Emigration comes with a long list of aches. Nobody leaves their family and country because of too much happiness and accomplishment. At least I haven’t met anybody that was living a blissful life and one morning, they woke up and said: we are moving to a different country, and new culture. This process is always associated with some level of unhappiness and disillusionment. When the unhappiness and the disillusionment become greater than the ache of leaving behind parents, friends and everything and everybody else that helped you become the person you are right at that moment, you dare to leave. There is one hope that keeps you pulling through the hard times and the low moments: one day, all this effort will pay off.
I have never thought that I would leave my country. I always wanted to move away from my family but to a different city, not country and definitely never fantasized about putting an ocean between us. And yet, here I am, approximately 14 hours of flying plus 4 to 5 hours of driving away from my family. Don’t get me wrong, my family is awesome and I love them with all my heart but I felt that there was no room for me to make any mistakes in my city without affecting my entire family or without my entire family taking full control over my life in an attempt to save me from the perils of modern society. Ok, it sounds almost like I grew up in a religious compound but I did not. It was just a typical patriarchal family, very much supported by the ruling class of the time mainly because it has been proven to produce the most submissive subjects. I just wasn’t the one to submit to my father’s wishes, to my family’s wishes or to any form of authority. I needed to make my own mistakes and to live my life the only way it was acceptable to me: My way. I chose a different city but I ended up on a different continent.
Fast forward fifteen years and I have checked a long list of pains and aches and another one of gains and joys. To get the answer if my emigration paid off, theoretically I should put the two lists side by side and for every pain, cross out a gain and see which way the balance tips. If only it would work this way! If I could neutralize the “Your degree after years of hard work means nothing to Canada” with “I can pay my bills through Internet and don’t have to stand in line for hours” or ” You have no Canadian experience therefore you can not be employed at this time” with “I am confident the health system will take care of me” or “It costs me an arm, a leg and a kidney to buy a plane ticket to hug my parents once every three to five years” with ” I have a wonderful husband that loves me and my family”… As much as I try, I can not do the math… at least not yet…
This week I lost my aunt. She was 83 and you might say it was her time. And probably it was. I knew she was not well and we were somehow expecting it to happen. I thought the geographical distance between us will soften the pain and work as a tranquillizer, the same kind the dentist uses. I thought I would be the strength my dad will need to burry his sister. I thought that I am only remotely connected to people in my past after so many years of living abroad. I was wrong.
Mama Shela, as I used to call her, was always there for whoever needed help, a good word or just a good talk. She lived 10 minutes away and I don’t really remember any celebration, anniversary, wedding or funeral or any Sunday without her. She was always bringing treats and wooing over all the new babies in the family. Actually, she was notorious for spoiling us all. Last time I went home, I happened to mention one dessert she used to make and the next day she called for us to come and get it, as it was too heavy for her to carry it but it was not too much for her to make it. She probably knew more than half of the city and their family history and could talk to you forever about every member of our family for the last three or four generations. Her last twenty years were not a walk in the park… She lost her husband, she lost her house, then her only daughter, but lived to see, love and spoil her great grand daughter.
This week it’s been one of the times when I hated the physical distance I put between me and my family. I could not neutralize with anything the pain of not being able to attend her funeral, to say my good bye, to hug my dad and my mom and to help my brother organize everything. With a bit of luck and good connections I might have been able to get there in the morning of the funeral, tired and of no help for anybody else. So, once again, I found myself wondering if emigration with all its pains and aches, will ever pay off? And then, I remembered my dad’s eyes tearing up and his face lightening with relief learning that we are helping him with the costs for the funeral. And I remembered my husband holding me tight and asking me not if but when I need to fly out.
And I finally realized that adding and subtracting, comparing and dividing is not important in life. Physical distance does not destroy emotional connections and does not numb feelings but it forces your mind to recreate old places and dear people. Over time nostalgia takes over and like a good mother, keeps us focused on the good and the beautiful, strengthening the old bonds.