Becoming an immigrant has never been easy, and it will never be, especially if one of the problems you face is lacking knowledge of a new language. You should have at least some minimum knowledge of the language in the place you will be living. If you don’t, it will make things very difficult.
Even if the city you are moving to has plenty of people from your own community, and no matter what nationality you are, eventually you will confront difficulties that, if you were in your homeland, would seem so silly.
Simple things, such as doing the laundry, figuring out the best way to get home, making appointments, or trying to get “into the system” can become a nightmare. This new country you have moved to has a different way of doing pretty much everything—starting with the language, right? Even a phone call to a doctor’s office can be very challenging. You are living in an amazing place, but it comes with a whole package of problems that need to be solved. It’s a great responsibility, and no one else can do it but you.
Relying on a member of your family who is fluent in the foreign language is not a very good idea. At the beginning it may work out, but little by little, you will need to go outside of the cocoon and become self-sufficient. Be bold and show the world your own voice, literally. Communicating and starting to practice is the key.
All the members of a family have their own responsibilities. They can’t do what is meant to be done by you, just as you can’t do what they must do. If you are alone, it must be something you embrace: This is your new life, and communicating is part of it. Living the best way depends on you, so you’d better do whatever you need to do.
Learning a new language is hard. You face a steep learning curve before you can feel confident expressing yourself. You will find soon enough that the everyday small stuff can become stressful or even threatening. If only you could feel more confident and speak as if it were your first language . . . Expressing yourself never felt so frustrating.
I was in the middle of these bittersweet thoughts, trying not to give up, when someone asked me about the best day of my life. What was the best day of my life? What was yours?
Was it when you got married? When you found out that your first son or daughter was coming? Or maybe when you had the most inspiring meditation? Was your best day when you finished that challenging marathon? Or when you heard the audience applaud you after a presentation? Or when you published your first book? Or when you had a nice vacation with your family or friends?
But you know what? I would rather think about the future. As immigrants, we may find the best day of our lives will be when we finally are blended into this new community that has become our home. After all, America was built by immigrants trying to have a new place they could call home.
Even though it seems a hard path to walk and sometimes not even a straight path but an uphill climb, there will be a moment when we finally feel that we can communicate well, without hesitation, when we listen to ourselves speaking with confidence in this new and wonderful language we have been learning.
I hope that the best day of my life—and your life—is very close, the day when we feel stronger than ever, becoming part of a society and doing what we most like to do, eventually getting a job, and feeling fulfillment and joy in our new home. That day will come, and we will feel that day is the best because we will have the confidence to achieve whatever our goals are. So don’t give up—another best day of our lives is coming soon!
Magali Gomez was born in Mexico City and moved to New York in 2020. She has a degree in communications from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She is currently working on a photography project related to the struggles people face when they immigrate. She is about to start the last level of ESOL instruction at Community Impact of Columbia University. Her teacher is Kent Katner.