Is home wherever I’m with you?
I moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to a small city in South Florida called Weston when I had just turned 18. Fresh out of high school, I was eager to start my american college experience, which according to the many Hollywood movies that I watched growing up, consisted on ilegal binge drinking, being part of a sorority and doing the minimum required to pass my classes and graduating on time.
My college experience was far from any Hollywood movie, I spiraled on a very bad case of depression. I was away from my best friends, I didn’t understand english very well, it was so hard to adapt to the extremely individualistic and capitalistic american culture. Writing papers were my nightmare, imagine trying to write a paper of 8 pages on the war in Sudan when you used to even spell Sudan differently (in Portuguese is spelled Sudão). I couldn’t even make up the first sentence without turning to Google translate.
My family tried their best to make the transition work but I was so devastated, and tired and felt what many of the 300,000 Brazilian immigrants living in Florida feel: on a limbo. We are not home, but we know that home is not an option to go back to right now. So we hang out only with our own natives, we talk about home with so much hope, and love and nostalgia, our parties would play music from our country that were extremely outdated, country songs from the 90’s that we all knew the lyrics, caipirinhas as drinks and misty eyes when anyone mentioned the word “family”.
I couldn’t wait to go back home.
My depression got worse and I dropped out of college to seek medical help. Six months later, I applied to a great and new university.
I didn’t join a sorority, I joined a feminist organization that helped me see how much of my personal problems were symptoms of the sick society we live in. I met great people and I graduated with a degree on something I’m very passionate about, international relations.
My plan was graduating and going back home. By this time I had already gained my american citizenship and I was living in South Florida for 8 years. My boyfriend at the time, a Brazilian guy that I met in Miami but lived in Brazil, dumped me and left to Europe on a trip with his new girlfriend, eight days before my last final as an undergraduate student.
I stood with my plan, fuck him and his girlfriend, I would go back home without him and I would do great!
I was 26 years old, with a college degree that could only give me an entry level job that required zero of the skills I worked so hard to achieve for 4 years in college. I had no prospects of getting a job in my area that could pay my bills and seeing pictures of my ex at the Eiffel Tower with his then perfect-smile-perfect hair-23 years old girlfriend was not helping.
My customer service job made me so mad at America. “What the fuck is wrong with this country?” I vented to my girlfriends between sips of wine on a Tuesday, “none of the people that graduated with me are working jobs that are actually in our area, if we keep it up like this, I can afford my own house in 2036, I WILL BE FOURTY SIX YEARS OLD!”
According to this Times report, a humanities recent grad would be getting $46,065 per year on their first year out of college. My customer service job paid me around 10 thousand bucks less than that. I was VERY mad at my bank account and at how I was feeling, an emptiness of someone that had no use in society.
A hole I could not fill by going to the gym after work, or going out for happy hours filled me. I felt completely useless and a waste of money for my parents, nothing seemed comforting anymore except the idea of home, again. Brazil sounded like the exit door the girl being chase by a murderer is looking for at a horror movie.
My ex boyfriend reached out to me not much later than my existencial crisis, he had broken up with his girlfriend (that I will never forgive of taking to Europe, to be clear) and we met again. I realized that although extremely hurt, and a bit resentful, I could not keep him out of my heart and mind.
He was also home. A safety net I could fall under at this turbulent time of my life. So I jumped.
I bought my one way ticket home. Sold my car, quit my job, fought with my parents that are now living in another continent, fought with my only soul mate, the love of my life, the person that my heart beats outside my chest, my best friend (if you are reading this, I miss you more than anything and anybody, i love you), said my goodbyes to the best girls I ever met in my life and came home.
A month and a half have passed and the feeling that I have is the following: for us, immigrants, we are too foreign for home and not american enough for America. I feel like a stranger on my own country, I crossed seas to meet nothing that wants me.
I miss the United States like I missed Brazil. I listen to american songs, I read my news in english, I watch CNN and I watch every Hillary Clinton speech that I can possibly watch, I hate Trump, I download all my tv series, I miss drinking Cuban Coffee, I miss the diversity of people in Miami, I miss the reggaeton, I miss the soccer games between Colombia and Brazil, I miss discussing politics with people that didn’t have the opportunity to come back home as I could, people that if Trump does win and does send back, will have to come back to a country that we can no longer recognize as home.
In the mist of this overwhelming shock of culture that I now live in, my college degree is still “useless”, Brazil is now at a rate of 11% of unemployment, 10 days after I arrived my president suffered a coup and was impeached by a bunch of corrupted politicians that are now cutting the rights of the oppressed and minority and saving their own ass with laws made by them, to absolve them from their crimes.
Brazil is extremely sexist, homophobic and racist. PERIOD. There is absolutely no argument against this statement, we have a congress man that is being investigated for inciting rape and that glorifies soldiers that tortured our former president Dilma Rousseff during the dictatorship in Brazil, just so you can have an idea of what we deal with.
Not to say that the America that voted for Donald Trump as a president candidate is not sexist, not to say that the America that kills black people every single day for no reason is not racist, not to say that the America that suffers a clearly homophobic terrorist attack that killed 49 innocent lives does not have homophobia. Brazil does also have those issues and, in my humble opinion, are so rooted inside our society that is even harder to deconstruct.
I often wonder, will the US be home if I go back? Will the familiarity be enough to make me feel safe, warm, loved like a home should make you feel? Should I just stop whining about home and live on a tent in Thailand?
When the overwhelming anxiety reaches me and I can no longer bare the unfamiliarity of my own kind I look at my boyfriend and find a little place in his chest to rest my head. He also has his issues, like both of my home countries he isn’t perfect, but for now, he feels like home.