Friday, May 25, 2012

Confessions of an immigrant

When I lived in Poland I was always afraid of my future where- stuck within four walls I would watch my parents age and see my own life go by. With no sense of purpose, no way to prove myself, no avenue to do anything of some importance, just wasting my life away in a wheelchair. I always felt it wasn’t fair that others got to put their talents to good use, others got to dream and make it happened. I didn’t choose to have a disability, so while you may say that wasn’t fair to begin with I didn’t really feel it was my disability holding me back. It was how little accommodating my reality in Poland was. So I decided to find a place I could thrive. And I left, plain and simple. It’s not the air, it’s not something in the water that makes me a different person here. It’s the level of accessibility and inclusion. I miss my family and today I fear the opposite.

I guess you could call it the immigrant’s tragedy. My parents are aging and I’m not there. I have a young niece and nephew that I never met. When I was visiting my cousin years ago at his Las Vegas home he told me that he calls my aunt maybe once every few weeks. And I didn’t really understand it, we were always very tight as a family and I consider him my brother. But, he explained having lived in the US since the mid 1990’s there’s not so much to talk about anymore. Because you’re not there, you grow apart. You have less and less in common and life goes on. I have mine- my friends, places, things that get me going- and they have theirs. If I ever decided to move back it wouldn’t be as easy to just pick up where you left off. But I think about my family a lot and often I wish I was there – for them. An 18 hour flight in a fixed position and no reasonable access to bathroom is torture for me and I’m in pain and stress through most of it. My dad had a heart surgery so it’s not as if they’ll me visiting me soon either. I’m not here because I have to, unlike waves of Polish immigrants forced by their economic circumstance, I’m well educated, but I experience some of the same feelings and nostalgia they do. Cell phones and Skype keep you closer, but in ways they make you more apart. It’s hard to feel like you have no roots here, like you always be from somewhere else. It was fun when I first got here, I was only planning to live here for a year and everyone found me so exotic. Holidays, birthdays are still a reminder. But it helps to feel like I’m doing something important, that I’ve set out to help people, that I’m getting the ball rolling, that I have my mother’s drive and ambition and my dad’s creativity.

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