A recent conversation with a friend who is in the process of moving to the US (and conversations with another exploring such options) has gotten me to reflect over my own transition to the Northeast over thirteen years ago.
I think I always knew I’d come here or live ever since my first visit to NYC in the mid 90s. There was something different eye striking I noticed right away: the striking duopolies of opulence and struggle. The edginess felt like home but that much more of a challenging environment. Guess I was drawn to the idea of wanting to see if I had what it took to make some headway here and improve my lot. Those who know me well understand I have a deep reverence for where I was born and raised. I also had an early understanding that it wasn’t going to be the evironment that I needed to be in to really thrive.
I could survive there, but knew deep down that survival wasn’t enough.
Sure, there were opportunities to make a life there. I could try to carve out something in a family style business, make a few children with a college sweetheart or two, fight the urge to flee overseas with a fervent nationalistic pride. But I realized by the time I found what I wanted to do there professionally, I’d have to sit out a year for graduate study – that wasn’t an option. The business opportunity wasn’t in place for me to work in yet, and I wasn’t confident enough I could stand out in the job market in a sea of similar recent college graduates. Hard to stay vigilant and not make children in the face of such uncertainty when intimacy was a great source of escape…
So I rolled the dice and left less than two weeks after summer school ended. I remember meeting with my pastor at the time and having the most reassuring heart to heart I’ve had up to that point. Even as the ticket was being bought, I had my doubts for success. But like many who have made the move, if there wasn’t any semblance of uncertainty involved, then the gravity of the situation wasn’t as gut-wrenching and life-course altering as it truly is.
What I gave up wasn’t much in comparison to many others but was significant to me. Quite a few friendships ended, along with ties to my college sweetheart and connections to two other know admirers. I never got to see my aunt the same again – unbeknownst to me, merely 10 years later she would be lost to Alzheimer’s. Our next and last encounter before she passed was a day spent with her having no memory of me at all; an endless loop of the same conversation, pierced by a few flashes of quasi recollection of her own childhood memories.
People emgirate from different places all the time for their own personal reasons. Much is given up to be gained by such choices. Some things cannot be undone – bonds are broken, ties are strained. And yet, it is often a necessary choice as the alternatives are more dire. I’ve had a few exploratory conversations since making the move with others, only to hear friends and family members fall dead silent upon hearing of the weight of what needs to be done to “go on through” in the Northeast.
“America isn’t for everyone; and you certainly find that out quicker than anywhere else in NYC.”
Has it been worth it? Depending on the time period of my tenure here when asked, I’d give a different answer. Things and plans change; yet, if one is really about true growth, shifts in perspectives are healthy and expected. I’d always say if asked by anyone considering this decision to be clear and focused on desired concrete goals. Without those things as anchor points, it is easy to be enticed, engulfed and enslaved to the opulence ‘Murica has to offer.
Whether home or abroad, Mark Myrie said it best: “it’s not an easy road.”