A few weeks ago I found out about an essay contest I wanted to enter. It was a contest by The National Mexican Institute of the Woman. I was so excited because the topic was about female immigration experiences! I love writing, and in times when I feel discourage, entering literary contests always cheers me up (I don’t need to win of even get close, just being part of it makes me happy). However, after a few minutes I realized I was missing an important official document that was required to be sent with the essay. The deadline was approaching soon, so I wouldn’t have time to ask my mother to mail me the official record I needed it.
I started thinking about all the ideas I had for the essay. And then I felt bad, very bad because I couldn’t see my experience as legitimate enough. I even felt guilty that I wanted to write a story about it. My immigration experience is nothing like the marvelous and deeply moving Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande, is not at all like Julia Alvarez’s book about the Garcia Girls, and of course is not cool and interesting like Junot Díaz’s stories about or Yunior. One of the things that Women’s and classes make sure you learn is the importance of acknowledging your privilege. Believe me, they make sure you get that concept right in your head.
I felt like my story was very privilege to be told. Why was it important after all? I spent 3 years waiting for my residency papers to be ready so I could leaveto visit my family in . And while I waited those endless years, I did very rewarding volunteer activities. Was I highly depressed? Absolutely, but once again I was privilege enough to access medication so I could stop crying on a daily basis. I couldn’t work or study for years, nevertheless I had a wonderful husband who worked hard so I could have a warm house with a nice bed; he tried to take me out for dinners and he made sure I wasn’t worry about money issues. I saw everyone’s life moving on, except mine. My friends in Mexico got jobs and some went to graduate school; the people I was surrounded in Canada were so different from what I thought that their mere existence depressed me even more. My little dream of leaving Mexico and starting a new life in Canada was not what I’ve imagined, and even after 6 years of living in , is not close to what I’ve expected.
Now that I think about those years I cry because I remember exactly how terribly sad I was. I felt that nobody could understand me at all. Even now, I feel like very few people know what I’m talking about. During those very difficult years I wrote about it in my Spanish blog, and random chance made some people read my posts and connect with me. They wrote me saying that they understood me, that their stories and mine were similar in many ways. I’m still in contact with one of those people; she is a wonderful Mexican friend I have in.
Yes, my immigration story may be privilege in many ways, but counselling has taught me that just because one’s problems are not as extreme or sad as those of other people, that doesn’t mean my sadness, depression or experiences are less important or irrelevant. My immigration experience is mine, it belongs to me and it has profoundly shaped the person I am now.