Five-year anniversary as a green card holder

This month marks the 5-year anniversary of obtaining my green card. I can’t express how amazing it felt, in April 2014, when I received this little whitish-green plastic card in the mail. I remember exactly where I was: back then I was living in the Gloucester building, Upper West Side, and my doorman handed the letter to me.

At work, I am part of a project called Stories of Immigrants and the aim is to share immigration stories. Most people we interview have inspiring stories to share, and their journey highlights their human strength: courage, resilience, and determination. Leaving your home willingly or not, is far from being easy. That adjustment phase is the toughest part in my opinion.  Even if you studied English before coming the United States, living in a country where you have to practice another language on a daily basis is a different kind of challenge. In my case, it was not my first time, yet it was still hard.

By the time you get use to the different expressions, different accents and everyday slang no matter where you work, it’s going to take some time to adjust. One aspect is how isolating it can feel not to be able to express yourself, share jokes, understand jokes. Imagine yourself, your personality, sense of humor, all of that is like erased and you have to reinvent yourself from scratch or allow time to get there. This phase was the toughest for me. I felt like an alien for a while. I believe my sense of humor revolved a lot around my “mastery” of the french language, and the cultural element was omnipresent. In the US, all of this had zero value, or was completely irrelevant. Translation, you thought you were cool, then all of a sudden you’re totally the opposite. I remember listening to some of my well-spoken, witty co-wokers joking around once and thinking to myself, I can’t really reply back with my “patchy English”. “Patchy”, it’s how one of my manager’s described it one day. Still stays. Still hurts. I think I used to pride myself for being “witty”, and that wit was limited to my French life. Five years later, things got better. Much better. I thank the process. I thank the experience, its value is priceless. My attitude is gratitude.

It’s been 5 years since I could finally start living. What a huge milestone! Anything before getting your legal status is precarious, stressful and soul crushing. You just can’t do anything. I still can’t believe that so many people in New York City are illegals, how do they live without any rights or very limited rights at least. Their decisions to come here no matter what was probably born out of despair.

At work, I am part of a project called Stories of Immigrants and the aim is to share immigration stories. Most people we interview have inspiring stories to share, and their journeys highlight their strength when they took on that immigration journey: courage, resilience, and determination. Leaving your home willingly or not, is far from being easy, but that adaptation phase is the toughest part in my opinion. 
Even if you learned the language before coming the United States, living in a country where you have to go by a foreign language every day is a different matter. The time you get use to the different expressions, different accents and everyday slang no matter where you work, it’s going to take some time to adjust. After a couple headaches, mixing all languages in your head, and that constant “mind gymnastics”, you’ll end up coming out stronger and sharper.


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