In my years of working with immigrants, I have faced this question many times. I have also asked this question to myself: as an immigrant, I have navigated the unavoidable roller-coaster of being excited and “in love” with my new country…and going to the opposite direction of being completely homesick and asking myself if this was a good decision.
There are many things that make you to want to stay: Canada is safer and cleaner and seems to be a more democratic country. Things look organized and processes and institutions work. At least if we compare them with many of the countries we come from, where streets are dirty and cities polluted, walking or biking is unsafe for women and children, places are overpopulated, scarcity is queen and corruption is rampant.
However, when you get stuck in a “transitional” job that pays the minimum, or worst, when you can’t get a job at all…when your quality of life continuous to be lower with the passing months, the funds you brought are dwindling, you become more isolated and depressed and you can feel the changes affecting your family, things start to look very different.
Even when your overall situation may look great after a few years of struggling, you may still feel the sting of homesickness: there are some events that may trigger your memories or your heart: a death on the family or illness, missing the flavour of real food, feeling the need to give back and transform your own people back home…
What is the answer?
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
~ Rumi, Essential Rumi
I don’t have the answer; it is not even inside you. The answer is inside each family and community. It is directly rooted to your own story and how do you want to live the rest of your life.
Western society has tried to teach us that we have control over our lives. That with enough effort, we will get it all. Other paradigms teach us that if we have invested enough into a project, better to continue than giving up, right?
The reality of life (in Canada and anywhere else) is that life is uncertain and we have no control of many things. We barely can control how we react to things, and we may control things that happen around us only to a certain extent.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
Being practical, you do have control over your job search strategies and tools, whether you will work or open your own business, stay in the city or move to the countryside; you have control over the decisions you make (moving or staying, buying or renting, driving or walking, the foods you eat, etc.) and also over the time and effort you dedicate to your priorities.
While putting energy and time in your projects is obviously better than doing nothing, if the goal is not realistic or achievable, all the effort in the world won’t get you anywhere.
“When you are in a hole, stop digging” ~ English saying
Sometimes, it is wiser to abandon a project, no matter the investment you have put on it, than to continue with something that is going nowhere or is even hurting the people you love most.
Sometimes, what you need to go is to re-assess your situation, and change the strategies and approaches you are using.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
~ Albert Einstein
Many immigrants come to Canada with big expectations. For some, it is getting a job that will allow them to buy a house and live the “American Dream”. For others, it is providing a better future for their children. For many, it is running away from all the problems “developing” countries have.
But expectations rarely match reality: and to be happy and make the best of life, we need to learn to adapt and stop planning:
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
~ Joseph Campbell
When I came to Canada, similarly to many other immigrants, I was full of expectations and dreams. Life was better in many ways, but isolation, not understanding the country’s challenges and lack of a realistic goal threw me into a long and spiralling roller-coaster. I rose up from it when I decided to put my own experience to work for others. When I decided to stop feeling sorry for my “fate” and also stop complaining.
I embraced the new “me” that this wonderful country was providing the opportunity to be.
I have many reasons to stay in Canada, but my reasons may not be your reasons.
These are the things I learned and made me stay:
If your reasons or expectations are different, you may decide otherwise. I learned recently about a couple from India who decided to come back and establish a Permaculture farm in their home country. For them, the wisdom was giving back to their own people all what they learned in US. That is also a great option. You can read their story here: Eating our way home: an immigrant’s family journey for sustainability.
The truth is that the answer is in your own heart.
“There is a wisdom of the head, and… there is a wisdom of the heart.”
~ Charles Dickens, Hard Times