ve secured housing. As for happiness, it comes and goes, but as long as opportunity keeps coming in, I can say that I’m doing alright and I’m okay with living in the present.
-Zero Gravity, Eric Gamalinda
there was no turning back, our bags already packed,
the future a religion we could believe in.
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