“Let life happen to you. Believe me, life is in the right. Always,” Rainer Maria Milke.
Life changes us. It humbles us. Takes us on journeys we never expected to take and puts us in situations so challenging that it causes a metamorphosis within us whether we want to or not.
A year ago I moved to the United States of America and like those who cross the vast seas to come to the land of dreams, I was full of naivete and very impressionable. In my head the dream was very straight-forward; study, find a job and earn top dollar because at the end of the day earning even one dollar is worth way more back home. I’d prove everyone wrong, I’d stay faithful to my relationship no matter the distance and I’d be a bad-ass. Cliche much? I think so yes.
Life had other ideas.
My background was one of a girl who had never not had her mother to fall back on. A girl so sheltered from life that she was left exposed and unprepared for it. Moving to America, exposed that vulnerability. With the arrogance of a mountain and the ignorance of a babe, I was cast into a very fast-paced world. No preparation, no favors.
Having close family here wasn’t a saving grace. I hadn’t talked to my family here in over a decade and even when I was leaving my home Uganda, my mother was worried about it. We both knew staying with the family here was always going to be temporary and our only hope was I wouldn’t get thrown out in the winter. In my mother’s eyes I saw fear, I saw hesitation, I saw regret because her little girl wasn’t fully prepared for the big bad world she was going to be thrust into. But she had to let me go.
That airport scene was really chaotic. My mom was there, so were two of my cousins who were from the village and had come with me because they had never been to the airport (we have only one in my country), one of my best friends was there, Bernie and so was my partner at the time. I was running late and only said quick goodbyes as I promised my mom to arrive safely and my partner that we’d see each other again and we’d make this long distance thing work. Never once knowing that the flight I was about to get on, would end my relationship and see me shed the last remnants of my childishness.
With my relationship, well that unfurled pretty quickly. I am a terrible communicator who doesn’t respond to texts immediately and in this case the time difference wasn’t on our side either. I’d be on, ‘Good morning’ and the other person was on ‘Good night’ not to mention I now had a job which meant I didn’t spend as much time on my phone as I had before. Soon there was a lot of fighting, jealousy, feeling neglected and I purposefully started to refuse to open texts or pick their calls because all we ever did was fight and I was tired of it. Soon we ended it. I think on my part, I was inundated with the deluge of everything else that was going on that the breakup wasn’t really felt.
Clarity being the child of hindsight, I know now that I should have been honest with my ex. You see days before my flight was to take off, I knew our relationship wouldn’t survive it. I had slept next to this person whispering to them promises of forever when my whole body knew that once I was on the other side of the departures, that was it for us. I don’t mean to sound callous, I just feel like the main reason I made lots of promises was to run away from that which I knew was inevitable. I was trying to convince myself more than I was them. I promised & promised but no promise can withstand the harshness of foreboding.
In the transit lounge, cold & alone, I felt a pain and guilt so deep I hunched over in my chair. I knew. But still even after I touched down, I tried to maintain the illusion with texts and phonecalls and those dreaded promises yet again. Maybe if I had been honest, it could have at least ended civilly and a friendship maintained because now, we don’t even talk anymore.
But I digress. Back to my new life in the new world.
I had never worked a day in my life and now my first job was in very developed country. Different accents, different expectations, their way of life vastly dissimilar to the one back home, their systems work very differently and you have to catch up very fast or fall out. It was a case of if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen!
How I missed my mother in those moments! How I missed my best friends! With no one to turn to, I threw myself in the workforce. An immigrant even though legal, it’s tough living in a country where everyday the news is full of immigrant deportations and incarcerations. Having to look over one’s shoulder day in day out wasn’t something I was used to. Trading in my piece of mind for the almighty dollar. The American dream does come at a steep price.
I would give a detailed description of all that I went through but I hesitate to. I am reluctant to blog about moments in my life when life brought me to my knees and I cried so much to a point of being cried out. Forgive me, but I would like to preserve some of my dignity.
I realise now that foundation was too weak and I needed a stronger one. I had to be broken in order to be reassembled. Life didn’t ask, it didn’t warn. It just hit and like a tornado, it hit hard. I had two options, to bend like a strong reed before stronger forces and survive the aftermath or be as unbending as a hard oak and perish in the storm. I chose to swallow my pride, be strong and bend. Strong endures, hard breaks.
Picking up the broken pieces of myself, I remember thanking the universe that I didn’t have to do it alone because I don’t think I would have been able to. In this land of George Washington, I found new friends who have since become family. Boundless kindness and benevolence from strangers you have only known a few months is a divinity much more pure than virginity. A new home, a new life, being able to laugh again and somewhere to belong. Like a glow stick, I had to be broken so that my light could start to shine.
As a result I am tougher now, more resilient with a firm resolution to make it in America. To be successful in career, in love and life as a whole. The girl my mother put on a flight a year ago was a mere embryo helpless and clueless. She became a caterpillar and molted into something with a thicker skin but that process is still happening. I am still molting. A self-aware work-in-progress hoping to find inner-peace as a chrysalis and soon burst forth a beautiful butterfly. I am working very hard towards it. My name means butterfly. And a butterfly I shall be. For those of you that don’t know me, allow me to please introduce myself.
Hi, my name is Vanessa and I am becoming.